Every year on her birthday, I write my niece a letter. You can read the previous years’ letters here:
We call you that more often than Lily these days. It confuses people but they’re interchangeable to your family. Is that still a nickname of yours? I wonder if it’ll stick.
You are FOUR. Does that even count as a toddler anymore? You’re so smart, and empathetic and aware – it is inspiring and a little scary – how fast you’re growing and how much you’re soaking in each and every day.
A few things that you’re all about: swimming – you could be in a pool all day, youtube videos, milk (you barely breathe when handed a glass), all things Disney and babies, salmon and fruit (melon, just like your aunt mae mae), PINK, sprinkles, sweets.
You, my darling girl, are getting so smart. You’ve memorized “brown bear, brown bear” and can now ‘read’ it to me. You know all your numbers, and letters and shapes. You’re learning how to use scissors. You know that when the sun sets here in America, that it’s rising in China (your Dad travels there quite a bit these days). You repeat everything – which gets some of us in trouble (re: me, because I swear like a sailor and say wildly sarcastic comments on the reg).
There are downsides to it though, love. You catching onto so many things. You now know what it means when your dad goes on those business trips. When I tell you I have to go to Cago to work and you ask why, I don’t have a good enough answer for you. It breaks both of our hearts each time I leave. You can sense fear – when other people are afraid your face scrunches up and you get quiet. You are like a little sponge and you take on the emotions of the people you love. When someone else is hurt, no one in the room is more worried than you. You’re beginning to understand that there’s bad in the world – that sometimes people aren’t truthful, that there are all kinds of hurts in the world and there are some you’ll feel helpless over. And you’re learning the hardest thing of all, that growth hurts. Learning new things is hard and frustrating. And the hardest of all – that you won’t always get what you want, sometimes life is downright unfair and no number of tantrums or amount of pleading will change that.
I feel myself getting increasingly protective of you. I had my heart broken earlier this year. It sent me to a lonely place – I wanted to run away much like Elsa did and build a glass castle so no one could touch me. You could sense it I guess. I was home a couple of weeks later and you were my shadow. You looked up at me and asked, “why are you sad Maemae?” and as I choked back tears I was in awe of how big your heart is, how perceptible you are and all I could say in response was “my heart hurts. It’s broken i think and I don’t know how to make it better.” Then, you simply walked to the other side of the room, grabbed your doctor’s back and told me that you’ll fix it.
And you know what? It started feeling a bit better that moment. You have the power to help heal people. Be the person who cheers the loudest when people triumph, but also be the first person breaking down the door when you know someone is hitting the floor. The sun will also rise tomorrow, but it’s people that are charged with making sure it shows up in people’s lives sometimes.
Here’s my wish for you: your heart stays as open as it is today.
As I tell you over and over again – stolen from one of my favorite movies – You are kind. You are smart. You are important. And to add on – you are brave. You are strong. I make you repeat it to me over and over again. The last year started with what many view (myself included) a major setback for women. But honey, like I told you last year, in response, every time, we will roar. We will fight for you little girls; we will scream so that one day when little girls grow up they will not have to dry their tears wondering where in history they lost their voice. And we’re doing it – we’re starting movements. We’re standing up. we’re fighting against the injustices and poor treatment – and you know what sunshine, we’re winning. It makes people feel uncomfortable, because, well growth hurts. The unknown is scary. But we’ll forge on, for girls like you, who deserve better than what is. You deserve a world that’s better than todays.
Life is about being beautiful – beautifully kind, and generous, and selfless. Beautifully open to all kinds of love, and people.
Please, please – live your life without judging others. You don’t know what they’ve been through. I’ve always tried to live my life with this saying in mind – “every single person has a secret that would break your heart. If we could all just remember this, I think there would be a lot more compassion in the world.” Just because someone is a different shape or size or color or believes in a different God or no God at all or loves a man or a woman or feels like they want to change the gender they were born as – who cares? Are they kind? Are they good to you and the world? Then befriend them. The world needs that. You don’t know what kind of battle a person is fighting, take that to heart sweet pea.
Love is love, honey. And trust me – love is so so hard. It’s harder than I thought it’d be. I’ll tell you about that in a letter when you’re a little older – trust me, I have LOTS of dating advice to dole out. Mostly what not to do. You’re welcome, in advance. But here’s what’s important – here’s the root of the root of it – love is love is love. And it’s so rare, it is so hard to find that it feels like your heart might be broken forever, that when you find it, or anyone finds it, it should be celebrated and cherished. Screw the people that think one kind of love is right and another is wrong. They don’t understand. Love is love is love. Let that be your anthem.
You’re so full of life Lily girl. It’s amazing to watch you learn and see everything for the first time. The first time you accomplish something and your whole face lights up with pride – I wish I could bottle that feeling for you so down the road I could give you a dose of it when you’re doubting yourself, when you’re feeling low. You remind all of us that there is so much wonder in the world.
You are so loved, little one. Hold onto that. You’re your momma’s world. Your daddy’s girl. Mimi’s favorite (well, except when uncle Bowwow’s around…). GG never laughs harder than when you’re being silly. Every time you come to Mimi and Pop’s – the first thing you ask is, where’s Pop? I suspect it’s in part because he’s always sneaking you candy out of his office desk drawers, but I think it’s also because he challenges you. You’re always following him around the yard as he picks up sticks (that’ll get less fun when you get older). You finally aren’t afraid of uncle Bowwow (he is very tall) and you’re now his favorite playmate. And then there’s me. I like to think we share a special little bond – you and me. Our secret handshakes, you running to greet me when I get to town, baking (you can crack eggs by yourself now! It’s quite impressive – no shells get in the batter either). You are one of my most favorite things about this world, you make my life better – you make me want to be better. Thank you for that.
I love you —— (arms outstretched like we do) THIS MUCH. Shine on little one.