Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Dear Julia,

Today, you are 5. Lest we forget this fact, you have been writing Happy Birthday notes to yourself and leaving them all around the house for days. "Januarie 9: Day bfor my birthday" was the entry that you wrote -- and then proudly showed me -- in your journal yesterday and I'm pretty sure that the words "Januarie 10: My birthday" made it in there before you'd even had breakfast this morning. Apparently, 5 is the age that birthdays become a Big Deal.

Every year on your birthday, I write you a letter in which I try to capture who you are at that age. For the first few years, I marveled each time at how much more of yourself you'd revealed to me in the past year and how much better I knew you than I had 12 months earlier. This year, for the first time, the opposite is true. As the world takes you away from me for longer and longer periods of time and as your life begins to involve more and more experiences that don't include me, I am less and less certain that I know the whole you. This is the year that you have begun what I'm sure will be a process that will take many years; the process of pulling away.

It's nearly imperceptible, of course, the initial loosening of the ties that bid you to me. You still get out of school bursting to tell me about your day and you still love to climb into my lap or curl up on the couch for a snuggle. I'm pretty sure that I'm still #1 in your life, at least for now. But with the full school days that we now spent apart, plus the influence of a peer group that we haven't both known since they were in diapers, there's just a little bit of fraying to that strong cord that held you close by my side in your earliest years. Secrets you don't tell me, knowledge I'm not sure how or where you acquired, experiences I'm not there to witness, whole chunks of your days that don't include me... right before my eyes, you are becoming your own person.

The good news is that I truly like and respect the person who you are becoming. I'm so incredibly proud of the way that you handled our move to the UK and how enthusiastically you have embraced life here. We dropped you in the middle of a new and unfamiliar world at a pretty darn tender age, but you squared your shoulders and you marched into that classroom and you never looked back. You took your time and you sized up the situation and you have slowly but surely made it your own. In just a few months' time, you've impressed your teachers with your intelligence and your peers with your friendliness. I was a nervous wreck for you, biting my nails and worrying that you wouldn't fit in or that your shyness would hold you back. You never seemed to have those fears. You were confident that you'd make your way eventually, and you were right. I'm sorry I doubted you. "For all of her shyness," your teacher told me in a recent conference, "Julia is fully confident in herself and her abilities. She knows that she will always know the right answer, and that gives her the ability to respond when I call on her, even though the speaking itself is hard for her." What a beautiful thing to hear about you. I'm proud to see you finding your own voice, of course. But I'm even more in awe of your steady confidence and your unwavering belief in yourself. May you never lose those traits.

At 5, you are a study in contradictions. You read chapter books written for children at least 3 years your senior with ease and you throw tantrums worthy of children at least 3 years younger than you with equal finesse. You are poised and polite one moment and completely uncontrollable the next. You teach and protect and guide your younger brother in ways that would make any parent proud and you snatch toys out of his grasp in a way that would make any parent cringe. You are nearly silent in large groups and nearly overbearing one-on-one. You can calculate higher math problems without blinking and yet you seem to grasp little about the basics of daily life. You are helpful and cheerful and you are terrific company, that is, unless you have decided that you simply cannot hear my voice when I ask you to do something. Do I understand you? Less and less each day. But do I love you? More than I ever thought possible.

Happy 5th birthday, my sweet, wonderful girl. I may remember this as the year I first saw the buds of your own wings begin to appear, but I am immensely grateful that I have many, many happy years of sharing my nest with you still ahead before you eventually fly away. I look forward to all of them, starting with this one.



Blogger Steph said...

Happy 5th Birthday, Julia! I've loved watching you grow in size, personality and confidence through your mom's emails, blogs and pictures! Enjoy your day! And, happy birthing day to you, Rebecca!

8:31 PM  
Anonymous kristy said...

Happy Birthday, Julia. I, too, have enjoyed watching you grow these past few years. You are a blessing to your family, and to other people you may not even know. Happy Birthday.

(P.S. I sure understand the study in contradictions -- not so much the reading above level, but *very* much the tantrums waaaayyyy below level...)

12:22 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

Happiest of birthdays, Julia. I, too, have been privileged to watch you grow through online photo albums, your Mom's blog and emails. What a joy it was for me to meet you this past summer. I can't believe you are already five! Life goes so quickly for those who know and love you. Enjoy it, precious one. :) With love from The Egg family - Gina, Brad, Elizabeth, Katherine and Annie

1:17 AM  
Blogger Gretchen C. said...

Awww, happy birthday, you sweet, scary-smart little English rose, you! May you continue to bloom as beautifully as you have done. It's been a pleasure getting to know you through your mom's loving entries.

3:43 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Oh my goodness, five years old. How wonderful! Happy, happy birthday, Julia!

2:07 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Happy happy birthday Julia. Hurray for 5!

Rebecca, what a great snapshot of Julia. I feel like I know both of you just a bit more.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Liesl said...

Rebecca, that was a beautiful post. And Julia, Happy Birthday!

10:47 PM  

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