It is hard to believe that 11 years ago I held you in my arms for the first time and looked deeply into your big, beautiful brown eyes. Now, as you officially become a “tween” on this birthday, in between childhood and teenage years, I look into those same eyes with a love that has only grown since the day I first saw you.
I see you enjoying some of the carefree pleasures of youth — playing with dolls, exercising creativity (if making slime is counted as creative!), and exploring new ideas and adventures. I also see another part of you beginning to emerge on the threshold of a new season of life, almost a teenager, not quite a child. The final days of elementary school are coming to an end, accompanied by the anticipation of middle school and new possibilities ahead.
As your mother, it is difficult to capture the myriad of feelings I have as you turn another year older. On the one hand, I reminisce about early years and mourn the growing up that we all must do. On the other hand, I am so thankful for exactly where you are and so hopeful for whom you will become.
That’s why on this birthday, I wish you more than happiness. We parents can easily fall into the trap of just wanting our kids to be happy. But sweetheart, let me tell you, life is so much more than being happy. Don’t settle for happiness alone.
My wish for you is eyes to see a larger world beyond your immediate vision: a world wracked with pain and full of beauty, a world waiting for you to live life fully. I hope you look for adventure and new horizons, and I also pray that you see the plight of others and have the courage to engage with and for them. I want you to learn that while I want wonderful things for you, the world is not all about your happiness. We share this planet, and you have gifts to enrich it and much to receive from it. Exercise responsibility and generosity.
Daughter, I wish for you curiosity about the world and all that is in it. Ask good questions, and don’t be satisfied with easy answers. Travel. Exercise. Read. Explore. Try. You will fail, and then you will try again. Enjoy nature, and love animals. Acquire knowledge, but don’t stop there. Seek wisdom (which is what you do with all that knowledge) in your decisions. Pray for peace, and participate in the making of it, too. Nurture your faith, and speak about your hope.
Sweet child, I wish for you deep friendships, loving relationships, and genuine community. We need one another. Practice forgiveness. Be faithful and honest. Use more kindness than necessary. Discover what makes you come alive, and share that with others. Belly laugh as much as possible. I hope you embrace who you are with confidence and honor other people with reverence.
See, happiness comes and goes; it flickers like candles on a birthday cake. What made you happy over these 11 years has ranged from pacifiers to puppies, from Shopkins to slime. I haven’t given you everything that would make you happy because I wish something far better for you.
I wish you more than painted platitudes sold in craft stores. I wish for you more than pursed-lips, hands-on-hips selfies. I wish you more than posted-on-social-media happiness. I wish you joy and gratitude; I wish you purpose and grace. I wish that with each passing year, you still maintain that youthful energy and whimsical imagination. I wish those big, beautiful brown eyes that I first noticed 11 years ago stay wide open to a world of possibilities and a future full of hope.
Have a beautiful birthday, daughter.