Today you are 5 and almost 3 weeks old. I should apologize for the lateness of your birthday letter but I’m guessing you know me well enough that a missed deadline doesn’t surprise you. This past year has been (among many things) a lesson in not underestimating you.
You recently started playing tee ball. It’s been a hilariously unorganized endeavor, with you being so engrossed in standing in a “baseball stance “ that you forget to catch the ball as it flies past you, using your glove as a hat. But it’s allowed me to spend a lot of time watching you.
When you were younger, so much of my time was spent doing. Holding you, making sure you were fed and burped and slept. And then there was the waiting. Waiting for you to walk, to talk…counting off months and checking off the appropriate achievements. Now instead of chasing milestones, I find myself anticipating them nervously. You have gone from a needy newborn, to an uncertain toddler, to this gorgeous, fearless and independent little being. Now I spend a large chunk of my time holding my breath and wondering whether I should reach for your hand or stand behind you, giving you a gentle push of encouragement. I don’t always get it right, but I’m learning. I know you’ll be patient with me.
You requested a surprise 5th birthday party, which filled me with equal parts anxiety at the logistics and complete joy at your belief that anything is possible. While we waited for you to arrive at your party, I took a moment to look around. There were over forty guests, crammed into Mimi and Grampa’s living room buzzing with anticipation and eager to make your dream come true. This is a marvel to me. Grace, I have to admit something to you that I’m not very proud of. Being around you makes me feel almost invincible and sometimes, I don’t want to share how wonderful you are with anyone else. But seeing all these people in once place who love you for the incredible little person you are, separate from me, made me realize I need to be more willing to share so you can spread that joy around.
You're forever teaching me things that I don't always want to learn.
Just this weekend, I made a face that startled someone who knows me very well into exclaiming “Woah. That was a total Grace face”. Being compared to you is one of the greatest compliments I can receive and filled me with immediate warmth. And we are alike in many ways, in our empathy and our unwillingness to disappoint other people. I can see things ahead for you and part of me wants to shield you, shape you in a way that you are less vulnerable to be hurt in the same ways I have been. But I can’t imagine changing a single hair on your head. You are stronger than I give you credit for and even in the midst of the most horrific tantrum, when you are being your most unreasonable, I know you will eventually see your way through to making it right.
I know this because you are smart. And not smart just because you know a lot of things, which by the way, you do. You know the difference between an exclamation point and a question mark, you can count to forty and you recently learned the world chlorophyll while questioning why the leaves were green. But you are also smart in a way that is more difficult to measure, in a way that it takes lots of people a very long time to grasp. You have a way of knowing exactly when someone needs a long hug and give them out freely. You were recently the target of a classroom “bully”, being pushed repeatedly. This little boy has a lot of challenges in his life which are probably at the root of this aggression and as if understanding this, you refused to push him back (although I know how satisfying that would have been). You have a wisdom and wit, an understanding of the world that has always seemed much older that your age.
People often compliment me on the wonderful young lady you are becoming and I find myself wondering if it has much to do with me at all. Because with all this watching, it is the moments that you don’t even know that I am there that I am often proudest of you. I love stumbling upon you and finding you quietly reading, or catching snippets of your imaginative and outlandish conversations with your friends. I love listening to you singing in your bed when you’re supposed to be sleeping. I find your drawings of people with belly buttons and eyelashes astounding and adore seeing things your have written in your uneven preschool scrawl. If I had known when you were born what kind of girl you would become, I would have spent a lot less time worrying.
This world might be in a rush to change you. To impress its opinions on you, to try to mold you into the person that “they” insist that you are supposed to be. Don’t let it. Build upon who you are, expand your exhaustively curious mind and keep operating on the premise that kindness and love simply multiplies. Because G... every inch of you is completely amazing.
And you will always be the very best thing to happen to your Mama.
I love you to the moon and back,