A Letter to Our Oldest Daughter on Your 8th Birthday

img_0039How in the world are you already eight years old? We’ve had such a big year! We moved–again. Although, this one should be for good.

Amelia, you’re a great kid. You get upset with your sister sometimes, but that’s understandable. You still love turquoise and making cozy little nests around the house with pillows and blankets. You’re slightly less picky about your foods. You love pizza, but also brussels sprouts and salad. You still hate crust. We’ve been on a couple of longer bike rides together, but you need a bike with more gears. You’ve already said you want a mountain bike before a road bike. You’re playing piano and genuinely seem to enjoy it. I love hearing you practice. You are deliberate and concentrate so hard on getting the notes right. Your teacher has nothing but good things to say about your ability.

I know we’ve moved you around a lot, but that should be over now. I think Arizona agrees with you. You’re mostly an indoor reading kid, but you love hiking and camping. You may not want to go, but when you’re outside, you love it.

Your tía Ang shared something with me the other day and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I don’t think any of it was necessarily new to me, but it helped as a reminder of how important the words we use on a daily basis can build a greater understanding of a larger concept. Something I tell you today may not help you today, or even tomorrow. But if I tell you something today, and next week, and next month maybe it can have a lasting effect on how you see the world.

You said a girl in your class was tickling you and you wanted her to stop. We talked about it with you that night, and all the things came up. It’s your body. If you’re not having fun, they have to stop. If they’re not having fun, you have to stop. Right now, you don’t see where this is going, but you will.

img_0040There’s other things I try to tell you that may not get through now, but will in the long run. You came home with straight A’s for the last quarter and got a treat for making the principal’s honor roll. I want you to know I’m proud of you, but I also want you to know that it’s not tied to that. I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you because you WANT to know things. You like getting the right answer because you like learning. I’m proud of you because you’re an awesome kid who just happens to be a genius.

Some of my favorite times with you are sitting on your bed, tucking you in, and talking about things. You are a sensitive kid with big thoughts and I have to sort of remind myself that you’re not MY KID, you’re your own person with your own dreams and feelings and you experience the world in a completely different way. I’m just here to keep you safe and help you be the adult you’re going to be. So the other day when we were talking about the things you worry about, it made my heart ache. When I was a kid, I would get up in the middle of the night looking for a toy I’d misplaced a year or two before. Other times I would lay awake worrying about going to hell or wondering which of my friends were going to hell. And I thought of all of these people I know who have varying degrees of anxiety so I tried to take that burden from you. I said, “hey, let’s let Siri worry about it.”

And so we have a plan. We’re going to let Siri worry about when your library books are due or when to practice piano. Meanwhile, you can worry about being a kid.

A few weeks ago I shaved my beard for a job interview. You came in while I was shaving, looked at the sink, half full of water, and said, “wow, you must not care about California.” It’s times like this, when you’re simultaneously funny and honest, when I know you’re going to be okay.

Happy birthday, Amelia. I love you.