I remember this time last year, when you turned eight years old. We were struggling with the drama du jour, and I didn’t write you a happy birthday letter because I didn’t want to write about my parenting shortcomings. If it makes you feel any better, no one told me that my children’s struggles would be a reflection of me. It’s not in the instruction manual.
But now you are nine. Whatever you were struggling with at seven and eight is long gone. The transformation has happened before my eyes, and it delights me to watch you grow into your own person.
You are kind, polite, and overall wonderful to others. You understand the basics of injustice. You share and give easily. You wholly understand that others are watching you and behave accordingly. Honestly, if you learn nothing else, these things will be your greatest asset in years to come. I am so proud.
You are coming out of your shell. Long gone are the days when you look to me for approval or hang on my arm waiting for rescue. You say what you want to say and certainly don’t need me to intercede for you anymore. Just a few weeks ago we went to dinner with some friends, and you spent the whole time engaged in conversation with adults like you’d done it all your life. I was so proud. I am so proud.
You understand that life isn’t fair, and not just because I say it all the time. You know that responsibility increases with age. You know that sometimes it’s easier to do the thing you hate than to argue about it. You know when to speak up for fairness for others. I am so proud.
You are so smart. You got straight A’s and A+’s in school this year. Your teacher says you are the first person to raise your hand, that you offer to help others who struggle, that you are a great team and individual player in her class. I am so proud.
You fill an important place in our family. You take your role of oldest child very seriously, often better at keeping the peace between your brother and sister than I am. You love to be near me, either helping me cook or keeping me company when I am writing or working on art or grocery shopping. I love your company, too.
You are nine now. As of 7:54 AM on Saturday morning, you were nine. You had your first friend sleepover and two parties, too. You had funfetti cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles. You got your ears pierced. You blinked and smiled and pretended it didn’t hurt. You hugged me all day because I finally let you pierce your ears. You called it the best day ever.
I already know this is going to be a great year. You’ve got every tool you need to make the world wonderful and your whole family behind you to help.
Happy 9th Birthday, Hillary. I love you so much. You are my best friend.