Letter to my daughter on her 5th birthday

On each of my kids’ birthdays I compose a letter. My plan is to one day hand over a book of 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,

Today you turn five! Happy birthday! You have a big year ahead of you. I hope that you find as much happiness, wonder, and adventure in five as you found in four. I’m confident you will because that’s the kind of person you are.

Being your mom is one of my life’s greatest joys. You’re such a phenomenally fun kid, and so different from me in so many ways, that I know I’d love and admire you even if you weren’t my daughter. But I’m lucky, because I get to be your mother. I get to revel in messy-haired good morning snuggles, remind you to keep eating during a million and one silly mealtime distractions, and marvel at your laid-back, easy cheer.

I know you’re going to thrive in kindergarten this year. You’re endlessly curious, determined, and not afraid of hard work. These traits have you biking and swimming and doggedly trying to figure out reading, which you’re going to love. I can’t express how proud of you I am when I see you working on something over and over again, trying to master a new skill, wanting to keep up with your big brother. The truth is that you impress me. And it’s a strange feeling for a grown-up to be so impressed by a little kid.


A big part of me wants you to stay little forever. I love your hugs and kisses, your riotous giggles, your little-kid-ness. You’re my baby and always will be.


The rest of me is so excited to watch you grow up, see the person you become, watch you stride confidently into the world relying on yourself more and more.

As a four-year-old you’ve been talkative and giggly, independent and creative, intrepid and athletic. On any given day you’ll sing dozens of songs, (or the same song dozens of times, usually from Frozen,) draw some pictures, run around with your brother until you’re sweaty and exhausted, talk to your toys, put your dolls (and random objects) to bed, and tell me a hundred stories, usually starting with, “Did you know…” You make all of us laugh. You can reduce your brother to a pile of gasping giggles at any time with your unique brand of ridiculous humor. As a five-year-old, I hope you continue in all of this, and surprise us with a few new things along the way.

You’re in school now and with that comes some hard work and a new set of social norms and challenges. I’d like to protect you from so many of the difficulties that you’ll face as you go through school, but I can’t. All I can do is offer my listening ear and open arms, help you when you need help, and love you no matter what. I hope that your spirit and confidence only grow as you navigate the new world of school. I hope that you remain unapologetically yourself, unembarrassed and sure.

I’ll miss all of our time at home together now that you’re in school. You have always been so good at entertaining yourself, and you are ever the engaging (if silly) companion. I might be working at my computer only to look up and find this at any given moment:

Dress up

Your flair for dress isn’t limited to when you’re at home.

Fashion Sense

You’re going to grow up a lot this year. It’s probably time to stop accidentally biting your own fingers so often when you eat. And it’s definitely time to drop the baby act. (Please don’t immediately replace it with eye-rolling.) It’s your crutch, and you don’t need it. I want you to always know that no matter how adorably cute you are, and no matter how often that’s the only thing people comment on, you are so much more than that. You have my admiration not because of your smallness or cuteness, but because of your cleverness, kindness, and pluck.

I love you absurdly much, my sweet, whimsical, brave, charming, tenacious, and silly girl. I hope you have the happiest birthday and a wonderful year ahead!

Love, Mom

Stop Sally

I love the special magic that happens when a kid’s smartness intersects with her stupidness. I’m not saying my children are stupid people- they’re just children and all children are stupid people. So, yes, I guess I am saying that my children are stupid people. Anyway, my daughter loves to write.

Most of her writing is just senseless scribbles because she’s four years old, but she can write her name and suddenly can also write the word “stop.” This means that there are notes all over the house where she is apparently telling herself off.

Stop Sally

She tells herself off for banging on the bathroom door while I’m in there when she slides a note underneath that says, “Stop Sally.” Uh, yeah, that’s what I’ve been saying.

She tells herself off for calling to us after bedtime when she comes downstairs and hands me a “Stop Sally” note.

It’s perfect really. I can save my breath. I just need to teach her to write “Stop Luke” notes.

Waiting for Tragedy

Either I have an anxiety disorder, or you all are awfully cavalier. Everywhere I look I see parents walking around not in a constant state of near-panic. What is wrong with you people?

I may be biased, but I’m the mother of two extraordinary children. Luke, as maddening as he can be, is the most generous and thoughtful person I know. I’ve seen him literally give the shirt off his back and I’ve seen him cry at another’s misfortune. He also experiences the world through all caps and excessive exclamation points. He’s not happy; he’s HAPPY!!! Combined with his wonderful empathy, he’s often HAPPY!!! for you, which makes him a very special little boy. If life is to be lived to the fullest, he is LIVING IT TO THE FULLEST by experiencing it all more forcibly than the rest of us do. He is an all around great guy, and fantastic husband and father in the making.

Sally has the happiest disposition. She doesn’t complain, is easygoing, and really just wants to hug you and pat your back in between stretches of happily playing independently. She is freaking adorable and is a genuine joy to be around. She may spend most of her time dressed in princess attire, but she’ll trade out her tiara for a helmet to ride her bike over the ramp with the big kids, and she schools kids twice her size as she jumps into the deep end at the Y. She is awesome. She’s the chick I want to be friends with. (When she grows up. I do not want to be friends with any 4-year-old.)

And this is why I’m certain that something tragic will happen to one of them. Terrible things always happen to the best, most special people. You never hear of the just average guy who died tragically in a fiery crash at the tender age of 16. No. That guy is always the one who befriended the social outcasts, despite being a popular star athlete himself, started community outreach programs, and saved a truck of orphan puppies from falling into a mine shaft which then led directly into the state closing down the evil puppy killing mine crime ring.

While you sit and enjoy the movie, I’m playing out scenarios in my head wondering how quickly I can get both kids on the ground under me, and if the shooter might come from the front or behind us. While you browse in Target, I’m eyeing the shelves and exits, debating the merits of hiding vs. running. I wonder how I’ll tell my kids to run out of the house without alerting the murderous intruder of their presence. I calculate how I’ll unstrap my kids, (which one first?) from the car as it sinks into freezing water. Which of my children’s friends will want to show off his father’s gun to a tragic end? Who will bully my kids into depression and suicide before I even realize there’s a problem? And, finally, when will I learn of the cancer?

It’s not just the kids. Unfortunately, my husband is also a great guy. His drive to work isn’t long but he’s out there with the distracted texters and the drunk assholes and the black ice. It’s just a matter of time. And when is his cancer diagnosis coming down the pike?

I am not a particularly fantastic person, so I’m probably safe. Then again, it could be me. The lives of my husband and kids could turn tragic by my cancer diagnosis, run in with a shooter, or highway encounter with a texting stoned teenager.

I’ve lived my life until now relatively unscathed. Nothing terrible happened to any members of my innermost circle while I was growing up. So am I due? Of course I’ve lost people along the way, some before their time and/or after long, protracted illnesses. Lately, I’ve watched in fear and horror as kids lose parents, parents lose children, young couples lose each other. Every news story of entire families killed, lunatics with a grudge taking out crowds, tragic accidents of kids killing kids… these all are filed away in my mind, filling me with dread and anxiety, keeping me up at night and rising to my consciousness in every crowded public place. I might think of Newtown every single day I send my children to school.

I know that you all watch the news and know people who have faced the unthinkable too, and yet you seem so calm and well rested. Sure, statistics are in my favor with regards to shootings, kidnappings, home invasions, driving off bridges, etc, but my kids fit the profile. They have that something extra. That intangible goodness that Billy Joel warned us about. Also, importantly, and despite all my efforts, they are stupid. They are going to make a ton of bad choices and so will their idiot friends. (Your kids. No offense.) So I’m sentenced to a life of panic for my extraordinary, and stupid, children. How can you be calm at a time like this?