A Letter to Our Oldest Daughter on Your 10th Birthday

Today you are 10 years old. 

Sometimes I wonder where the time has gone and am amazed at how quickly you’ve grown. It feels like just the other day you started walking or were learning how to ride a bike. Other times I try to remember my life before you were around and it seems almost impossible. 

This past year was another busy one. We took you out of piano and voice lessons so you could play in the school band. With some nudging from your mom, you picked the trombone. You’re the only trombone in the entire prep band. I know some days you hate having to carry around a giant instrument while all the flutes toss theirs in their backpacks, but you’ve gotten really good at it. You set your own practice schedule and do a great job of getting it done. It’s so much easier than trying to get you to practice piano ever was. I think you’ll go back to piano, maybe in the summer, but I love that you found something you enjoy. 

The other day you told me a big kid from the District band saw you and said, “trombone?” You nodded and he said, “good. Stick with it.” You had this proud look on your face like you had shared a small moment with this kid who otherwise would never talk you, a 4th grader. 

When we bought your band t-shirt that says trombone, we all bought similar ones. Mine says trombone dad, and I’m going to wear that thing out. I like to imagine myself in another 8 or nine years showing up to parents weekend at your school in a Wildcat Dad hat and shirt (or wherever you may go to college) and embarrassing you to death.

You’re doing well in school, as always. You get frustrated with math sometimes, but I think you tend to rush through the problems to get it done. When you slow down you’re able to think through them and catch yourself. You still spend a lot of time reading and you not only read often, but you read widely. Even though you’ll find a series or author you like, you still mix in other books and formats. You like comic strip compilations, and Harry Potter, and non-fiction, and historical fiction. You had a lot of questions about that holocaust book, which got a little heavy, but I’m glad you’re reading it.  

Amelia, two days ago there was a school shooting in Texas and the news reported it as the 11th school shooting of the year. It took me reading that statistic a few different times before I realized that your school was one of those first 10. 

I cannot imagine you’ll ever forget being rushed into the boys locker room with your classmates and having to stay there for hours during the lockdown. I cannot imagine what you must have been thinking or feeling during that time and I will forever be grateful for the faculty and staff of your school for their work during the lockdown and in the days following. As difficult as it was for us outside receiving intermittent updates via email and phone, I cannot imagine the difficulty of the position they were thrust into.  

And now, two weeks later, you are back at school and doing well. It doesn’t seem to have phased you much and I’m sure you’re tired of us asking how you’re doing or what you’re thinking. 

Amelia, your mother and I can’t protect to you from everything. We know that. We do our best to make sure you have the tools to face whatever comes your way, but you’re growing up in a world that’s so different. When I was a kid, it never occurred to me that someone might take a gun to school and then use it on himself. And then to think it would happen at your school, while you’re there...it’s an idea that is too tragic and terrifying to comprehend. 

I don’t know what to do about any of this or even know what to say to you some days. You have so many questions about the news and what’s going on in the world, and to be honest, often I don’t have the fortitude to read every thing that is happening. So I simply do what my parents did and tell you the truth. A lot of times that will mean I just don’t know what to say. Amelia, I’m so proud of the person you are and the kindness you share with the world. You’re a beautiful and smart person, but you’re also sensitive, kind, and compassionate. We could not have asked for a better kid. I love you. Happy 10th birthday, mija. 

P.S. Now that you’re 10, can we talk about how breadcrusts aren’t poison?