To My Daughter on her Birthday Eve

My sweet Sarina, tomorrow you will turn 4. I know you've been afraid of turning 4 because-- as you put it-- "my whole life will change." But I want you to know that that's not always a bad thing. When you were born, my whole life changed, and I could spend forever telling you how grateful I am for that.

I had heard about this magical moment from some women, but things very rarely happened for me in those fairytale ways... people said things like, "You'll never know how much love you can feel until you look at your baby for the first time," or "It's the greatest joy you'll ever have!" and I only half-believed them. I mean, I really did want a baby more than anything, but I still thought they might be exaggerating this supposedly magical, indescribable, otherworldly love. They weren't.

When I first laid eyes on you, I cried. I said, "She's perfect!" and I meant it. And I still do. You, my mess-making, candy-sneaking, bedtime-avoiding girl, are the perfect daughter for me, and I still can't believe I got this lucky.

I thought I knew what mattered before, but I had no idea. You came along and everything that came along before you suddenly seemed inconsequential. The primary function of my life became looking for silly things to stick on my head to make you laugh. Pretending to drop stuff? Sheer genius. Some of the best accomplishments of my life have been: figuring out that you were doing the sign language for "thirsty" and not "I have a thing in my eye," getting you to eat carrots, sewing your Halloween costumes, and getting you potty trained (now THAT was hard!).

Your heart is so full of love, and I get to see it in every little thing you do. When you were off playing yesterday, I saw a little boy fall, and I also saw you rush over and touch his face to ask if he was okay. You didn't know I was looking, but I didn't even need to... the minute I saw him fall, I knew you were going to be the first one to check on him. And when the little girl was afraid of the costumed character, you took her hand and asked, "Do you want to come with me?" Never mind that you're not even six months older than she is; you wanted to be her protector.

You have a wonderful way about you of making everyone around you feel loved. We read a book the other day that had a fill-in-the-blanks exercise at the end, and here's what it looked like:

My name: Sarina
My age: 3 1/2
I feel excited when: my whole family comes to our house to visit
I feel happy when: I am with my mommy
Some of the things I like to do are: Go to Dave & Busters, the library, ice skating, and anywhere else as long as my mommy is with me
I like to learn about: love
My favorite place is: snuggling

We read a Sesame Street book of safety tips next, and you made me read the same Grover line over and over and over, at least 20 times, and you cracked up every single time: "Always wear your safety helmet if you are being shot out of a cannon!" Then you wanted to call Grandma so you could tell it to her, too.

Sometimes I feel very bad that I couldn't give you the kind of family life I know you want. You so desperately want a baby brother or sister, and you're just now starting to understand what divorce means and why your parents live in different houses. It's all you've ever known, so I'm glad that at least you were spared the separation, but I'm also so sorry that things aren't just right. I will continue to work hard at being the best mom I can be for you and hope I can be someone you will always turn to whenever you need a hug or someone to talk to. No one knows what our futures hold, but I hope that wherever we wind up, we'll always be as happy as we are now.

Because that's the thing-- we are happy. No matter what, you are always enough for me. I remember looking down the barrel of being a single mom with such fear, never dreaming that I'd wind up cherishing this time. I've learned so much in these three years... I can take apart the dishwasher, use power tools, assemble "some assembly required" furniture and one giant dollhouse... I'm stronger than I ever knew, and more capable, and I've become very at peace with who I am. That makes me feel so much better about being your mom, because I know now that I'm showing you what it means to feel good about yourself.

Every few days, you tell me your latest career goal. Over time, you've wanted to be: an apple farmer, a ballerina, a gas station attendant ("Because it looks fun?" "No, it looks easy."), a veterinarian "who is always busy," a librarian, a writer, a ghostwriter, a teacher, and your latest-- a tattoo professional. (?!) Whatever you do, I trust you will do it well, and with a giving spirit.

At your preschool orientation, lots of kids cried because they were away from their moms for the first time. You were an old pro at this already, listening to the teachers as they reassured the kids over and over, "Your mommy will always come back for you." So when the time came for preschool to start, you stuck a heart sticker on me and said, "Don't worry, Mommy. I will always come back for you."

You find ways every day to make me feel great, from writing me cards ("How do I spell 'You're the best mommy and I love you more than a dinosaur weighs?'") to making up songs, to proclaiming your love in French and Spanish and "dog language." You humor my endless requests for you to pose for pictures, and you try to let me down easy when you don't like my cooking ("I sort of hated it a little").

You think that because there is an "unfortunately," there should also be a "refortunately," and I find myself agreeing with your logic, so we have added refortunately to our family dictionary, Mirriam and Webster be darned.
Here are some of the things I wish for you:
  • I wish that you'll never tire of making wishes on dandelion puffs or stars
  • I wish that you'll always have at least three true friends
  • I wish that Kira would live forever
  • I wish that you'll get that baby brother or sister
  • I wish that you'll always have just enough fear to keep you out of real danger, and never more than that
  • I wish that people will see you the way I do
  • I wish for you to know hard work, but not hardship
  • I wish that your life will be full of music
  • I wish that you will love learning, and have teachers who will inspire you
  • I wish that you won't date until you're 25

Being with you is so much fun, and I can't wait to see what you do next. I want you to know that I will love you every day for the rest of your life, and that being your mom is the best honor I've ever had. Thank you for teaching me about who I was meant to be, and thank you for being the best little person I've ever met.



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