A couple of days ago I was thinking about your birthday, which led me to to think about the day you were born, which got me all choked up and then led me to scoop you up for hugs and kisses. In return you cried to be put back down so you could go back to feeding your dolly.
I also got choked up singing Happy Birthday. After weeks of practicing with you so that you wouldn’t be freaked out when everybody spontaneously broke out into song, in the end all I could get out was the first “Happy birthday…” and then spent the rest of the song hiding my face and trying to compose myself.
As another song goes, (albeit a song before both your time and mine), You made me so very happy/I’m so glad you came into my life… You are a sweetheart. You are feisty, stubborn, independent, a poor listener when we want you to listen, and too observant when we don’t want you to be. You are incredibly sensitive to our feelings; I can’t step on a pebble without you worrying that my Oh! means I am hurt. You are so smart, just so smart. You whine for attention a lot, but at the same time you are one tough cookie. As much as you run to me when you are hurt, you also pull away from me in order to deal with your hurt on your own. Sometimes I worry that you`ll be too much like me, too reserved, too OCD, too willing to go it alone.
I joke a lot about you having too much of your dad in you. I joke that if your dad is both a diva and a tough guy, that you inherited the diva and Oscar (Bam Bam) the tough guy. But in truth, it`s because I see so much of me in you that I write this, because I want to be the one to always encourage you in the ways that I always could have/should have/wish to/need to encourage myself.
What I wish for you, my daughter, is a life full of laughter. I wish that your voice be loud and clear, that when someone makes you feel you are not worth hearing, that you turn around and tell them all the ways that you are. Don’t be shy. Don’t swallow your words, they will choke you.
I wish you, also, to be a listener; we learn by listening, and we learn about people by listening. Learn about everything, but don’t stop learning about people, it will help you to be a fair and effective communicator. I can’t stress this enough, communication is the key to eliminating life’s stresses.
Don’t be scared to have fun, but use your head. We swam with dolphins in Mexico a few weeks ago. When the adults were swimming far out in order to be pushed back by dolphins, you were frantic for it to be your turn to do that too. I didn’t really want to be the one to remind you that you’re still a little girl yet, and not quite ready for that stunt, but it was my job to do. I hope you get to go back to that one day, when you’re big enough, and have that experience, because it’s good fun, clean fun, and you deserve that. Stay away from the dirty kinds of fun, be smart with your choices– friends, activities– and I promise you that in the end, your life will be so much more full.
Love. And more love.
Eat good food. Exercise. Be healthy, and don’t take your body for granted.
You don’t watch a lot of TV now, and I like that. It’s good, keep it that way.
Learn moderation from me, but learn the value of right and wrong from your dad.
Don’t settle. Don’t ever settle. Don’t settle in love and don’t settle in vocation. If you find yourself in a relationship where you are not acting as friends, as equal partners, as a team, get out. Don’t ever fear not finding someone else. And if you find yourself in a job that is weighing you down, not stimulating you, not utilizing your resources, and not respecting you, recognize it and move on to something else. I hope you are able to find your life’s calling at an early age, but if you don’t, give every job your all, be the best, have a work ethic. But if the job is crap, it’s your responsibility to find better. Nobody expects anything of you other than that you be a good person, and do right by yourself and others. We don’t expect you to be a doctor or lawyer or astrophysicist. You know you best, do what feels right, trust your intuition. But do something.
You are responsible for yourself. If you make bad choices, there is nobody to blame but you, and nobody can change things but you. But you can definitely, and should always, ask for help.
You come from a family of dreamers. Ambition and entrepreneurialship are in your blood. Don’t forget that dreaming must be followed by action. Without action, your dreams will always remain where they are, within you. Don’t waste them, show the world what you’ve got.
If you don’t want kids, that’s alright. If you do want kids, that’s great. As your Papa always said, they’re the reason for life. All I ask is that you be forgiving with yourself. Whether you decide to parent full time or to maintain working both out of the home and in, you will always have people asking something of you. Give something to yourself, too. As someone once told me, we are each a cup, needing to be filled. It is only when our cup is overflowing that we have something to give. So prioritize. Prioritize your marriage, your children, your career– and yourself. Anything else will have to wait.
Messes can be cleaned up. Be flexible. Be organized, but be flexible.
Delegate. Please don’t fall into the trap of trying to do everything yourself. No matter how capable you are, always ask others to pitch in.
You are not always right. Also, you are not always wrong. It’s ok to admit it, either way. There’s no getting around your stubbornness, but don’t fight to be right just for the sake of being right. But if you are right, fight.
Except with your mama, because your mother will always be right….
I will do my best to do right by you. I will do my best to raise you now in such a way so that in 10, 15, and 20 years from now you will still be coming to me as you do now. I will try not to hover, not to be paranoid and overprotective
The past six months have been difficult for you at times. You went from being our only baby to being our oldest baby. You are now a tenacious toddler; you’ve been in your “terrible two’s” since you were thirteen months old and you are a trying little thing. You hit your brother. You know where my buttons are, and how to press them. You smile when you are in trouble and enjoy discipline. But although there have been times when my level of frustration far outweighed my patience, you’ve never been anything less than what I want you to be, and have always been so much more.
You’re asleep now as I write this. In the morning when you wake, I’ll open the door and it will be a crap shoot as far as what I will find; either a super smiley, happy little girl, or a still tired, tantruming kid. But even in your worst tantrum, you are still my absolute most favourite daughter in the whole wide world. Just wanted you to know.
With all my love,
(not Maria, as you seem to think we are on a first name basis these days…)
Originally published July 2, 2013