To my sweet, smart, beautiful and sometimes frustrating little girl,
I cannot believe that you turn five today.
Five years old.
How is that even possible?
I mean, I know how it's possible, but I just don't feel like it's right.
I just brought you home. You - in your little Valentine's Day outfit that Daddy picked up for you. We weren't the kind of parents who planned ahead. We did not know if you were going to be a boy or a girl, so we waited. We were sure we'd have a chance to get something, and so we did.
You looked so small. So tiny. So reliant on us both.
I held you close and marveled at your fingers. Your toes. Your peach fuzz. There wasn't much of it at all, I can tell you that. The hair that never was, never would be - it seemed.
But look at you now. It's all we can do to get that hair out of your eyes when you're eating. Clips barely work, but you like them more than before. Ponytails are your favorite. Mine, too.
There is so much that I want for you. So much that I dream for you. And my hope is that I (and your Daddy) am keeping you on the right path towards these dreams. And towards the dreams you dream.
"I can be a ballerina when I grow up." The latest that I've heard. I'm sure your father hears more. Different ones. They're always changing. And that's what we want for you. Always.
"Do I go to school when I'm five?" Not the day of - but soon. I think of how much you've learned over the years. Hope that I've done well for you. Keeping you home with me was not the only option, but the one we chose. I fear the things I may have cheated you out of. The things you've missed. But I know you have never been lacking love. Support. Strength and encouragement.
From me. From Daddy. From your four incredible grandparents. Uncles. Aunt. Cousins.
I think of how it is for me. Being so far from the family I grew up with. The ache I sometimes feel, listening to you talk to your cousin. Wishing we were around the corner and able to see them all the time. But you don't know anything different, and you're okay with how things are. And I take some pride in teaching you to be this way.
To be the child who goes over to another child and says, "It's okay," when they are crying. To be the one who thinks of your little best friend as your sister.
At this point in your life you've done swimming and soccer. We've taken you to museums and the zoo. You know you can play at Chick-fil-a and "NcDonalds" - but Mommy doesn't go there. "Give it a try, Mommy. You'll like it." Just like pepperoni. I tell you that you and Daddy can go and have fun there. I'm different. You know other mommies drive, but yours doesn't. But that doesn't stop you from directing Daddy from the backseat and telling us when you drive ... this is going to happen. Or that. It doesn't matter what it is. It just matters that you dream it.
You're a kind-hearted child who loves every animal you see. Goes up to every stranger and asks, "Can I pet your puppy?" Those dogs love you from the moment they see you. You're at their level. But not for long.
I watch you grow and face my own fears. Will she be a chubby child? Will she have my thighs? We keep you active, running, an energy that never stops. A mind that doesn't shut down. I fear that you'll be me in many years. Awake all hours of the night. A brain that won't shut off. I try to teach you how to cope. Close your eyes. Shut your mind. We talk about your day. Your dreams.
"Tell me a story of when I was a baby," you ask. And so I do.
I kiss your forehead. Cover you with a blanket. Two. Maybe three. Your animals are lined up beside you. "Bootie shake?" Bootie shake. A shadow from your nightlight and my hands behind my back. Waving.
Night, night. I tell you.
"Don't let the bedbugs bite," you reply.
That is not always good night. You don't want to sleep. Not without me. Not yet. But you eventually do. And then, in the morning, I wake you. Your face rested and your eyes squeezed shut. Sleepy and still dreaming. And still, for that moment, my baby girl.
Happy birthday, my little one. May you always continue to dream as you chase whatever stars you're wishing on from here to forever. Mommy loves you. Now and always.