I wanted so desperately to make your double-digit birthday special.
Ten, after all, is something special. As you put it, you have now lived an entire decade. Ten more of the same and you'll be twenty - in college or married or traveling the world.
When I look back, I have no regrets about cherishing your childhood. I really did. We were inseparable from the beginning. I nursed you and carried you and studied your long lashes, rosebud lips, and perfect complexion. You slept in my bed, breathed on my shoulder, even came to work with me.
Watching you become a young lady has been a beautiful mystery. You are parts of me and parts of your dad - but you are mostly all your own.
One of the first words that comes to mind when I think of you is "responsible." Also: "mature." I trust you with a myriad of tasks because you are diligent, capable, and careful.
During my pregnancy, when I was drowning in morning sickness this past winter, you would creep out of bed early to clean the entire house and set the table for breakfast. It's just the kind of thing you do. To say you are a huge help would be a major understatement.
You are still a math wiz - racing through problems with a kind of joy.
I've heard it said that people who are good at math also have an appreciation for symmetry and beauty. This holds true for you. You have an eye for artistry and, as a result, I often enlist your help when I am doing photo shoots for my writing pieces.
You're also the resident "vacation packer" for your sisters. You meticulously pick out coordinating outfits for each day of the week for your sisters.
When I can't figure out how to unlock the highchair tray or where to hang a picture frame, I call your name down the hall. Your mechanical mind instinctively knows how things work.
Your favorite food is smoothies (do you ever tire of them?) and you are a master at making them. Whipped cream, frozen mangos, frozen strawberries - voila! You might usurp your father in his role as champion smoothie creator.
This summer, you joined swim team for the first time. Most of the swimmers had years of experience behind them. You didn't know any of the strokes nor did you know how to dive. With admiration, I watched as you grew tan and toned. I marveled at your persistence and courage.
Last year, you performed a poem at a statewide Speech Meet. Your voice was clear; your expressions vivid. That blue ribbon was well-deserved.
Other things about you:
When I asked you a million times what you wanted for your birthday, you insisted that your baby brother was your birthday gift. The first thing you do in the morning is sneak into our bedroom and smile at him. When you get home from school, you rush in to greet him - but not before taking a quick shower "so he doesn't get sick."
Same thing about Christmas. "All I've ever wanted for a few Christmases back was a baby...so my Christmas is already complete." Those words are not empty either. You live and breathe them.
Your baby brother is two weeks old now - fresh and new. I am recovering and nursing around the clock. On your birthday, we had no party. I wanted to make you a banner, to fill your bedroom with balloons, to take you out to a movie, to discuss your dreams and toast your strengths. But that wasn't to be.
Ever patient and understanding, you took it all in stride. We had smoothies and ribs for dinner - and you held your brother close.
Thanks for your grace, your goodness, and your tenderheartedness. I honestly don't know what we'd do without you.
Happy Birthday, my brave and beautiful girl. It's been ten glorious years - and I know the next ten will be even better.