On Turning Eight: A Letter for my Daughter on her Birthday

A creak in the floor. A giggle. The sound of footsteps creeping down the stairs, much too late after a bedtime that was already later than normally allowed.

Two eight-year-old faces peek around the doorway, hoping for a late night snack.

Ok, one eight-year-old face, and one just hours away from turning eight. You are a precise girl, after all. This was your first sleepover, ever. This is a big deal.

Not so much a big deal as a point of contention to a daddy who isn’t used to sleepovers. “What are they doing up there? They should be asleep…” I stop him. Yes, you will be tired tomorrow, but this is a big step, this sleepover. This is what little girls do. They giggle. They stay up too late. They feel like big girls.

Goodness. You are a big girl. Where did my baby go?

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Gone are the chubby feet, the tiny pearl-like teeth, the round face with your grandmother’s cheeks. They have been replaced by long feet tucked into knock-off Uggs, gapping teeth wrapped with a palate expander, a heart-shaped face, thinner, more angular, more grown up.

How the time has flown.

The board books are being culled from your shelves to make room for stories of Rescue Princesses and American Girls and non-fiction books telling of lizards and geckos and dolphins and tigers. You are as fascinated by dinosaur bones as you are with making (yet another) loom bracelet for one of your many friends.

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Your depth kindness never fails to surprise me. When tasked with choosing a birthday treat to bring into class, you insist that I find something egg-free for a friend who never gets to join in with the rest on treat days, who must nibble on Skittles kept on hand for such situations. When, after joyously discovering that your favorite Oreos will fit the bill, are met in the hall by another friend who rolls her eyes at what she things is a dubious choice, elatedly reply that “everyone can have it that’s why I picked it isn’t it great?”

Never bowed. Your nursery teacher once labeled you “of strong character” (instead of my less kind “stubborn”) but I think her description suits. When you know what you want, you stick to your guns. Your sense of right and wrong is deeply ingrained, and you know how to stand up for yourself.  I’m amazed by your bravery and your gumption.

Eight years old. Such a wonderful age. Starting to stretch your wings, but not to big for a hug when you’re happy, or a cuddle when something makes you sad, or to be tickled senseless when you are feeling silly. It seems like just yesterday that your daddy was cautiously making his way home with us all in the car, driving slower than normal but just a hair faster than he did when he drove your big brother home two years earlier.

You look up from the box you’ve opened, eyes wide in disbelief and naked joy at the necklace you hold in your hand, the birthstone necklace you’ve been longing for but for which you had never asked. Your reverent whispered “thank you, thank you” a humbling response to an inexpensive gift, a tiny glass stone on a delicate chain,  a trial “big-girl” necklace.

As we sit at dinner tonight, the Italian restaurant your choice for your birthday dinner, your clearly stated “please’s” and “thank you’s” to  the wait staff enough to make a mama proud, I see the fatigue in your eyes as you fight a yawn, last night’s sleepover and the late bedtime and early waking taking its toll, at last.

And as I tuck you in, I think, maybe you’re not such a big girl just yet. I hope you take your time.

Happy birthday, my sweet girl. I love you oh, so much.

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Comments

  1. Jenn, your writing is more beautiful than ever. You capture Maddie along her developmental path. “Strong character,” we like that. I am waiting for her to be a great scientist!!

  2. So sweet!

    • Thank you! She is a sweetheart (even when she is showing a LOT of that “character”) and when I stop to think “where has the time gone” I really need to tell myself to stop and appreciate that moment, right then, good or bad, because it is so fleeting isn’t it?

  3. You can always tell what a writer is most passionate about. Excellent piece, Jenn.

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