A Letter to My Sweet Baby Jane for Her 7th Birthday
You entered this world with speed and drama. You started as you apparently intended to continue.
Your wrinkled and squishy face, chubby red mottled cheeks, ginger tufts of hair, and beady little baby blue eyes were a surprise to us all after your brother’s big dark eyes, black hair and beautifully symmetrical face. I thought you were absolutely perfect. You did not cry, or fuss when you arrived, and when I saw you I fell in Love in a way I can’t even begin to describe.
You and I are similar in so many ways.
We were both born rather… um… striking? If cute still means ugly but endearing, then you my darling daughter, and your dear old mom were absolutely very cute. Eventually we shed our ugly duckling status to become glittering little whirlwinds, lighting up rooms and sparking spontaneous smiles and giggles, treating the whole world like our very own stage. Occasionally courting annoyance or even disdain because of our open-ness and inability to blend into a crowd or play the wallflower or “tone it down” even when we know we should.
I look at you now. With your thick, blonde, unruly hair and your sparkling green eyes, and you are so beautiful that it can make me cry. You hear this a lot – I worry maybe that the compliments and praise are too frequent and will go to your head – but then I see you with your friends and strangers. Humble, generous and bubbling with enthusiasm for everyone you meet, and I stop worrying for a while.
We both feel other people’s pain and upset so intensely that it can manifest physically. Our thin skin and propensity to wear our hearts and emotions on our sleeves leaves us vulnerable while giving us the strength and desire to change the world. You will change the world baby, if you can just keep putting one foot in front of the other and walking without giving up or giving in to pain, chaos or disappointment.
But you are yourself more than any reflection of your mother or father or anyone else. You are remarkable, impossible, powerful, and kind. You are bossy. You are a whiner. You are a princess. You are an angel. Sometimes you are all of these things and more simultaneously. You do not tread lightly. You dance purposefully through your days, and you make those around you want to dance as well.
You’ve already tasted the bitterness of rejection and when you are called names or excluded it breaks your heart into pieces that I pick up and hand back to you – wrapped up in the recycled paper of my own childhood heartaches.
I am sorry to say, it does not get any easier, and you will be hurt and ostracized simply because of who you are. And the sad correlation seems to be, the more comfortable you become in your own skin, the more scorn and judgment you will likely endure. I have no idea why this is, and it will be up to you to find the strength to remain true to yourself in the face of these troubles. The good news though, is that true confidence and sincerity will attract the most amazing people to you. They will not wish to dim your light, and they will lift you up and make you a better, stronger and more accountable and you will do the same for them.
So pick your friends and companions of any kind carefully. Trust when it is earned, and try to be gentle with the hearts that I fear will melt for you. Treat everyone with kindness, respect, and consideration. Be strong without ever being cruel. And if you manage any or all of this, tell your mother how you achieved it, as I still struggle with all of these things myself.
Not everyone will like you my cheerful child. And that is no reflection on you. Oh how I wish you would not try so hard to gain the affection of those who simply don’t appreciate the sunlight that shines from your heart and your smile. Do not ever try and dim anyone else’s light, and please accept that everyone is good in some way, but not everyone is good for you. I wish for you to be strong enough to choose friends who will stand up to you without wishing to cut you down to size.
When you stumble, when you make mistakes, we can see you feel it with all the intensity of the sun burning brightly at noon in a desert somewhere. Mistakes are okay. Just keep right on playing if you miss the note, keep right on dancing if you miss the step, and keep right on challenging yourself if you don’t succeed at something with ease. It is not your raw ability that makes you wonderful; it’s your capacity to keep trying even when you fail or things do not come easily. That, my child, is what will carry you to the loftiest of heights in this life. Tenacity, not talent.
I know you feel that things aren’t fair a lot. And you’re right. Things are frequently unfair. It is how you deal with it that matters. Rather than stomping your feet and proclaiming through sobs how terrible the world is and how hard done by you are, state your case calmly. If you are lucky and convincing, then you may find that you can change things. Sometimes you cannot. But why don’t you try the calm approach once in a while and see what it nets you.
Again, if you manage this, please teach mommy how to as well.
The absolute truth though, is that sometimes you are ahead and sometimes you are behind. Sometimes things work in your favour and sometimes you will miss out. The same will be true even when you are a parent.
I’ll leave it there for now sweetheart.
And please know, even though we get cross with you, we are so proud of you and Love you completely. You have a kindness, and a generosity of spirit that is genuinely contagious. And I am absolutely amazed by your awe inspiringly strong moral compass. You hold in your heart a desire to do good things, bring comfort and happiness; which overwhelms us when we see it in action. I hope that this compass keeps functioning and guiding you as strongly as you navigate through the rapids of childhood, puberty and beyond.
Happy Birthday baby.
From all of us.