This week, you are SEVEN YEARS OLD. Ready for this?
When I started writing these birthday letters to you, it was because I didn’t have a way of telling you, not in a way you’d understand, all that was going through my mind at the time. Not anymore. Sometimes, through our conversations, I’m sure your understanding of the world and your place in it surpasses my own.
You are so bright, so articulate, so kind. You want to be a scientist (!) and revel in all things cheetah print. You are a full-fledged member of the swim team and master (sorta) backstroker. Princesses were SOO last year, along with dresses and “girly stuff” in general. Your reading homework every night is always non-fiction books you’ve chosen. The weather. Manatees. The Rainforest. "Why is everything in nature endangered??" you asked this morning. Sigh. But the truth is, I’m learning a lot, right along with you. It’s awesome.
The bad news is that I’m thirty-nine. That means, by the time another birthday letter time rolls round, this blog will be defunct. (Maybe that is good news!) So, in case this is my last public birthday letter to you, I’m going to give you a few words of what I like to think are wisdom, for you to take or leave, from age seven to age seventy.
1. You own your story.
Because I am your mother, I’m going to use words like “perfect” and “super genius” to describe you. While that will always be true for me, to others you’re going to be something different. In fact, you’re getting to an age where people are going to be very free with their opinions about you, and those opinions are going to have the power to shape how you see yourself. If people have opinions about you that are favorable, great! But don’t fixate on those, and don’t let them define the decisions you make. Same goes for people’s negative opinions about you. You decide your story in this world, no one else.
2. Anne Frank was right.
The line from Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl that will always stay with me is, “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are good at heart.” Bubba, this world is full of terrible people. I hate that this is true. But it is more full, it is OVERFLOWING, actually, with good people. Kind people. Supportive people. You will always have the choice between being paralyzed by fear or taking a risk, and you will always have the choice to live thinking the world is out to get you or that people are worth loving and even trusting. I really hope you’ll choose the latter.
3. Your body is a gift. And it’s YOURS.
Someday in the not so far future we are going to have a talk about what it means to be a woman. While my sole purpose in life is to keep you from any harm whatsoever, I know I can’t always do that. So I need you to know that you are a gift. Everything about you is a gift. You own who receives the gift of you. No one else. You.
4. You can’t have it all.
If there is one thing I hate, it’s the idea that a woman must be, do, and achieve everything. Let me be the first to break it to you: that’s not how life works. You can be, do, and achieve many things, but not everything. So choose what you want, and make that stuff happen for you. And please, please, turn off any noise that is telling you you aren’t enough of one thing or another. You are enough. Your life is enough. Your strengths are enough. Your choices are enough.
Bus stop selfie with your biggest fan.
Ugh, how do you end a letter to your favorite little girl, your most precious gift, your beautiful little sidekick whom you simultaneously want to wrap in your arms forever and at the same time set her free to forge her own path?
The only answer I can come up with is that you don’t. End the letter, I mean. This is an ongoing conversation, one we’ll have countless times and in many ways, because if I have done my job right you will understand that I am always here for you, in every single way, for always. Not just when things are easy. Not just in a time of crisis. But always.
And always. Forever.
Happy Birthday, my big (but always my little) girl.