Something very bad happened in the world today. In a city that I love very much, close to our home, someone committed a senseless, violent act. Lots of people were hurt and many more were frightened. They will spend the foreseeable future glancing over their shoulders, feeling uncertain of their place in the world, unsure of their safety.
I’m sorry to have to bring this up in your birthday letter. A letter that before this afternoon was filled with sweetness and pride, all things I still very much feel. I wish that I could bottle your innocence, tuck you away from the world.
But I can’t protect you forever.
You are like me in many ways. When tragedies happen, you will want to make sense of it. You will want to dissect it. But that’s the thing about tragedy, my love. There are no answers. There is only the gnawing insistence that you hold on a little bit tighter to those who matter, that you pause for a deep breath of appreciation and marvel for a few minutes longer as sun warms your skin. Your grandpa often reminds me not to try and apply logic to illogical situations. It’s a lesson I am still working on learning; maybe we can learn it together.
I want you to know that for every “bad” person in the world, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of genuine people, people who dedicate their lives to rushing in and helping where instinct says to run in the opposite direction. There is lightness to be found everywhere and hope in the darkest situations.
You can be a part of that hope. You can create more lightness. I have found, in my limited experience, that we are often strongest when the world seems harsh and insurmountable. Give the world the best you’ve got and you might just surprise yourself.
You cannot control what happens in your life or what goes on in the world around you. But you can face it with the same courage, the same open and kind heart that you already approach everything else.
This weekend we celebrated every single piece of you. And when this horrible thing happened, I couldn’t wait to rush home and celebrate you all over again, to bury my head in your curls and eat a cupcake and laugh until our bellies ached.
When I was pregnant, I spent hours imagining who you might become. I wondered if you would love reading as much as I did, hoped you wouldn’t be as clumsy.
Then, in the midst of this imagining, amid the business of every day life you did something rather shocking. You grew up. Without even asking my opinion or feelings on the matter.
You transformed from my baby, my tiny little munchkin into a very real and very independent person. With so many thoughts and imaginings of your very own.
You are intuitive and bright. You challenge me with your questions, asking me how my car was built and what happens to our bones when we die. You’ve perfected your father’s comedic timing and share our love for being outdoors. Strangers frequently compliment you on your politeness and empathy.
By your very existence, you shook me from wanting to doing, from dreaming to living.
Anything that I am proud of in my life, I owe to you.
The past few nights, I’ve been letting you sleep in bed with me. I know it’s not a great habit to be getting into, but when you asked last night if you could sleep with me, I answered “yes” a little quicker than I normally do. I needed to feel the stirring of your lanky limbs beside me and feel comforted by your steady breathing in and out. You laid down and placed your hand on my arm. When I asked what you were doing you said, “I just want to hold on to you, Mama”. And just like that, you knew what I needed most in that moment.
I promise to do my very best to always give you what you need. I also promise to fiercely protect and embrace your innocence for as long as I can, but I'm starting to believe that I won't be able to keep the world out for very much longer.
I may not always have the right answers. Sometimes, probably a lot of times, I am going to be scared too. And sad, the kind of sadness that sneaks into your bones and makes putting one foot in front of the other heavy work.
But you have proven to me, in the last year of your life, that together, kid- you and I can do anything.
Happy Birthday to my sweet, strong, smart girl.
Four is going to be even better than either of us can imagine, I just know it.
Love you to the moon and back,