My Promise to You: A Letter To My Daughter on Her 4th Birthday

Dear Heart,

On your first birthday I could recall every minute of that difficult 30+ hour labor that brought you into the world.  Now, on your fourth birthday, I only remember bits and pieces – it turns out the memories of pain have faded (just as other moms said they would).  But one memory is brighter and more brilliant than ever: the memory of holding you for the first time.  You were so light and tiny, yet so solid, so real.  Mine.  My flesh and blood.  My very heart.  I desperately wanted to sleep but I couldn’t imagine closing my eyes and missing a moment with your perfect face and hands and toes, your steady breathing…the miracle of your heart beating in your tiny chest.  Thump thump.  Thump thump.  The heart that was once beating inside of me.  

I have heard it said that when your child is born it’s like your heart grows legs and begins to move and live in the very world you protected it from for 9 whole months.  Oh my goodness, how true it is.  When you were born, my darling, I saw my heart take on flesh and blood and fit perfectly into my newly minted mother’s embrace.  As I held your tiny newborn body, it felt like I was holding my heart and wondering how something could be so fragile and so alive at the same time.

And now you are 4.  Which means I’ve had 4 years of learning how exhilarating and how awe-inspiring it can be to watch one’s heart grow up.  And grow up you have.  Now, more than ever, it is obvious that you are no longer my heart…you are your own self.  With your own likes and dislikes (which, by the way, you make very clear).  With a stubborn streak that I’m sure comes from me.  And with a heart – your own heart, not mine – of pure gold (which definitely comes from your daddy).  It’s been magical to watch you grow.

But here’s what I wasn’t prepared for, dear heart: I wasn’t prepared for how terrifying and painful it can be, too.  Though you are your own person, I still feel the beating of your heart as if it were my own.  When you cry, I want to weep.  When someone hurts you, it crushes me.  When you are scared or disappointed or sick, I would do anything to ease your suffering.  

It seems that no matter how much you grow, you will always be my heart walking around in this world.  A broken world, nonetheless.  A world that I fear will one day try to break you.  And that would break my heart.

They say that the key to good parenting is raising your child to one day leave you.  Which absolutely does break my heart.  But it also gives me a deep, deep sense of purpose.  A calling, really.  I want you to grow up with the grace and strength to not only leave me, but leave me to go make our broken world a little more whole.

So, for your birthday, dear heart, I am making you a promise.  I promise to do everything I can to make you strong enough to withstand all that the world can throw your way.  I promise to do everything I can to make you brave enough to replace the world’s brokenness with those time-tested, holy virtues: hope, and love, and peace.  That is my vow to you.

I promise, dear heart, to always encourage you, and to celebrate your strengths and help you learn to use them.
I promise, dear heart, to be right there with you when you fail.
I promise, dear heart, to dust you off when you pick yourself up.
I promise, dear heart, to always find a bright side, and always try to make you laugh.

But most of all, dear heart, I promise to show you what it looks like to be strong.  And here’s the truth about strength: it’s not about might or winning; it’s not about threats or violence; it’s not about belittling others or being well-liked or getting your way.  None of that is real strength, strength that can withstand the world and bring about a better one.

Strength is believing that you are enough.  Strength is believing that at your deepest core you are smart enough, strong enough, brave enough, worthy enough, loveable enough for whatever stands in your way.  Strength is believing that you are enough because God gives you enough to be who you are called to be.

That is why, my dear heart, I promise to love you for who you are until my dying breath.  No. matter. What.  I promise to tell you over and over and over again, and I’ll keep telling you when you are 15 and you roll your eyes every time I say this…

You are enough.
You are enough.
You are enough.

You will undoubtedly cop an attitude and ask me “how do you know?”  To which I will tell you… “I was there when you were born.  I felt your tiny heartbeat, strong and steady, Thump Thump, Thump Thump, announcing that you were wonderfully and fearfully made, ready to take on this world.”  

You have always been enough, and you always will be.  I promise to never let you forget that.

With love,
Your Mama (who was taught to believe that I am enough, too)

2 thoughts on “My Promise to You: A Letter To My Daughter on Her 4th Birthday

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