Letter to my Daughter on Her 6th Birthday

On each of my kids’ birthdays I compose a letter. My plan is to one day hand over a book of these heartfelt letters, proving to an ornery teenager that I do, in fact, know and love him/her, and that my goals as a mother go beyond ruining his/her social life.

Dear Sally,

Happy Birthday! My vibrant, affectionate, bold, funny, smart girl turns six today and I couldn’t be more proud of the kid you’ve become. I don’t know how I got lucky enough to be your mom, but I’m grateful every day that I am. You are a light and a joy for me and our family, and my world is infinitely better because you’re in it.

I thought long and hard about what to write in this letter. I reread last year’s letter (here) and now I feel like I’ve said it all already. As a five-year-old you transformed from a great little kid into a fantastic (slightly less) little kid. You thrived in kindergarten, as I knew you would, lapping up the new knowledge and experiences with the same cheerful enthusiasm and aplomb that you bring to all you do. I’m so happy to see your confidence and individuality still firmly intact. As you enter first grade, I hope you stay full of humor, curiosity, and pluck.

Your natural confidence and warmth are magnetic. You make new friends easily and everywhere – a skill you were born with and one of the many ways you are so different from me. Even your big brother looks to your fortitude and courage to bolster his own, and the two of you brave the world together. Puddle gazing

As a dynamic duo, he relies on your quick thinking and adventurous nature, even as you look up to him for his “good” ideas and knowhow.camping

It’s not surprising that you attract friends to your side effortlessly. You have so many wonderful traits, making it natural for you to fit in with just about anyone. You’re the girl who happily plays with dolls and princess dresses, and who also can keep up with a pack of boys running wildly with secret missions, evil bad guys, and superhero responsibilities. You wield a sword in one hand and pink fairy wand in the other; you pair your cape with a tiara. You are as fierce as you are adorable.


You’re the girl who can entertain a room full of adults with a quip or a story, and who can play contentedly by yourself for hours. You’re the girl rocking a 21 speed mountain bike; the one pushing herself to swim to the bottom of the deep end; the one whose first reaction to a new thing is “I’ll try it!” You’re the girl who takes her time to patiently roast the perfect marshmallow, and the girl to step without hesitation off the zipline platform, loving the speed and thrill. You’re all of these things because you inhabit yourself with an admirable easy confidence. God, how I hope you keep it!


I want to be the mom I see through your eyes. I want to show you how strong and capable you are and help you grow into the phenomenal person you were born to be. Sometimes I feel that I don’t give you enough of my attention; that because you’re so self-reliant and easy-going, I don’t prioritize your needs and don’t play with you enough. I’m sorry if you ever feel that way. I hope you know that I couldn’t possibly love or admire you more. You’re the person whose hand I love to hold. Your cuddles are the best start to my days. When you’re by my side, your little hand in mine, chatting away in your delightful manner, I am the luckiest.

As I said before, you are a light; those near enough to be within the your radiant glow are better off for it.

I hope you have another wonderful year of learning, adventuring, growing, and just being you. I can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish this year, and all the ways you’ll make me laugh. Happy birthday! I love you!



Trick-or-treat, except no tricks please because my kids are stupid

My kids are still working on becoming funny. At least I hope they’re working on it, and that where they sit right now on the funny spectrum is not where they’ll remain. Funny is important to me. The fact that it’s lost on my children leaves them not getting 62% of what comes out of my mouth. Since the remaining 38% is made up of directives they’re ignoring, we have a major communication problem over here.

When my then 5-year-old son shouted back to me from the door of a stranger’s house on Halloween night, “Mom, she doesn’t have any chocolate, is it OK if I pick something else?” I realized that my kids are too earnest for my tastes.

See, I (jokingly (totally not jokingly)) told my son to make sure he gets lots of chocolate. The for me was implied. He did not pick up on the implication. He took it as a rule or mission of Halloween. He took it as advice from his mother who looks out for him and knows more about Halloween and the world at large than he does.

And nothing I said for the rest of the night could change his mind.

“Honey, I was just joking. Get whatever candy you like,” I said.

“But you said to get as much chocolate as I can. I’ll get chocolate,” he said.

“You are evil. You better blog about this,” husband said.

Every house was the same. My kid shouted back to me, “This one has more than one kind of chocolate, does it matter which I get?” and “This one has chocolate and Skittles. I really like Skittles. Is it OK if I pick the Skittles?” Once he even said to the kind stranger holding the candy bowl, “My mom wants me to get chocolate. Do you have any chocolate, maybe in your pantry?”

He had no idea that I was planning on stealing any candy from him. It would never occur to him that I’d want candy or play such a trick.

I seem to never learn the lesson that my kids don’t pick up on subtlety, irony, sarcasm, and jokes meant for the adults in the room. I made my daughter cry once when she saw me handing out ice cream sandwiches to her brother and to each of the 3 neighbor’s kids and asked “Can I have one too?” I said, “No. I’m giving ice cream sandwiches to all the other children but I’m going to give you onions for dessert.” Even though I assured her I was joking and quickly handed over the ice cream, she cried again a few days later when she asked for dessert and I said, “Onions for dessert!” Kid cannot take a joke.

While other parents anxiously await their children to achieve milestones like tying shoes and learning to read, I’m waiting with baited breath for my kids to grasp sarcasm, trickery, and actually funny jokes.

trick or treat

Genetic Roulette and Books and Candy

When my babies arrived, it was clear that I had no genetic input to their physical appearance. Neither were blue-eyed and pink. Luke looked like a photo of his dad come to life, and Sally looked exactly like Luke. This hasn’t changed. Tim and Luke look alike down to their toes. They inhabit their identical-but-32-years-apart bodies the same way, crossing their legs in the same manner, moving effortlessly the same in their skins. It’s weird. And Sally? She looks like Luke. Her face is his face, just slightly smaller.

Each time a couple gets together to make a baby they take a gamble on the roulette wheel of genetics. In the universe’s infinite randomness, or infinite wisdom depending on your religious persuasions, the resulting baby is a little bit of this and a little bit of that, basically a mess of traits gleaned from parents and ancestors long forgotten.

So what did they get from me in our game of genetic roulette? A couple of unfortunate intangibles: for Luke it’s mostly my quick temper and general disdain for authority. This is absolutely not ideal, but probably exactly what I deserve. To Sally I passed down a flair for drama – this is a euphemism for OH MY GOD THE GIRL IS SO FREAKING DRAMATIC – and a natural disposition to getting hurt in unlikely situations. These, also, are not ideal, nor are they my best qualities.

This weekend I discovered a couple more subtle roulette outcomes in my children.

Dressed in our cozy pajamas, the kids and I piled on the couch on Sunday morning for me to read to them from James and the Giant Peach. This is an epically great book. I loved it when I was a kid and I couldn’t wait to share it with Luke and Sally. The writing is wonderfully descriptive, easily painting the scenes in a reader’s mind. The characters, each fleshed out in all their glorious weirdness, lend themselves to reading aloud, if you enjoy adapting different voices and affectations to help capture your audience’s imagination, which I do. (See inherited “flair for drama” above.)

So I read, enjoying it so much I could have read the entire book in one sitting. To my left, sat a captivated Sally, carefully studying each of the few pictures I showed her. In her I saw a younger me, comparing her imagination’s picture with the book’s illustrations, adjusting her mind’s account accordingly, seeing everything as clearly as if it were a scene right in front of her eyes.

To my right, Luke sat bored and squirmy. The book didn’t have enough pictures; the action was slow to arrive due to far too much background information, too much about the mean aunts and James’ despondency. He begged me to stop. Sally begged me to continue. When I did stop, Luke bounded away from us gratefully, needing to stretch and move. Sally curled into me and asked if I would read more later and if we could do this every Sunday morning. She took a few minutes to mentally transition, saving her mind’s image for next time.

At last! One of my children is like me, and in a way I actually like! Luke’s aversion to reading, and even hearing stories, worries and upsets me a little. I’m sure he’ll be fine and normal and all that, but not loving to read? Ack! It’s like a personal affront. Is this strange boy-person really my child? He’s so unlike me in every way.

Later that day I was still feeling entirely unrelated to Luke, when he inadvertently proved that he is mine after all. At a local Halloween event the kids got to collect some candy shortly before we were set to leave. “OK, kids, it’s time to go, but you can eat some of your candy in the car.” (A good exit strategy is always key.) Sally: “Yay!” Luke: “But I finished all my candy already.”

WHAT? In the few minutes that we watched the end of a costume contest, Luke had absent-mindedly eaten all of his candy. I’m sure he didn’t notice half of it. Sigh, shit. Who would think that this could be an inherited trait? A bag of candy is about as safe with me as a bag of brains is safe with zombies. I would absolutely mindlessly eat it all my candy immediately.

Can’t this kid inherit a single good quality from me? Meanwhile, Sally ate a little candy in the car on the way home, still has some left over today, and chances are she will forget all about it. This she inherits from her father, under whose watch a package of cookies can actually go stale. (WTF?)

The problem with genetic roulette is what you learn about yourself. Nothing compares to seeing your flaws and weaknesses playing out in your children. Hopefully Luke’s physicality and inability to be still will counterbalance his absent-minded candy consumption better than my love for sitting still and reading does mine! Flaws or not, it is comforting to see yourself in your children. It helps reinforce the biologic component to parenting, which is important and helps keep us going when quitting seems like a decent option, like each night around bed time.

Genetic Roulette