Dear Ophelia, Today is the first day of fall. Everything is still outside and it's a little chilly. I walked out our front door yesterday only to have to run back in to grab a sweater because suddenly it was cold. The seasons are changing- it's official.

School started a few weeks ago and I have been in the classroom, gaining my teaching experience, while you and your dad play every Tuesday. At first, I couldn't bear to leave you, even with your doting papa. While it seems like you love just about anyone that flashes a smile at you, I am clearly your preference and your separation anxiety only seems to be mounting. When I leave you at home every Tuesday morning I feel washed in guilt for a few minutes and then...relief? Yes, relief. I drive to work without a thought to the radio's volume, blazing over bumps in the road without having to worry about a tiny backseat passenger. At work I am focused on children, yes, but my mind is in the academic world again, mentally referencing coursework and pondering the effects of poverty on my students. I go to the bathroom when I want to, I linger over my packed lunch and I dream of having my own classroom someday. For a few hours, I am a working woman, an intellectual, someone's peer. And yet, I am always a mother. While these breaks from your constant needs are invigorating and necessary, I am always humbled by the thought that whatever else I may be, whatever roles I may adopt, for the rest of my life I will always be your mother. I can no longer compartmentalize my identities because those boundaries don't exist. While I refuse to begin calling myself "a mother who writes" instead of a writer, my writing will always be informed to some extent by my motherhood. As will my teaching. I can no longer look at a child and feel even a shred of apathy towards their complete well-being. I've always loved children but now it's different. Though I don't feel the maternal love for them that I feel for you, I recognize that (hopefully) there's a woman out there who does, whose baby I have been entrusted with.

I have been waiting my whole life to adopt the role of Mama. And now I have. I even sometimes (to my slight horror) refer to myself in the third person as Mama. And all cliches aside, it's one of the only things in my life that has lived up to the hype. You have brought me the kind of joy I'd always heard about but never knew personally. So yes, I will always delight in being your Mama. It will always be my most important role. But please don't forget, when you're sixteen and think I'm the lamest person in the world: I once danced on tabletops at a wedding I crashed in Venice, Italy, I was kicked out of a bar on my 21st birthday for mooning a group of fighting drunkards, I graduated from college Summa Cum Laude and I married the man of my dreams with you in my belly in front of all our family and friends. And then I gave birth to you at home, wiped your butt, nursed you and gave you a home. And I'd do it all over again. As well as being your mom, I'm a pretty interesting case it wasn't obvious.

Love always,

You know who (Mama)