Dear Laurel, I’ve never written you a public letter before. I don’t know if I ever will again. But today, I felt compelled to do so. You’re now six years old, and assuming all things go to plan, this will be your last birthday as our only child.
I have often heard the phrase “The days are long but the years are short” in reference to parenting, and no doubt, there have been days when I’ve felt that. I’ve got a lot of energy, but hands down, you’ve got more. Yet no matter my fatigue, not a day passes during which I don’t laugh with you, feel overwhelmed by the urge to hug you and kiss your sweet, perfect little cheeks, and marvel over the gift that is your amazingly funny, giving, sensitive, and empathetic disposition. Every night, as I draw my face close to yours -- our identical little noses nearly touching -- and observe the peaceful perfection that is quintessential of a sleeping child, I think, “Thank you universe, for giving us this sweet girl.”
The years are short.
Your first year, your dad and I were in survival mode, simply trying to keep you alive, simply trying to stay sane amidst the chaos of new parenting and figuring out how to relate to one another in our very changed relationship. But no matter our bumblings, you proved resilient. You survived, thrived, and made clear early on that you had very strong opinions about the world (no I won’t take a bottle, thank you very much).
Your second year we realized that the terrible two’s do not come to everyone. You were cute, joyful, and had the most adorable chubby haunches ever. You showed empathy – patting the backs of your day care classmates if they were upset – before I knew it was even possible for toddlers to show empathy.
Your third year everything piqued your curiosity, everything was meant to be explored, and many subsequent bumps and bruises were sustained. And as we swirled around you, attempting to childproof or keep you from walking off an edge, we reveled in the ever increasing ability to chat with you as your language skills took new and complex turns.
Your fourth year you became a little lady. You developed strong opinions about fashion; so much happiness was found in walking around in my "tall shoes." You found joy in all the small yet big things in life -- arranging flowers, walking Grandma and Grandpa’s dog, baking with me, dancing to Daddy’s guitar playing, engaging in countless art projects.
Your fifth year was bursting with transition. You started kindergarten. It was challenging -- extremely painful at times -- but we survived. Then during this summer, we witnessed an incredible burgeoning of confidence and energy (yes, you have reserves somewhere apparently); things you were unwilling to do before you embraced with laughter and excitement and a mischievous sense of adventure.
Laurel, I know that your sixth year will bring plenty of joy, surprises, and no doubt some bumps along the way. This weekend we celebrated you with friends and family, bright colors, presents, and many, many pieces of cake. But no matter the simplicity or fancy trappings of a given day, trust that I’ll celebrate every day forward with you.
You make it impossible not to do so.