A Letter to Our Youngest Daughter on Your 5th Birthday

You are 5 years old today.  

Last week I chaperoned a field trip with your kindergarten class. Normally, I try to drive my own car and meet the bus, but this time I went to school with you, rode the bus, walked around the zoo with you and a friend, then rode the bus back. You were so excited for me to go with you and on the bus you talked and sang and just had so much fun. At one point, one of the teachers asked, “Does she just wake up singing?” 

“Pretty much,” I said. 

You’re just such a happy and joyful kid. And outgoing! Everywhere we go you’re making friends with kids and adults, sharing your goldfish, saying hi to strangers. Your sister played trombone with her school band in a parade on Veteran’s Day. You and I sat on the sidewalk waiting for the parade to start. An older man came and sat down near us with two children. By the time the parade started you had talked to him about his grandkids, his wife, the bucket he was sitting on, the toy he had in his hand, and how he hadn’t seen Coco. 

Also, you cannot pass a dog without asking to pet it. You walked right up to a Great Dane taller than you by a foot and asked if you could pet it. The guy holding the leash looked down, saw you and said, “sure and thanks for asking!” 

You’re sensitive. You cry at movies, especially when animals are hurt or when someone is being bullied. You’re just really sweet. At school you earn dollars to spend in the treasure box. When you have money in your little wallet, you spend it right away (we’ll work on that). But you don’t spend it all on yourself. You usually come home with a little something for each one of us. You brought some crackers home from snack for your sister when she was sick and staying home from school. You just have this inherent kindness that I love to see come out. 

You’re 5, but you still have these funny things that little kids do. Instead of saying, “each other,” you say, “chuthers.” For example you’ll say, “dad, do you and mommy love your chuthers?” Or you’ll say, “we were playing with our chuthers.” It’s absolutely the cutest thing I’ve ever heard and has become pretty standard for everyone around our house. It’s going to be sad when you lose that. 

I hate to admit it but you spend more time watching TV than I’d like. You love My Little Pony, the show and the comics. Please and thank you are not your strong suit. I think having a sister who is 5 years older than you has made it hard for me to remember how young you are. I’ve accidentally had much higher standards for you. Your teacher asked me where you went to preschool because, she said, “they did a tremendous job.” They definitely did. You tested in to kindergarten a year early, but you’ve been wanting to keep up with your sister since you were born. You walked early, trying to keep up with Amelia. I don’t know that you going to school early will work out long-term, but so long as you’re doing well, we’ll go with it. 

You love having books read to you and you’re so close to reading. You know lots of letters and sounds and I can tell it frustrates you. You did read a book to me the other day. You’d made it at school and it was called Zak the Rat. You’re bright and genuinely funny. You like playing, “I Spy,” and one of your favorite songs is Warrior by Chloe x Halle from A Wrinkle in Time. 

I spend a lot of time worrying about your fearlessness. I know it’s a good thing, but if anything is going to get you in to trouble, it’ll be that. You and your sister are so similar in some ways, but you’re so different in many others. Where she’s cautious and careful, you’re eager and fearless and I have to force myself not to rein you in. I want you to be fearless. I want you to climb trees that are too tall, and say hi to strangers, and go off to play by yourself, but it still worries me. I try to find that balance, but ultimately, I try to give you more freedom when I can, knowin, of course, that your sister is usually there to keep you safe.

Happy birthday, mija!