My Dearest Babybel,
I haven’t written a Monthly Letter in a long time. A lot has changed in the past couple of years. While I don’t write to you as often as I used to, trust me, this slowing down, this breathing, this mindful attention to the present has been a decidedly good thing for all of us.
The past couple years have been the most difficult of both of our lives, but also the most wondrous. The transformations we have both experienced, as I grow into myself at the age of twenty-nine-not-yet-thirty, watching you grow into the person you will become, ever becoming—well, it just leaves me in awe. Truly, awesome.
On your fifth birthday, here are five awesome things about you:
1. Your Sensitivity
I have spent most of my life trying to not be sensitive, to not let people see me cry, to not be affected, because I saw my sensitivity as a weakness. I know that there are moments or days when, through bleary eyes, being sensitive seems so hard to bear. But it is your sensitivity that allows you to feel so deeply, to have empathy and compassion for others. It is your sensitivity that allows your little sister to press your buttons, but it also allows you to proclaim—in your own tearful way—when you feel injustice or outrage, when something shakes your core. Stay with that feeling, stay sensitive.
2. Your Thoughtfulness
Since you were developmentally able, you have truly considered the needs and wishes of others, often before your own. Whether a drawing you made for a specific person or a proclamation in the toy aisle that cousin so-and-so would really enjoy that particular toy—you think of others. You think to help set the table without being told. You think about your Daddy while he is away and what you will do when you reunite. But, when I say you are thoughtful, I guess I also mean you are full of thoughts. You are pensive and like to turn things over in your head, giving careful consideration before you speak, before you decide, before you make a choice. This can take anywhere between one and thirty-seven minutes.
3. Your Intelligence
I know every parent says that their child is a genius; I’m not saying that. But, I am saying that you are pretty damn smart. You’ve always been extremely verbal, with vocabulary and grammar that impresses. And, always, you’ve asked questions, even with my long and circuitous answers, i.e. lectures, you continue to ask. Now, you’ve reached the age where you know things; you know things that I don’t know. And you are happy to pay me back in long, circuitous answers.
You know how to do things too. You have spent the past five years watching, observing, examining, taking notes; and the physical world has become your mental playground. You like to know how things work and why, exactly—and I do mean exactly. You have a mind for engineering and I hate to put you in a box, but that’s a pretty good box to be in.
The parents of the 80s and 90s may have done a disservice to our egos by telling us how smart we all were without our even trying. So, I’ll tell you not only how smart you are, but also how you stay so smart: you think hard, you exercise your brain, you color outside the lines, you give yourself a break and then you try again, you solve problems. I’d be remiss to not tell you that you have a great brain and that you can use your brain to do whatever it can imagine.
4. Your Creativity
Sure, you make stuff at school, most of which I put in the recycling bin. Your true creativity shows in the rolls and rolls of scotch tape that you’ve used to connect things to other things, in the cardboard boxes you’ve transformed, in the laundry baskets you’ve commandeered, in the yo-yo strings and balloons and sticks and paper towels rolls you’ve rigged together, in the puppet shows and fashion shows and, even, in that annoying voice you use when you make your lovey “talk” [shiver]. Your creativity is limited only by my scotch tape budget—and maybe, your ability to use a stapler, but that will change in due time, my dear.
No matter what you think or what the world says, please believe that your creativity is limitless. Childhood is a fluid time, the time before you solidify into a grumpy-unchanging-see-the-world-and-yourself-through-one-lens-stick-in-the-mud. Please don’t lose your creativity, but more than that don’t lose you ability, your propensity, your desire to see the world and yourself in all the lights, from all the angles, with all the colors of that rainbow drawing hanging on your bedroom door.
5. Your Beauty
Our society focuses too much on beauty. Or, rather, on what it defines as beautiful. We could go on and on about the whole inside and out beauty, but I want you to believe that you are beautiful. Not because society says so, but because I say so and I am your mommy and what I say goes.
You are gorgeous. When you light up, I do. When you laugh, I want time to stand still and to live in your laughter forever. When you have an idea, your eyes get big and you point your index finger skyward before you rocket off to pursue your thoughts. When you cry or yell, I feel your power. You are a presence, a sight to behold, created in God’s image—and maybe mine and your daddy’s. You are a little clumsy, you have what you may come to see as unruly hair and a silly gap between your two front teeth; and all of it is you, wonderful, beautiful you.
I, and many women you know and will never know, have spent too much time wondering, questioning, doubting our beauty. Measuring, weighing, comparing, primping, waxing, painting, covering up. I don’t want you to believe that you are only your beauty, but in case you ever do, see: 1-4 of this list.
I want you to be able to look in the mirror every single day (or better yet have no desire to look in a mirror, but if you must) and I want you to like, love, celebrate what you see. To trace the constellations of your “beauty marks” (as we call them and as Lolopop called them when I asked about my own when I was little.) To see the way you shine when you are happy. To see the wisdom in your own eyes. To see all the sadness, anger, worry, fear, love, lust, joy, elation—to see the fullness of human emotion in your face. To feel your curly hair brush your cheek and the softness of your pink lips upon another’s. To feel the dizzying rush of turning in circles and the still quiet of darkness. To feel the courage in your bones and the strength in your muscles. To feel truth in your gut and peace in your breath. And it is all kinds of ridiculous, crazy something beautiful.
Happy Birthday, Babybel.
Love you no matter what,