8 is great!

(So I can’t even seem to keep up with my kids’ annual birthday letters anymore. I started the draft of this letter over a week ago, but life kept happening {interrupting}. Better late than never, right? )

Dear Madeline,

Last night we headed to the fabric store to pick out some fat quarters to supply your new sewing basket. You’re thrilled with your new sewing machine and stitched together a purse within hours of getting everything set up. (You’ll be getting no help from your sewing-challenged mother.) When we left the store with an assortment of colorful fabrics, you grabbed my hand. It was such a simple, tender moment. You holding my hand, my little-big girl walking side-by-side with me.

Later that night when you were upstairs probably reading when you should have been sleeping, Daddy said, “You know she’s on the cusp of not being a little girl anymore.”

My heart winced as I recalled how I too often take your littleness for granted or expect you to be the big girl in the family. You still want to hold my hand. You still crave cuddles. You talk about how you’re happy here at home with me. And then you let go of my hand or your old soul says something profound and wise, and I’m faced with the inevitable – your growing into a young woman.

It’s when you let go of my hand that I’m faced with the truth: I cannot hold on for forever.

There are these moments in our life together when my breath hitches, when I catch a glimpse of the woman you are to become, when my joy for all that you are and all that you will be trumps the fear or wistfulness.

I remember a few years ago when you wanted to cruise down a steep hill in our neighborhood on your bike. You’d been riding without training wheels for some time, but this hill was mighty steep and I was mighty nervous about sending you off down what felt like a treacherous cliff. Images of your bike wheel hitting a rock and going wobbly on you so that you were thrown onto the pavement haunted me. But before I could change mind, you pedaled forward and there you were sailing down the hill on your bike, squealing with absolute joy and freedom. My fear didn’t completely vanish, but I was surprised by your self-assurance and how effortless you made riding a big-girl bike appear. You were steady and strong. When you returned to me, your face was flushed with pleasure. Mine was, too.

Everyone is always telling me, as a mom to littles, to enjoy these precious years because they go by so quickly. Thanks to you, I know this to be true. You’re living proof of this, my walking timepiece. I don’t feel like I’ve changed all that much in these past eight years, but look at you. Your mouth is full of gaps as you continue to lose baby teeth. Your limbs are lengthening. You’re tall like your daddy. You’re also a funny, smart, athletic, semi-nocturnal, energetic, creative, empathetic, strong, and beautiful, little, 8-year-old girl. It is all indeed very transient.

To be a mother, you may one day learn, requires that I teach you to be less dependent on me and more dependent on yourself. That’s why I insist you do all those annoying things like make your bed each morning, unload the dishwasher, and practice your cursive. But I don’t want you to ever stop needing my love. You can hold my hand as long as you like, sweet girl.

When you grow up, you want to be a marine biologist right now and also have an art studio in your backyard, but you insist you’ll be going to UGA and will be living at home nearby for forever. Fine by me.

You also talk about having a website to sell your creations. “I’m going to call it ‘Work of Art,’” you told me recently.

Well, you my firstborn, are a work of art yourself. Your wide-eyed optimism (“Look on the bright side, Mommy,” you’ve told me more than once), your wealth of empathy, your zest for life, your extroversion, your generous spirit, your sense of humor that always has me cracking up…I love being around you. I enjoy your company and delight in the funny things you say. I really and truly do.

Unfortunately, not many of your friends could make it to the carnival party you spent over a month planning. Each regret that came in left you with watery eyes, but you bravely blinked back the tears, swallowed your disappointment, and didn’t let it rob you of your joy.

Your party was simple – an afternoon of good, old-fashioned fun for children of all ages. You watched out for your younger siblings and the other smaller children in attendance. Several people have commented on how nurturing you are for a child your age. It’s true. You love taking care of little ones and always get down to their level and look them in their eyes.I dressed up as a clown and dubbed myself Sally-poolooza. Daddy juggled. Papa performed an impressive magic show. Gaba and Ivy made an appearance, too. You fluttered around like the social butterfly that you are. You delighted in the company of others just as they delighted in the gift that is you.

Happy birthday, my lover of the color blue, Star Wars, soccer, friends, books, art, and quiche! Do you know how proud I am of you, Madeline? Your level of maturity, your grace, your willingness to forgive and to love and to see beauty in life and in others – you are one amazing child and a lovely work of art I never want to stop gazing upon.

I love you, Madeline, so very, very much.


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5 Responses to “8 is great!”
  1. Kris says:

    Happy Birthday, sweet girl! Thought of her last week when we were celebrating Jamie’s. Out little “twins”!

  2. Nancy says:

    I love this letter, and the gift you’re giving to her — the gift of really seeing her, and calling forth the person she can become!

  3. Jess says:

    Happy Birthday to your eldest :)

  4. What a sweet letter :) It’s so hard to imagine my son being 8 someday…seems like he will (and should) just stay 3 forever! I guess I should go play Little People with him while he still wants to! The other day I started crying watching Toy Story 3 with him because the thought of him outgrowing his own Buzz and Woody was just so sad to me, lol.

    I just popped by to say Happy Thanksgiving-I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday!!

  5. Melanie B says:

    Kate, I love your birthday letters. Such a beautiful gift to give your children. Some day they will look back on these letters as a treasure.

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