01/22/2015 10:07 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

To My Daughter, Who Turns 5 Today

Farah Miller

Dear Zadie,

Everything changed this year. We moved. You got a baby sister. And today, you are 5.

I saw it happen this fall. You turned from a toddler into a little girl right before my eyes. You'd let me pull your hair into a ponytail for gymnastics. (Yes, let me. You have very strong opinions about how you want your hair to be, and I try not to force you to wear it the way I want.) I drove you and Daddy to the playground before class, and after you jumped out of the car you stood at the passenger side to say goodbye. I looked out the window and saw your whole face -- a thoughtful, beautiful child -- and you blew me a kiss.


So I drove away sobbing, possibly because I was pregnant and hormonal, but also because you are growing up.

You use words like "delicious" and "proper" and "possibly" in complete sentences. Your sense of direction is astoundingly good. (You recently told me Daddy is the smartest of the three of us because he always knows where to go, then you, then me, because I need to use a GPS.) We sing our favorite songs together. You can count to 100 and add numbers up. You are learning what letters sound like and writing more than just your name. You love school so much that when you had a two-week holiday break, you wanted to play pretend: you were the teacher and I was the student.

You were the new kid this year. I didn't realize that would be such a big transition for you, starting at a preschool where the other 4-year-olds knew each other -- and I'm so proud of you for going in there and making friends. For me, it's a taste of what the next 12 years will feel like. I worry that you aren't happy, even when you tell me you are. I want to know about every second of your day, and have to piece together the clues: "It was good" or "We played tag" or the names of children you sat with at lunch. About a month ago, you told me one of the other girls was being mean to you, and I remembered all the mean girls I'd ever known and my heart hurt. Now, you tell me she is nice. She is coming to your party. My heart feels better.

And in the fall, you'll start kindergarten. You'll get on a school bus, and we'll do this all again. And again.

I don't know where your sense of humor came from, but you are a riot. You love playing with other kids, but entertain yourself now, too, making up stories. You put on shows for us. Actually, you spend 30 minutes or so getting ready for a show. Daddy and I don't mind the delay as long as we get to sit down.

Your first real show -- your school's winter concert -- was the week your sister was born, two days after we brought her home from the hospital. And I couldn't miss it. I went on no sleep, still recovering, and sat in the back. The 4-year-olds did a play as well as the songs. You were a piggy and you had one line. When you remembered it, I got teary. By the time your group was dancing to a song about snowflakes, I was bawling, possibly because I was post-partum and hormonal, but also because I am proud of you.

I know you want your sister to be your playmate right away, and that you had no idea how boring an infant could be. Yet you are still completely smitten. You want to hold and hug and kiss her all the time. You come bounding into our room in the mornings, and peer into her bassinet. We say, "Shhhh." You say, "She's awake!" in a half-whisper half-scream. When you didn't know I was watching, I saw you run to grab a cloth to clean a little spit-up from her mouth. You "read" books to her. Last night, I heard you say, "You're the cutest best baby ever."


With all of this change, you have been a challenge, though. You don't listen to me. You talk back. I have to beg you to brush your teeth and put shoes on and clean your room. I know that doesn't sound terribly trying, but it is incredible how hard it is to get someone as small as you are out the door. I don't know if that is just because you are 4, or if it is because you are you. I think it is a little bit of both, and that we will always butt heads because that is one of the things that mothers and daughters can be counted on to do.

But we end every day the same way. I ask you how many kisses you want. You give me a number. I say "I love you one. I love you two. I love you three..." and "I love you forever."

I love you forever and ever and ever. Happy birthday.



Yes, that is a land line. We still had one in 2015.

That's Grandma on the other end, wishing you a happy birthday.

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