I sit here this morning, writing before you wake up, not believing you turn 8 years old today. And as always, it makes me cry - this cruel task of parenting. Which is simply - if we are doing it right, we will watch you slowly but surely gain confidence and independence as you step into a world that doesn't have Mom and Dad at its center. Each year, you move another step away from us, and that's as it should be.
I'm beginning to see glimpses of the teenage girl you will become - beautiful, confident, friendly, self assured.
But you are also still the girl I want to hold for a little bit longer.
Your smile is infectious and people have always been drawn to your happiness.
Your passions are emerging in the form of art, music, creative expression, writing and reading.
You still wear your heart on your sleeve, which can be good and bad. Good because you feel deeply, love purely, care so much for so many things. Bad because you get hurt easily. You truly believe the world is a kind place and have no tough shell to handle the hurts yet.
Your sense of justice is advanced and unnerving at times - the clarity with which you can see a situation. Like explaining, very accurately, the difference between needs and wants to your sister the other night. Funny, yet sounding more like it came from a 12 year old, or maybe a 20 year old.
Boys are starting to take interest in you. You had one declare his love for you at your uncle's wedding this fall. THAT makes Daddy want to become the world's strongest and scariest man. He has daughters to protect, you know.
Your love of your sister is so intense, so pure, so real, that it sometimes takes her breath away. She didn't spend 5 years longing for a sister like you did and sometimes she's overwhelmed by your devotion to her. But she loves you so much too. You are all she knows as a sister - this shining light of love for her, this sister who thinks of her so often.
When you are at your best, you are unstoppable, a literal force to be reckoned with and your intensity and dedication to the things that interest you simply amaze me.
You have big changes coming your way this year, though, my girl. I know you are ready, I've watched you grow into such a capable, independent girl over the last 8 years.
I hope so many things for you, but this year I hope I can be your rock and our home your safe place as you navigate the next steps in your young life.
Happy 8th Birthday.