Dear A, 11 Years Old

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Dear A,

You were made for prairie life.

You love running around with barefeet, regardless of the surface beneath your toes. In fact, you recently asked why anyone would want to put their feet in "square boxes" (aka shoes). Somehow you don't even flinch when scrambling up trees or hopping across stones, smiling widely without a care in the world.

That is generally how you approach life in general. Can do. Let's try it. Danger, shmanger. You'll ride the tallest, fastest, upside down coasters - twenty times in a row! You'll climb the most precarious boulders and perch at the tip top of tree branches. One of the first things you do every morning is step on your hoverboard and glide around the house with perfect balance - Back to the Future style. When you ride your bike, you sit on the handlebars and show us your latest tricks, then max out the speed down the steepest streets in our neighborhood. You dream of surfing the waves, kicking soccer balls, and tipping volleyballs.

"What sports does she play?" strangers and acquaintances ask when they see your limber limbs, strong muscles, and serious speed. With two older sisters and one younger brother, we haven't had the capacity to enroll you in formal sports. Sixth grade (this upcoming school year) will be your chance though. You'll get to play volleyball (setter is your dream), soccer, and basketball through school for the first time.

Your appetite matches your athleticism. You love nothing more than to sit down at a dinner table with a large main dish and a number of side dishes. Picky is not your style. You will eat almost anything set before you, sampling new dishes like a famous food writer from a sophisticated magazine. We sometimes joke that the way to your heart is through your stomach.

In the summer afternoons and in your free time, you craft and draw for hours, creating imaginative projects with recycled household items - often with grandma as your sidekick. You also love listening to audiobooks, cooking (including chopping fruits and vegetables), caring for animals (including your beloved golden retriever), and spending time with friends. At church, you take meticulous sermon notes with sparky gel pens.

At night, you crawl in bed beside me while I read aloud and then you reluctantly head to your room to read your own book under the covers or share whispers with your sister until late into the night. Somehow a very small amount of sleep doesn't change your cheerful disposition. You've always needed less sleep - even as an infant and then a toddler.

Ever since you were a tiny preschooler, you expressed interest in being a doctor. In fact, we sometimes called you "Dr A Sheaffer" when you were itty bitty. As you've grown up, this ambition has rarely wavered - although you are already weighing the pros and cons of having such a career alongside motherhood. "Can I be a doctor, a writer, and a mother?" you have asked me a number of times, worry in your voice. "Yes," I say thoughtfully, "although perhaps not all at once." You love children and currently say that you want to have between 4 and 6, maybe more. I can picture you with a houseful of little ones. You would be a wonderful mother and my prayer is that God grants you this dream. Motherhood is a magnificent gift.

One thing I admire about you is that you are 0% snobbish or exclusive. You welcome everyone with a genuine smile and your characteristically sweet demeanor. You don't change yourself to fit the audience. You are just you - kind, creative, adventurous, thankful, and humble. Smart too - with A's lining your report card. You'd never call yourself any of those things. You just live them.

Same goes with your appearance. You are the opposite of pretentious or concerned about your looks. And yet you are a perfectly natural beauty. You'll race by in shorts, a t-shirt, and any tennis shoes that help you go the fastest - and look enviously adorable with your friendly green eyes, long blonde curls, and winning smile.

As #3 in the family, you probably sometimes feel forgotten - not the oldest, not the youngest. I was right there with you and I remember what it was like. There are many blessings though of being right in the middle and I pray that God's love will shine brightest for you in the moments when you feel overshadowed. One thing is sure: you are unforgettable, remarkable, not a clone of your sisters - but so wonderfully, beautifully YOU.

Happy Birthday, A - you are so very loved.

* I write letters to each of my children on their birthdays so that they will remember and I won’t forget. As Sheldon Vanauken so aptly put it, “Writing has something of the timeless about it – a breath of eternity.” 

©2024 Stephanie Sheaffer - All Rights Reserved
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