You turned five this week, as you happily told everyone we encountered the last few days. You think turning five means you can run faster and reach taller things like your other five-year old friends.
We celebrated with a party with your Wee Pals friends, lunch with Daddy on the actual day, and a party with family a day late because of some crazy thunderstorms that hit Wyoming on your actual birthday. What a lucky little girl you are to have so many people who love you and want to celebrate with you. I made an Elena of Avalor cake, and the hit presents were an Elena of Avalor guitar and a Minnie Mouse watch.
You have grown so much in the last year. You are definitely a big kid now, ready to tackle kindergarten in the fall and anything else that life might throw at you. I love your sense of adventure and willingness to try new things. School, soccer, ballet…you tried all of them with a zest and confidence I admire. Today, you went off the diving board at swimming lessons and swam to the side. You didn’t hesitate once. Your fearlessness inspires me to step out of my own comfort zone and try new things with you.
Your friends are becoming more important to you. At school, I was told you usually preferred to play with the boys. You love to play chase and tag and monsters and bad guys. You attended your first birthday parties this year. You teachers described you as the kind of girl who is friends with and plays with everyone. When your new friend Colby told you his horse died and he was sad, you came home and drew him a picture to help cheer him up. I love that you are social and genuinely kind to everyone.
Our relationship is changing, too. No longer do you accept everything I tell you as gospel. You question me and test me. Sometimes it infuriates me, but I also know that it means you are developing your own sense of self and independent thinking skills. You are also developing your own opinion on everything. It is hard to accept because I still want you to want and need me. But you are growing up and that means sometimes we will disagree.
You are looking forward to kindergarten and being with your friends. You’re sad that Colby, Brady and your other Wee Pals friends won’t be there with you. You cried when we had to say goodbye to Mrs. Mareta, Mrs. Molly and Mr. Lance at the end of the school year. But I know you will enjoy the coming years too. You are very much like Daddy and I in that you love to learn and understand how things work. You are reading simple books by yourself, adding small numbers and counting higher and higher each day. This spring, you accurately explained to me what an eclipse was, even demonstrating it with your yogurt, cereal bowl and water glass at breakfast one morning.
You continue to be an animal lover and nature explorer. We spent hours in the barns so you could see and hold the pheasant chicks. You love to watch nature shows like Wild Kratts and Nature Cat and learn about animals. At night, when we give you kisses and cuddles, you most often want to play the “Animal Game,” where you describe an animal and we have to guess it. You know where an animal lives, what it eats, what it looks like and other weird facts about it. Lemurs, giraffes, turtles, panda bears, whale sharks, you love them all. You are Ziggy’s best friend and Roxy’s best girl. I love watching you play “dog trainer” and putting Ziggy through his paces. You were so upset when Roxy got bit by a rattlesnake. I don’t think you slept at all that night we had to leave her at the vet. Thankfully, she recovered and the two of you were back to playing dress up in a few days.
It is no surprise that you want to be a veterinarian when you grow up. But I can also envision you as a scientist, teacher or a wildlife biologist like Daddy. With your sense of adventure, I can picture you tracking down snow leopards in the Himayalas for your own Youtube channel. Or maybe you’ll be an artist. We spend hours drawing, painting and doing crafts. My office is rapidly filling up with all your artwork!
Your favorite song right now is “Dirt on My Boots.” You love it when Daddy and I turn on the music after dinner and we dance in the kitchen. Some of your other favorites are “Walk Like an Egyptian,” “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” and “Happy.”
You are one of the only 5-year olds I know with a summer job. After dinner, you, me, Daddy and Ziggy head out to the bird pens to run the chicks into their houses. Sometimes you like it, other times you’d prefer to stay inside where it’s cool. But we’re it as an opportunity to teach you about chores and responsibility. You’re learning that life isn’t all fun and games and that we can’t quit just because a job gets hard. I hope that seeing him in action and being around him will help you develop a work ethic like Daddy’s. And I hope that little glimpse into how hard he works for our family will stick with you for life, and you’ll appreciate the sacrifices he makes for our family. Chance are good you’ll like this chore less and less as time passes. Until the day, that is, that you realize it wasn’t about working but about family.
There are times I look forward to the fall when you will be in school and I will have more free time. But most of the time, I just get sad thinking about it. You’ve been my constant companion and partner in crime for the last five years. Not having you with me all day will be a big change for both of us. No more impromptu trips to Cheyenne for lunch with Nana or afternoon runs to AJs for a soda. I will miss this time with you more than you’ll ever know.
We argue and get frustrated with each other. We get mad. You get sad. But nothing is ever too bad that we can’t fix it with an “I’m sorry” and a good, long hug. May that always be the case for our relationship. We love you to pieces my dear, sweet, kind, beautiful girl. Happy 5th birthday.
(This is the fifth in a series of letters I’ve written to my daughter each year on her birthday. When she’s 18th, I’m going to give them to her and let her see herself through our eyes over the years.)