Happy Birthday!

My darling daughter,

You are 1 year old! A whole year! Wow! Happy birthday!

A while ago, I decided that I want to write you a letter each year on your birthday. To put words around who you are at that point in time and to express how much I love you and how you are helping to shape my life. But over the past few weeks, every time I’ve started to write this, I haven’t gotten very far – frozen by my own sky-high expectations of what this letter should be.

I thought: it has to be perfect! It must completely capture this last year, who you are, all of my hopes and dreams for you! It needs to be BIG!

But then I realized early this morning, as I sat on the floor with you, sleepily drinking my coffee as we played with one of the balloons from your birthday party yesterday – this year has not been about BIG moments. It’s been about little ones.

Like this one – pulling the balloon ribbon and watching your eyes get wide as they followed the balloon making its way down, down, down to your sweet little hands.  And then your gleeful giggles as I bopped the balloon on your head before I let it float up, up, up again while you clapped.

And other little moments: like soaking in your first real smiles – manna from heaven after weeks of exhausting newborn parenting. Or seeing you learn to hit the little blue elephant rattle above your play mat – like a boxer hitting a speed bag – the first time you ever really reached for something.  Watching your dad hold you near the foamy surf, as you gazed at the blue Pacific rolling toward you – your first time seeing the ocean.  Learning that I can make you shriek with joy and dissolve into can’t-even-breathe-laughter if I gallop toward you like a horse and then tickle your feet. Smelling your sweet shampooed hair while I rocked you night after night, singing “lullabies” – “My Girl” or “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or myriad Bruce Springsteen songs. And of course, seeing you learn how to do so much – roll over, sit up, crawl, wave, clap, stand up, dance and walk around-and-around-and-around while holding our hands.

And there have been so many others. Hundreds. Thousands even. All these little moments. I’ve discovered that they are the true gift of being a parent, of being YOUR mother. We live in a busy world. It spins at a frantic pace, with lots of noise-noise-noise. You, my dear girl, slow it down. You make me see things. You make me see YOU and what a miracle you are just by being here on this earth with us.

Here is a snapshot of who you are now.

You love bananas, yogurt, cheese, sweet potato fries, and black beans. You strangely don’t love bread – not even pancakes! You obviously don’t take after your parents in that regard!

You love music. When it starts playing, you stop whatever you’re doing and snap to attention, before bopping your head and clapping your hands. You are especially partial to Jack Johnson and Beethoven. And to me singing the ABCs.

You love swimming and splashing and bath time. Unfortunately, you do NOT love post-bath-time diapering and dressing.

You love our cat, Nittany. Sadly, this is an unrequited love.

You love whenever your daddy walks in the room. You squeal in delight and speed-crawl toward him, even if he’s only been gone for two minutes.

You are focused and determined and inquisitive. We see a headstrong streak in you and know it will probably be the cause of many more gray hairs – but also a source of pride in your passion.

I can’t wait to see who you become. It will be the greatest honor of my life. But right now, I’m enjoying the little moments, every day.

Happy birthday, my sweet girl. I love you more than you will ever know.

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