You’re almost three and it seems surreal.
These last few years haven’t always been roses and rainbows—but you have been.
You’ve been my ray of sunshine on all of the cloudy days of motherhood, and you’ve been the reason that I get out of bed when I sometimes just want to pull the covers over myself.
You are more full of happiness and smiles than anyone else I’ve ever encountered (my little Leo).
You are literally a love child; having loved your father for nearly twenty years.
So as your birthday approaches and no physical gift seems good enough for you, I’ve decided to share some of my innermost yearnings for your life ahead.
I hope that you never listen when someone tells you not to cry.
I want you to feel a love so strong and powerful that it makes everything else in this world appear inconsequential; the way that I feel about your dad.
I need you to know that I’m more aware of my own flaws than you probably think and that I’m sorry for the way that they each affect you.
I wish, more than anything, that you always find joy in those simple, little hiding places that are so obvious to you right now:
The feel of an unexpected breeze tousling your hair.
The way that food squishes between your fingers when you accidentally squeeze it too tightly before plopping it into your mouth.
How a steaming, hot bath can wash away a bad mood.
That you are clean and pure and never deserving of guilt.
That a little mischievous fun is absolutely part of the spice of life.
That hugs and kisses are the best gifts that you can either give or receive.
And you might be a girl, but right now you aren’t completely aware of what this means.
I hope that you never fully understand why boys are more likely to be praised for their positive personality traits rather than their cuteness and I hope that you don’t understand this because you are secure in both your inner and outer beauty.
I want you to believe that you can succeed at whatever you aim for in life.
I want you to know that you already possess everything that you dream you will become; that potential and desire and effort combined will take you much farther in life than most people will lead you to believe (because they have stopped believing in their own inner greatness, and this is not a path to join them on).
And if I can’t teach you nearly as much as you’ll teach me, then I want to at least make sure I’ve shared with you the power of breath.
Breathe through the discomfort when your life doesn’t go the way that you want it to.
Remember, also, that you’re never too old to play or learn new things.
Consider, too, that you’re never too young to have your own independent ideas and wisdom (no matter what some people who are older than you might have you think).
Don’t forget to turn up your favorite song and dance in your kitchen, regardless of whether or not you have a dancing partner at the moment.
Prepare for those times when you want to shut out the world around you and go to bed for days or months—just make sure that when you feel like this, that you have at least one person in your life who knows to come and get you back up.
Never stop dreaming and never waste one day on regrets.
You’ll discover that this is easier said than done, and that it often takes regular practice to learn how to empty out your previous set of luggage so that you can make room to carry your new.
One thing that I’ve found helpful is to keep in mind how life’s good and bad experiences equally shape you into the person that you currently are and that challenging people often bring with them the most profound lessons (an annoying reality, I recognize).
When you get older and I’m no longer here to tell you these things and others, know that I don’t for one second believe that a love as immense and massive as the one that I have for you can merely end. Rather, your spirit and soul have migrated into every single cell of my being and this love is an energy all of its own; an energy that I know continues on even when you can’t see it or feel it or hold it anymore.
Have faith that some things can still be true even when they lack physical proof. (And, this, you’ll have to feel out on your own, my dear.)
And on your birthday and every day of your life, know above all of this that I hold you in the most sacred part of my own self.
I’ll let you in to the secret nooks and crannies that I thought no one else would ever see but me, because I love you enough to be bare and because I can’t help it—your love exposes me.
You shed light where before there was only blackness.
And you are light and you are love—and you are loved more than you’ll ever know—unless you’re blessed one day with your own tiny birthday gift (and I hope beyond hope that you are).
So happy birthday, my daughter.
I can never give back to you what you’ve given to me, but I want you to always know how much you bring into this world and into my life.
The world is a more magical place with you in it.
(I love you, Gemma.)
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
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