A Letter to My Daughter on Her 11th Birthday

Dear Rainey,

I was digging through some old papers the other day and came across a picture of you. It was February 29, 2008 – Leap Day – and you drew side-by-side self-portraits, one of you then and one of you four years in the future. I remember it vividly, hanging there in the hallway outside your first grade classroom, how inconceivable it seemed to me at the time that you’d ever get any bigger, that you’d ever grow into the fifth grader you imagined yourself becoming on the right side of that page.

And it scared me just a little.

But here you are, four years later, that picture no longer a thing of fantasy but fact, no longer in the future but in the past, two weeks ago to be exact. And not only that, it’s your birthday today, and you’re turning eleven.

And it still scares me just a little.

Some things never change.

But you have, baby girl. You’ve lost teeth and gained inches. You’ve learned how to tie your shoes and sew your own pajamas. You’ve traded in the Little Einsteins for Einstein himself, ditched Dora for exploring the world on your own. You no longer like pink, it’s turquoise now that turns your head. You even like my meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

And yet…you still insist on calling me Mama. You still love to draw. You’re still incredibly intense and wildly imaginative and marvelously messy. You still kiss me goodnight.

But you worry that you still like to play with toys, the plastic farm animals and Playmobil sets and the fierce dragon puppet you were thrilled to get for your birthday. You tell me all your friends play with their iPods instead, paint their nails and talk about boys. You don’t judge them, you just worry that you’re different. And that different is, somehow, bad.

Dragon Puppet

But I couldn’t disagree more.

Today’s Einstein’s birthday, too, and if he was right, then everything in the future and everything in the past is right here, right now. That means the little girl you were and still are will always be with you. So be good to her. Don’t ignore her when she wants to play. Make her your lifelong friend.

Dragon Puppet

And the you that’s yet to be? I can’t even imagine. But I know how quickly things come around, how time catches up with us. Leap years may keep our days from drifting, but the vernal equinox can’t make time stand still.

Dragon Puppet

So go ahead, sweetheart. Run and laugh and dance around the yard with your dragon. Whoop it up. Enjoy your childhood while it lasts.

And don’t mind me if I enjoy it, too.

Love,
Mama

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