This is No. 3 in The Motherhood Letters, a new monthly feature by author Jessica Rios. Rooted in universal themes of motherhood, Jess shares the essence of her unique art of mothering through letter writing. You can learn more about Jess and her work in the author box below.
Dear Small Friends,
Shall I begin this letter with a gasp, for my fortune? I gasp. You are the children of my dearest friends, and children who are my friends just-because, and frankly I feel a bit stunned as I list your names and recognize I get the gift of you in my life.
Some of you taught me to wake up to the magic of children.
What most people called “play dates” with you were simply, in my eyes, hanging out with my small friends. No mistaking it — the value I got in being with you was at least as good as that of being with your parents. It was just different. More playful, less predictable, more rocks, sticks and hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream.
You’ve received my notes in the mail for years now. Today I am writing about my big adventure, living in Sweden for a year. What I want to tell you most is that there is so much beauty in this world.
And that the more you pay attention to beauty, the more of it you’ll see.
Here where I am, 5,000 miles from home, water gushes slowly out of giant boulders and freezes, then stays frozen in icicles bigger than you, for months.
You can take a speed train across the country and see hundreds of lakes out the window.
When those lakes freeze over, birds perch on them and you wonder, how do they stay warm? They are so charming, perched on that ice, chirping.
Libraries are always nearby and they have fantastic shoe-free sections with huge cozy pillows and miniature castles and tunnels.
Boulders are everywhere. Massive, majestic boulders you can run on or sit atop as you stare at the big river below.
Art sculptures and structures are usually kid-friendly, so you can climb or sit on them, hug them, heck -- you can be a kid with them!
Walking on the forest floor is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The ground is so soft you feel like your shoes sink way down every time you take a step. It’s like quicksand made of ferns and moss.
Moss covers the rocks.
Mushrooms peek out from behind tree trunks.
Everything seems green.
Citizens here go to the doctor when they need it, usually without paying any money. Our friends paid about $12 for the birth of their daughter Daphne. You might not know why this is "beautiful" yet, but I’ll tell you it is a Rocket of Awesome for my heart to know it is possible for people to be taken care of in this way.
There is so much beauty in this world.
Yet even those of you who are still babies know that this world is not all beauty. This world is sad too.
Even in a part of the world that is admirable in so many ways, there are sad things I see. Refugees come here from countries that aren’t safe for them to live, because it is safe here and the borders are open. But this isn’t their home. It’ll likely never feel like home. And that really hurts my heart. Everyone should have a safe home.
I won’t go on about sad stuff but I will tell you, dear small friends, that when you feel sadness in your heart you can always, always, turn it into beauty.
You can tell your mama or papa, or me or your sister or brother or closest friend about the sadness you feel, ask them to listen, and let it all out.
Still angry or confused or frustrated? OK! You can write in your journal to make sure it’s all out, even the stuff you don’t want anyone else to hear. It’s all OK. Your feelings are really, really important. They’re a big part of your wisdom.
You can “send love” to whatever is sad for you, like I tell Helena. When I walk by the refugees sitting outside the markets even on freezing days, begging for money, I send love to them through my heart. Occasionally I give them money, but usually I just open up my heart as I approach where they’re sitting, and send love from my heart to theirs. They might not know what I’m doing, but I know it works.
Love likes to be shared.
Being here as been a very rich adventure. I hope someday you get to travel the world and see places that teach you great things. Where will you go? What do you want to see?
In 4 ½ months we’ll fly back home to California and I might get to see the most beautiful thing in the world. You do know what that is, right? That’s right, it’s you.
I love you way far across all the oceans,
For Molly, Lauryn, Lilah and Ariana, Sophia, Coleman and Sawyer, Lila Blue, Maggie, Morgen and Izze, Finn and Phoebe, Baron, Leo, Rocko and Archer, Rosie and Isaiah, Lila Rose and Simone, Kaeda and Llewyn, Francis, Piia, Henry and Wyatt, Leah and Madeline, Forde, Wolf and Olive, George, Pax, Ashlyn, Owen and Adam, Esias… and all the other children my dearest friends have brought into this world... xxo