Every year on their birthdays, Jeff and I write each child a letter in their scrapbooks. This is Makenna's. To learn more about why we do this, click here.
Happy 8th Birthday my beautiful, amazing girl! I am so happy to be writing this letter to you, on time, in the right frame of mind, in such a better state than I was on your seventh birthday a year ago. We experienced quite a journey over this past year, and in many ways, I feel like we lost a year of our lives.
But we didn't. We lived and walked every day of the past year, of your seventh year and you have shown wisdom beyond your eight years in the meantime. Its only been a year, but you have grown, so much since your last birthday.
I am both proud and grateful for the resilience you have shown. For your courage, your optimism and your bravery. You grew this year, in so many ways.
Last fall you decided to try cheerleading. This was way out of your comfort zone, it was real work, and real commitment. You stuck with it until the very end, even after you realized midway through the season that cheerleading isn't your thing. You got up on stages in Toronto and Stratford and Goderich and performed your routine with all you had in you to give. You grudgingly sat through the application of liquid eyeliner, false eyelashes and red lipstick among other things and positively beamed at the end of each performance, feeling like you were a part of something great, even though you didn't really love it. You stuck with it and you were seven years old. I am proud of you.
This past year your self confidence grew as you made it clear that you preferred math and science over language arts in school. How this is possible, being my child, I have no idea, but it doesn't matter. Your confidence has grown, you excelled, impressing everyone in your family and you were proud of your accomplishments. I am proud of you.
You are, to my knowledge, a good friend to your peers. You gained knowledge and insights over this past year that not many children your age ever have, or ever will, simply because of your life circumstances. To my knowledge you want to be friends with everyone, you want to show compassion and charity to everyone, and you want to help when and where you can. This is so important to me, above anything else...that you be a good friend to your peers. That you learn and show compassion, empathy and understanding. But that you also learn and show strength, confidence, and pride in yourself. That you care for others, but that you care for yourself first. That you always love yourself and put yourself first. That you be proud of who you are, accept yourself for who you are and make no apologies for who you are. That you are happy in your own skin, whatever that may look like. I think this is every mother's greatest wish for their child, and it is certainly my wish for you. Happiness, and inner peace. I think one of the gifts from this past year was hopefully that you, like me, learned a bit more about who you are and what you're made of.
And I am so proud of you for that.
You like art. You took a week long art camp at the art gallery this summer, because you like art and wanted to learn more. It didn't stop you that you wouldn't know anyone. It didn't stop you that you might have been the youngest. You were interested and you went for it.
You wanted to improve in ice skating, so you asked to enroll in a skating camp. When you realized on the first day that you were one of only 2 girls and didn't know the other one, and were one of the weaker skaters in the class, it didn't stop you. You were determined to learn how to skate and stick the week out. I was worried about you being all alone and feeling embarassed about your skating amongst all those boys. So much so that I made your dad peek in on you on his lunch hour. You didn't see him, and you didn't ask to quit. At the end of the week you were a better skater, had made a new friend and had gained courage and strength. I am proud of you.
This year, you want to join the swim team, even though none of your friends...no one you even know, is on it. While stopping whatever you were doing to watch Missy Franklin swim at this summer's 2012 Summer Olympics, you would ask me if I would come watch you when you swim at the Olympics someday.
I am proud of you for again wanting to try something new.
You want to take piano lessons this year too, and have already learned 2 simple songs, by ear since Monday. You seem to have a good handle on who you are right now and what you want. And it doesn't seem to matter too much what others are doing, or what others may think. I know you are only 8 today, and that this can and will all change several times in the next several years, but after the past year we have had, I am so grateful, and so proud to see you have come through this okay. That you are still you, we didn't lose a part of you, the tornado didn't take a part of you with it...if anything the process of working through it has helped you blossom.
You like One Direction, Bruno Mars and Good Luck Charlie. You read "Dumb Diary" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books. You want an Ipod Touch and love all electronics. You refuse to learn how to ride your bike or get your ears pierced. You still love the swings and the sandbox. You play Barbies and board games. You can make your own breakfast and volunteer to put Jack to bed. He is your very best friend, and your worst enemy. You are your Daddy's Girl but are just starting to challenge his authority.
Today, you don't have to ride in a carseat anymore because even though you are only 60 lbs, you are 8 years old. Today you get to choose the restaurant we will eat supper at. Today, we added Maggie to your life. To our family. A 4 year old chocolate lab. The next adventure begins.
You are a happy, healthy, brave and resilient eight year old girl, and I am so honoured, so proud, to be your mom.
You kept me going, you inspire me to push back and push harder, and you remind me who I am above and before all else. I am your mom. You and I have so much in common, and yet you already outshine me in so many ways.
And I am so proud of that.
Happy Birthday Makenna. Love you. Love you. Love you.
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