Friday, April 17, 2009

To My Daughter, on her 9th Birthday

Dear Amelia,

Today you turn nine years old. I feel staggered by that, really. You are so bright-eyed and giggly, all twinkles and Big Ideas. I am surprised by some aspects of your personality, but mostly, I know you, and I had a good sense of who you would be when you were still inside me, relying on me to breathe and eat and grow. I decorated your nursery in bright rainbow colors - no pastels. No pink-frillies for this little one, I could tell. And here, at nine, your favorite color is orange. Your favorite clothes are jeans and comfy red shirts. Or brown shirts. Sneakers and ponytails, not ruby slippers and hair-ribbons.

You know who you are, and what is right, at nine years old. You’ve got a strong moral compass, and cannot tell a lie. You’ve tried it a few times, but you always crack. I kind of hope you always will. I hope I can always tell by the turn of your eyes and the twist of the corner of your mouth when you’re veering from your own truth. I’ll help you to recognize that, too.

You label yourself a tomboy. And that’s totally fine for now. I hope that as you grow, you will open yourself up beyond labels. It’s okay to like Pokemon and fairies. It’s okay to wear a dress to your grandmother’s birthday dinner, even with scabby knees. It’s okay to play Barbies with your sister and still climb trees with Manny and Zac. You can be both. You can be everything. You can be all of you, and all of you can change and grow from year to year. From day to day, even. Try it all on for size, and keep what you like.

You are so smart. Every teacher you’ve had has said so, too. Your teacher this year said her favorite thing about you is your sense of wonder. I think it might be mine, too. You are so delighted by things, so interested in learning and exploring history and science and books books books. And you’re so pretty, too. I love your big blue eyes and all of your freckles and your great big eager smile. I hope you always let yourself be both - smart and pretty. You never have to choose between those.

You have four grandparents who adore you. They have all taken the time to know your personality and interests. They’ve seen you on stage, in plays and recitals and presentations and graduations, and they’ve watched you do your Irish Step dancing. You are a source of pride and happiness for all of them, and I appreciate the warm affection you show them all.

Your sister listens to every single word you say. Even when she argues, even when she bickers with you, there is no doubt that you are the most important person in her whole world. Nothing makes her happier than your attention. No playmate means more to her than you. She would rather play Barbies or Littlest Pet Shop with you than do anything else. Be kind to her - she’s more sensitive than she lets on, and your opinions and comments can lift her up or bring her down more than anyone else’s. Use that influence for good.

Both Daddy and I have our own special connection with you. Different, but equally strong. I hope you know that you can always come to both of us as you grow. We will answer any question, we will honor your thoughts and ideas and joys and worries, and we will always be fiercely, firmly on your side.

Nine is usually when people start to recognize the things that they’ll remember all their lives. Before nine, memories are usually fuzzier, but after nine, they say, something clicks into place and things stick. I hope that you are enjoying growing up in our family. I hope that you continue to love our traditions and rituals and our connection to each other. Flip-Flop Ice Cream Sundae Day, St. Patrick’s Day, trips to Daddy’s secret beach, camping with your aunties and uncles, birthdays and museum trips and family dinners. We’ll make more, I’m sure. We’ll use your inspiration to create more as we continue to all grow together. And I hope that these are the things you’ll remember.

They haven’t invented words yet for how much I love you, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you. I can only try to show you, every day, by giving you morning hugs and kisses, and braiding your hair, and helping you with your homework, and taking you to the arcade and dance class, and making you Chip Chicken and vanilla ice cream sundaes. You made me a Mommy today, and I know it’s the most important job I’ll ever have. Thank you, Amelia, for that, and for being such a precious daughter.

Happy Birthday to You.


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