to my eldest daughter, on her fifth birthday

Dearest firstborn daughter of mine,

Somehow, you’re five years old today.  When you went to sleep last night, you said to me, “This is my last night being four years old.  I’ll never be four years old again!”  And it’s true.  Another year has gone by, bringing many changes in your mind, body and spirit.  I have been privileged to be the closest witness of this growth.

I look at you and your beautiful body amazes me.  Your legs!  They’re growing so long.  When I see you stretched out in the bathtub, I can hardly believe that once upon a time, a looong five years ago, you were a babe in my arms.  And now that you’re in Kindergarten, you look even more grown-up.  Your hair is so beautifully blond and slightly curly.  If you weren’t bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, I’d be a little envious, really.  Plus you still have a perfect peaches & cream complexion!  And the most interesting eyes!  Sometimes they’re more blue, many times they’re more green, but they’re never totally one or the other.  You have my mother’s eyes, I think, although slightly more on the greenish side. 

At times you’re so sure of yourself, and yet sometimes you’re so unsure of yourself, too.  You hate to go to the bathroom alone, but you will happily trot off to school unaccompanied.  This mix of childishness and adulthood is fascinating to watch.  Sometimes it annoys me, especially when I want you to wash you hands before supper and you beg for me to come into the bathroom with you.  But other times, I’m surprised by your maturity.

You’re very sensitive, just like me.  I have to watch out for certain commercials on TV (why must TV networks insist on advertising their most violent shows during football games?) so that you don’t get scary images in your head, and I also have to make sure any book I read you doesn’t have any scary pictures in it.  For example, last week’s Literacy Bag from school had a book in it called Dinosaur Dinners.  In it were pictures of realistic dinosaurs with sharp teeth and angry looks on your faces.  I quietly put that book aside, and we didn’t read it.

But your sensitivity also shows in your empathy.  In a previous week’s Literacy Bag all about penguins, we watched the movie “March of the Penguins” together.  You sobbed aloud when you realized that some of the baby penguins in their eggs died, never to hatch.  You also sobbed when a mommy or a daddy penguin died or was eaten by seals.  You asked the age-old question, “Where do animals go when they die?”  And I had to come up with a suitable answer.  I told you that I didn’t know, but that God in his word says that he knows when a sparrow falls from the sky, and he knows how many hairs are on our head, and that he also cares about every animal.  When animals die, God knows, and he takes perfect care of them.  That answer seemed to make you feel a bit better, but you still nestled on my lap for the rest of the movie.  Your sensitivity was proven further when you saw a random picture of a cracked egg the next day, and you burst into tears again as you remembered the poor, frozen penguin egg of the previous day.  You have such a big heart, my beautiful girl.  I told you that, and I also told you that your big heart is a gift from God.  I look forward to seeing how that sensitivity and empathy play an important role in your life

You ask many good questions these days, questions for which I don’t always have answers.  Your brain works so hard to make sense of your world!  You are loving school, and your biggest disappointment is when Friday comes, because that means there’s no school for two days.  In fact, on Saturdays you will tell me that it’s really Sunday, hoping that if you say it, it will become true and then the next day will be Monday.  Sneaky…  🙂

Sometimes you are so helpful.  I ask you to do something, and you cheerfully reply, “Sure, Momma!”  Other times, you say, “I’m busy,” or, more often, “I just need to finish this ONE THING.”  It’s a bit disconcerting when you say that last phrase, because it’s one that I’ve said to you more than once, usually when I’m on the computer.  Your newest phrase is, “Momma, I need you to pay some attention to ME!”  Way to stab your mother in the chest there, girl.  😉

You’ve discovered the gift of society, namely your school friends.  You often come home from school, ask me to play with you (which I often can’t), and then you whine, “There’s NOBODY to play with me!”  And this after just spending a whole day at school and an hour outside playing with your schoolfriends.  You’d have playdates every day if you could!

You’re so imaginative these days.  You use practically anything to make up stories, usually stories about families with lots of daughters.  Currently you’re making up stories with some colored wooden blocks that we have.  I LOVE listening to you talk these stories out!

I love how you need your hugs and kisses before going to sleep at night, and I’m happy to oblige.  I also love it when we sing our bedtime prayers together; your voice is getting purer and more beautiful every day, and I love when we match pitch together perfectly as we sing.  I also love how you mispronounce the word “guard” in our prayer, turning it into two syllables: gah-rid, as in “May angels guard over my slumber and when The morning is breaking awake me.  Amen.”

Speaking of mispronounciations, it’s been just within the last month that you finally learned how to pronounce “th.”  Ever since you could talk, “three” was “free,”  “throw” was “frow,” and so on.  Daddy and I tried to correct you occassionally, but it never worked.  However, a few weeks ago, you came home and said, “Momma, listen!” You stuck your tongue way out under your top teeth and triumphantly pronounced: “THREE!”  Your smile went from ear to ear, because you KNEW you had done it right.  I was so proud, and we immediately started thinking up of all the “th” words we could, and you said them all correctly, although your tongue hadn’t quite lost it’s over-exuberance.  You still mispronounce “th” once in a while, but it’s much improved.  However, you still say “aminal” instead of “animal.”  That’s okay; I like it.

There are many things I still do for you, things that theoretically I should be “making” you do, things such as putting your own socks and shoes on, doing zippers and buttons by yourself, buckling yourself into your carseat, consistently picking up your toys — but there are so many other, wonderful things that you do, and I know that eventually you WILL learn to do all these things and more on your own.  Like so many other things (most notably potty-training), I’ve learned that there are things that you’re just not going to do until you’ve made up your mind to do it.  And I’ve decided that’s okay; it’s not worth a battle.   I encourage you when I can, and I’m grateful for Kindergarten since it gives you impetus to try things that I can’t inspire you to do at home on my own.  I’m grateful for school that “forces” you to do certain things, freeing me to love you and support your efforts, while still saying, “Well, you have to do what your teacher says because that’s how school works.”  I can already see a difference in you.  Just in the two months you’ve been in school, I can see how much you’ve changed for the better.  Plus, your teacher says you’re a fantastic student, and I am so incredibly proud of you.

You’re learning to go to the bathroom by yourself at school, too.  Twice in the past two weeks, you’ve come home from school telling me, “Momma, guess what?  I went to the bathroom ALL ALONE today!”  It’s perhaps a childish victory, but it’s a victory that isn’t consistently won at home.  I know that soon you won’t need me to physically do anything for you.  That day WILL come.  Meanwhile, I’m going to help you out as much as you feel you need until you decide you’re ready to do it all by yourself.  I’m not worried.  You will be just as independent as me someday very soon, and probably sooner than I’d like.

You love to dance, and Teacher Laura says that you focus and pay attention so much better than you used to.  Your favorite colors are still pink, orange and yellow, but now you like pink best instead of orange.  You’re finally accepting the fact that I must comb your hair at least once a day and that it sometimes hurts when I do, but it’s over soon.  You’re still a poky eater, but I’ve learned to set deadlines by the clock, saying things like, “You need to have your plate clean by the time the big hand is on the 12, or there will be no dessert in your lunchbox tomorrow.”  Dessert in the lunchbox is a Big Deal.  Therefore, you’re learning to tell clock time quite well.  😉  And most nights you’re cleaning your plate without me having to harass you!  Everyone wins!

You adore your little sister, and are (usually) willing to entertain her for a bit while I finish something up.  Lately you have found new ways to make her laugh, and now that she can walk quickly, so loves trying to keep up with you.  You two are already quite the pair, and I can’t wait to watch you develop your own sisterly relationship as you grow up.  I never had a sister, so I’m glad that you girls will always have each other.  I’m looking forward to the day when I can yell up the stairs, “Stop talking and go to sleep!”  Just the thought of having to do that makes me smile.

Finally, your love for God and your knowledge of God is growing more every day.  I confess, your father and I have not been good at teaching you Bible stories, even though your daddy’s a pastor.  But, we taught you age-appropriate justification and sanctification — that we made sure of.  We are Lutherans, after all.  😉  And we’ve taught you quite a few hymns and prayers.  But at school, you’re learning Bible stories as well as a better understanding of what being a Christian is all about.  I love it when you come home and say, “Jesus loves us so much!” and “We want everyone to go to heaven, right?”  Lately you’ve been learning about hell which has led to some interesting questions.  We’ve always assured you that because you believe in Jesus and love him, you will go to heaven, not hell.  I don’t think you quite “get” what hell is, but that’s okay.  It’s interesting to hear those words coming out of your mouth, and I’m glad your learning the things you are.  And Daddy and I make a point to talk about your daily religion lesson with you at home.  It’s wonderful to see your faith growing.  My deepest prayer for you and your sister is that you all make it safely to heaven someday.  I’m so thankful to see you on that path.

As I tell you almost every day, I am SO GLAD that God sent you to live with me and be my daughter.  You are such a blessing, my dear girl.  And it’s always a nice treat to sleep with you in your bed on nights when Daddy’s sick or snoring too loudly.  In fact, it’s a bit of a private joke with us now: You tell me when you go to bed, “Momma, if Daddy snores too loud, you come and sleep with me, okay?”  I know you’re not going to be making that request forever either, so I make sure to take you up on your offer every so often.  It’s always nice to snuggle with you.  About a month ago, when your sister was taking a rare afternoon nap, you and I took a nap together on the couch, and you fell asleep in my arms.  It was a little piece of heaven.

Before I had children, I honestly never imagined what having children would be like.  I never dreamed of having babies, and while I knew I wanted a family, I never imagined specifically how that would look.  That’s okay, because I never could have imagined anything as wonderful and beautiful as you.  You’re beautiful on the inside and the outside, and I am so thankful and grateful to have you as my daughter.

I don’t know how old you’ll be when you read this, and I don’t know what our relationship will be like at that time or if I’ll even still be around, but know that I love you so very, very much, Lyd.  Just like I tell you every night, I’m so glad you’re my daughter, and I will never stop loving you.  (I especially love it when you solemly repeat back to me, “I’m so glad you’re MY mother, and I’ll NEVER stop loving you, too!”)  No matter what, I will always, always love you.  I am thankful every day of my life for being gifted with the opportunity to raise you.  You are an amazing girl.  I am so proud of you, so proud to be your mother.  May you always love Jesus with your whole heart and soul, so that no matter what happens here on earth, we may be forever safely together in heaven.  God bless you, little girl.

All my love,