Dear Munchkin,


You have no idea how much you’re already loved. All of us are so excited for you to finally get here, to spoil and pamper you, to take you on adventures, and to teach you everything you never knew you wanted to learn about everything.


You’re going to have such a wide background of places and countries and cultures you’ll belong to and to visit. Australia, Spain, Thailand, Hawaii, the English countryside, and of course, everyplace in between. Your parents have lived and traveled pretty much everywhere in the world so you’re going to have the best global tour guides ever (and they know all the best places to eat too!). And when you get older, I’m definitely taking you to my old stomping grounds in London, and we will tear the place up with all my friends who will absolutely adore you (but don’t tell your parents).


I forgot to introduce myself. I’m your older cousin, Shanthi Marie. Technically, I’m your mom’s cousin, but now that you’re here, we’re pretty much expanding the term “cousin” to include multiple generations (mostly because who can keep track of second cousins vs third cousins vs other cousins?).


When your mom was little, my mother (her aunt), used to help take care of her. Even though your mom and I lived in different countries for a long time, growing up, I remember reading your mom’s books and seeing her pictures and hearing stories about her from my own mother (her aunt). Your mom was always my favorite cousin and I looked up to her a lot  growing (she’s also the most accomplished of the 30 of us). I still do, and I hope you will too.


When I moved to New York from London, your mom and dad took care of me. They taught me the importance of eating healthy, spending mealtime with the people you love, and that the quality of the food you eat is as important as the quality of the people you spend eating your meals with. They taught me that it was okay to do both what was expected of me, and to take an unconventional path. The important thing was to listen and believe in myself, let things happen, believe in my ideas, and to develop a game plan.  They taught me to value good people, and to keep them close to you, because life is already so full of drama, you don’t need to invite more in. Your parents have been the big brother and big sister I always wanted and they really looked after me. So there’s no need to worry about what you’re getting into – you’re in great hands.


And now that you’re here, I have someone to take care of, too! Since I’m the youngest of everyone on our side of the family, and you’re pretty much the first baby in a new batch of kids, you can only imagine how long I’ve been waiting for you to get here so I have someone to teach!


And I have so much to teach you! Obviously, I have the scoop on everyone in our giant extended family so you’ll know who to go to, to get what (and also, who to avoid).  You’re coming from a long line of athletes so you’ll get to learn everything from field hockey to volleyball to basketball to gymnastics to ice skating and of course, I’m going to teach you everything you ever wanted to know about being a long-distance runner.  And if you take after the creative side of our family – you’re in great hands! We can teach you how to be a great writer and how to create really fun companies.


Mark - my boyfriend who is pictured here in the glasses - is going to teach you how to ski. Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it looks! We’ve been together for almost four years and he is a really good skier and he is also really smart and really patient.  He’s going to teach you things like how to build computers or how to take care of fish, and how not to let anyone in New York City boss you around. He’s also a huge fan of Legos, so I imagine you’re going to be spending a lot of time together at the Lego store and at our house building Star Wars space ships or fairy princess castles (if that’s your thing).  Also, he secretly loves Disney movies. Moana is his favorite movie of all time, pretty much. So be prepared to humor him and sing along when you come over to our house for visits and know you’ve always got a movie buddy in him when more Disney and Pixar films come out.


Then we’ve got my mom and my dad, who are going to be your great aunt and great uncle. GET READY. They both live on a big field in Southern Illinois with lots of trees and flowers in a big house with a big pool. There are cows you can see from our backyard and lots of white-tailed deer and birds and squirrels and lightening bugs running around. You’ll have lots of wildlife and space to play when you come visit and LOTS of food to eat. Make sure you make room before you come!


Your aunt has a lot of energy and she is going to SPOIL you. Pro tip? Even if you don’t like all the outfits she is going to buy you, just pretend like you do and wear them when she’s around. She’s going to teach you all sorts of games and songs and nursery rhymes and you are going to love her. I think you’ll really like my dad – your uncle – too. He’s really laid back and the absolute best when it comes to pep talks and life advice. He’s the best person to talk about your dreams with because he always believes in you, no matter what. But you can talk to him about anything really - he’s very understanding and encouraging. Also, Christmas at our house is the best, so you have to bribe your parents to make sure they come a few times while you’re little so we can put you under the tree with a big bow on your head and make a big fuss over you.


As for me, well, I’m pretty much here to be the one you get to come to talk to about things you can’t talk about with your parents. Obviously, those discussions are probably going to take place when you’re older. For now, we’ll probably end up starting out with the ABCs and numbers and reading and learning how to make friends. We’ll travel all over New York City together and visit museums and parks and make friends and have big adventures. For now, I work from home too, so I’ll probably be coming over a lot to hang out with you and do my work while you watch Sesame Street and Mr. Rodgers reruns.  Most importantly, I’m going to teach you everything about intersectional feminism, because boy or girl, you are going to learn how to own and create space for yourself in this world, as well as know how to create space for others.


Now you may be wondering about the name “Munchkin.” This is an honorary, sacred nickname bestowed onto the smallest child in the family. My father passed it to my brother – your other cousin, whom you’ll meet soon too – who passed it to me. It’s a term of affection, endearment, love, and adoration given to the youngest member of the family. Now I pass it to you, our youngest, newest family member.


Can’t wait to meet you and give you lots of snuggles!!!