Happy Birthday, sweet 10 year old! How it happened that you went from being my tiny, fragile little baby girl to a beautiful, smart, strong ten year old so quickly, I will never know. I remember when you were born, being nearly afraid to hold you, being so afraid of what the world might bring to a little girl born so early. I remember holding you amidst monitors and feeding tubes and oxygen masks and IV's, you just seemed so completely fragile. I remember carrying you around, along with bags to hold all of your medical equipment. I thought that would never end.
And somehow, now, you are so strong and grown up! Ten years old is special. You are no longer my baby girl, but quickly becoming a lovely young lady. And thinking back on the past ten years of your life, I am so proud of who you are becoming.
But my job as a mama is to worry - it's what I do best. And as you get older, and you experience more and more of this world we live in, it scares me to think of what it could do to you.
Much of this won't make any sense now. You are still young, and sweet, and innocent. But I can already see you growing up, forming your own ideas and opinions. Save this letter, sweet girl, and read it again - when you are fifteen, when you are twenty, when you are thirty five. What I have to say will never change, no matter your age.
I LOVE who you are! I hope you never change, and I hope you never let your experiences in life, or the people you meet, change the beautiful soul within you. And so I want to offer just a few bits of advice, from a Mom who was your age not all that very long ago, and who knows you so very well.
First and foremost, remember that you can do anything. I love that you set goals for yourself and realize them. I love that you want to be just about everything under the sun when you grow up. I love that you dream of what the future will hold, and you never doubt that you can do anything you want to do. Don't let anything change that! Some day, your interests will settle and you'll know what you were really meant to do in life. Once you know for certain, in your heart, chase that dream with unending endurance. Don't let doubt get in the way.
Be careful to keep your temper in check. When you were just a baby, you would get so frustrated you would hold your breath until you passed out. That temper hasn't ever left you, though happily you've managed to stay conscious through most of your outbursts for several years now. It's wonderful to be passionate, but never, ever let your anger get the best of you. Stop - breathe - and start again, with careful thought.
I hope you always have the love for animals that you do now. Not just anyone can empathize with them the way you can - you truly have a gift. Some day, you're going to realize that every single person in the world will, at some point, disappoint you. People will hurt you, or turn on you, or leave you. But no animal ever will. Loving animals offers you a taste of one of the truest kinds of love. They'll always be there for you, will always love you, and will stand by you in ways no friend ever could. Do all you can never to live without at least one furry friend... and hopefully many more than that.
Every once in awhile, face one of your fears and do something that scares you. Remember the way it felt when you and Angel ran across the pasture for the first time together? There will always be things that scare you in life. It's okay to avoid them most of the time, but every so often, face one of your fears. Each time you do, you grow as a person.
Never, EVER stop reading and learning. My hope, above all hopes, is that home schooling will instill in you a life-long love for learning new things. Yes, school will be over when you are seventeen or eighteen. But that's just the beginning! Don't forget how you love to question things now, how you figure out the answers. When you get bored, pick up a book and devour it the way I see you do now. No matter how old you are, go to the library and get lost in the aisles, just once in awhile.
Don't ever stop writing, either. You have a true gift, my dear, with a pen and paper. I've never known a kid who can write like you do. It doesn't matter what you write - just write. You may not feel like your own story is exceptional, but it is. Your life, and all the little things you do, are so meaningful. Take a few minutes now and then to write down a happy story about something you've done. When you're an old lady, you'll be glad you did.
Cater to your love for nature, all your life. There may be a day when you live in a big city, surrounded by concrete and tall buildings and bright lights. But don't ever miss the passing of a season and the birth of the next one. As you do now, always take time to walk through knee-high grass, or to sit in the snow in silence just listening to the world around you. I hope when you are thirty years old that you still can't help but put your bare toes in the mud. And always grow something - a flower, a tomato plant, an acre garden, it doesn't matter. Growing anything puts you in touch with the world around you, makes you see changes that you might otherwise miss. Be sure to go camping at least once a year, and look at the stars above you, cook over a campfire, wade in a creek, listen to the silence.
Embrace the tomboy inside you, but don't hesitate to be girly occasionally, too. There are great parts of both. Keep shooting your guns and getting dirty and playing hard, but once in awhile make sure you still put on a fancy dress and high heels and make-up, too.
Choose your attitude. No matter where you find yourself, what you're asked to do, what life throws at you - choose happiness. Choose cheerfulness. Choose to make the best of it. Right now it's dishes and putting away laundry, some day it will be a whole lot more. But you can always choose how you react. Please don't forget that.
You already exude a confidence in your character that is rarely seen. You know who you are, and you're proud of it. You don't let anyone else try to make you someone you're not. You don't worry what other people think of you, or worry about being as good as anyone else. You will always be good enough, don't forget that!
Never doubt your place in this family. You will forever be The Oldest, the older and wiser big sister. I know she will get on your nerves sometimes, but your little sister thinks the world of you and will look up to you for the rest of her life. Stop to listen and talk to her sometimes, no matter how old you two are. Have patience with her, hold her hand, help her when she needs it, the way you always do now. There will never be a time that she doesn't need you.
Above all, I hope you never, ever doubt how much I love you, and will always love you. I never knew what "unconditional love" was until I held you for the first time. Nothing you can do will ever change the love I have for you. Yes, you will make me angry. Yes, you will hurt my feelings. But that won't take away the love for you that is so deep in my heart it can never be taken away. Don't hesitate to say you're sorry, and know that you will always, always find forgiveness. You bring me a joy that I can't explain, you make my life complete.
I am so unbelievably proud of the young lady that you are. All of these things I've mentioned - it's who you already are, what I already see inside you. It's nothing you'll have to learn, just things you'll need to hold on to. And sometimes you'll have to hold on for dear life - but never let them go.
Happy 10th birthday, sweet girl. May this year, and all the years hereafter bring you happiness, and love, and fulfillment.