A Letter to Our Oldest Daughter on Your 6th Birthday

img_0036Every year I am amazed by how much older you are and how much you’ve grown. You are 6. It’s been six years since you were born. Six years! One Saturday this year you woke up early, fed the dog and the cat, then let the dog out all by yourself. Then you poured me a cup of chocolate soymilk, and set out the plates for breakfast. It was just such a big kid thing to do. You were so proud of yourself.

This past year will probably be remembered for several big things. To start, this has been the year of Nancy Drew, Star Wars, and comic books. You’ve sort of become a superfan. The Nancy Drew was a complete accident. We’ve had 3 of those books on our bookshelf for years. I’m guessing they’re Laura’s but I don’t know when or how they showed up. One day we decided to read one, and that was it, you were hooked. You can’t get enough of Nancy, her two friends George and Bess, Nancy’s steady Ned Nickerson (from Emerson College), and Nancy’s dad, the well-known Forest Heights attorney. When we first started you hadn’t really started reading. But now you notice when we skip words, or you’ll ask about words on the page. My favorite part is the effect it’s having on your vocabulary. You like to tell me when something is suspicious and every now and then you’ll use some old-fashioned, slightly out of date language that only Nancy would use. I love it.

When you first watched Star Wars, you couldn’t wait for Return of the Jedi. The whole Darth Vader being Luke’s dad sort of blew your mind. It was all you wanted to talk about! The comic books started with My Little Pony. It’s fun. You’re really interested in a lot of the super hero comics, but we try to keep it fairly age appropriate. I have a feeling the first time you actually read a comic about Harley Quinn it’s going to be a bit of a rude awakening but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Another big part of this year is, unfortunately, I don’t get to see you enough. I’ve been working out of town four to three days out of every week and am usually home the rest of the week. Your mom and I decided this would be best and it absolutely is. Overall, it’s been great for all of us. But it hasn’t been easy. The thing is, you don’t remember the years I spent being a stay at home dad. You’re six now. You’re actually going to remember the year I spent working in a different city. It’ll be hazy. You may not know the full story. You’ll probably have weird memories and think, “was my dad there?” And that is what I’ve always wanted to avoid.

I try to convince myself you’re a tough kid and it’s no big deal, because I’m home on weekends and I get to take you to school and pick you up. But the fact of the matter is, you’re a sensitive kid. You spend a lot of time in your head and I don’t always know what you’re thinking.

One night as I was putting you to bed, you asked me, “Daddy, do you ever clinch your teeth so hard they hurt your jaw because you got mad at yourself for doing something wrong?”

“Yes, I’ve done that.”

You said, “yeah, I’ve done it, too.”

It broke my heart. I didn’t know what to say. I tried to explain that while I’ve done it, it’s not the best way to handle things. Sometimes I just want you to talk to me about what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling and just explain that you’re a kid and you should be worried about playing outside and what snack to have, but it doesn’t work. You think big things.

Early in the school year you talked to me for a long time about a kid at school and how you don’t like how she was treating you. Your mom and I like to let you solve your own problems, but I asked if you wanted your mom and I to talk to your teacher and see about keeping an eye on the situation. You said yes, so I talked to Laura and we planned to talk to your teacher. But when I picked you up at school the next day you had talked to your teacher and taken care of it. You were so proud of yourself. I’ll never forget seeing you beaming because you had resolved your own problem. It was the best outcome and I don’t think we could have planned it any better.

And last, but not least, your sister Violet was born this year. You are such a great big sister. You’ve got you concerns, we can tell. But for the most part, you’re kind and patient. It upsets you when she’s sad, and you genuinely want to help. I know your mom appreciates the help when I’m not home. You love the movie Frozen and the soundtrack. I like that it’s about 2 sisters who start and finish the movie as best friends. I’m glad you like it so much. You’re a great kid and you make me so proud every day.

Happy birthday.