Well kid, we've made it this far as a little family. I hope you feel loved and safe everyday you come home from school. I also hope you understand that you deserve to be loved and treated with respect, now and for the rest of your life.
You're getting older now, and rather than give you a bunch of life advice that you probably don't want to hear, I will ask you to continue doing a few things that came naturally to you when you were a little girl. Feel free to read this away from your friends, I know you're at an age where reading a letter from Papa isn't cool, especially one he wrote to you a few weeks before the first anniversary of the day he met you.
1. Keep singing
One of my favorite things about my walks with you and Barney our first summer as a family was your singing. It usually started by the time we crossed the street over to Indian Village. I don't know what you were singing, but it was beautiful because you were so sincere about your words. You were also great at learning the melody of a song and adapting it for your own purpose, which I always found funny. You were also pretty good at finding the Michigan State University Fight Song in your MSU book, and having almost everyone who came to the house sing it at least once.
Singing is something that can help keep you centered and relaxed, even if you only sing in the shower.
2. Continue to be generous with your time and talent
Your Mama and I loved hearing stories of you when you were in the infant room in daycare. As soon as you were steady as a walker, you would go to the kid who was crying and try to comfort them by giving them a toy or patting them on the back. You were also the one helping your friends learn to walk and climb. Come to think of it, you were always good about sharing your food too, in fact you were a little too good at it occasionally.
3. Keep studying your surroundings and trust your instincts
The day we met you, one of the first things that Mama and I noticed was the way you studied your surroundings before you crawled over to us. It reminded me of the way your Aunt Rebekah was as a little girl too. I think it will always serve you well to study and think before you act, as it has served your aunt pretty well.
One night when I picked you up from daycare, you had a set of toy keys and you were trying to figure out how they fit in the keyhole of the cabinet door on the toy kitchen set. I don't know how long I watched you, it felt like 10 minutes, but watching you go through each key methodically was impressive. You were only 14 or so months old, but you were showing me a level of patience and problem solving I wasn't expecting at your age.
I've always loved learning, it's why I can't seem to stay out of school. I hope you do too because it makes life interesting. You will always have something intelligent to contribute to conversations and erudite women are the most interesting and attractive (yes, I want whoever is attracted to you to be attracted for your brains, not what you wear. You'll hear this a lot from me, so get use to it.)
5. Be an encourager of people
For a long time, my heart melted when you would walk over to me, babble something and pat me on the back. I like to think you were telling me that I was a good Papa. But that wasn't reserved for me only, you liked to pat you Mama, Grandma Roz and several friends on the back too. As you navigate school and eventually a career, you'll find that it is easier working with people to get things done than it is to work through them. A little encouragement of the good things they do goes a long way to proving your sincerity, and that makes people want to find a way to work with you.
6. Keep laughing
You had the cutest laugh and smile as a toddler. We met you after a few of your teeth had already sprouted, and you had no trouble smiling when you were comfortable with your surroundings. The laughter came soon afterward. If I learned anything from my Grandfather Gumpy (he was Ema The Great's husband), it was how to laugh. As an adult, knowing how to laugh has helped me stay calm when I'm angry or sad, build friendships and, most importantly, learn how to appreciate the charmed life I live. I know it will do the same for you too.
7. Keep reading
One of my favorite nightly activities, even when I was exhausted, was reading to you before bed. You would cuddle up next to me, pointing out the parts in each story you found amusing or interesting. I would sit for what seemed like hours during potty training, reading the same eight books over and over until you were done. I would read every sign in the DIA you would let me. You loved reading as a kid, I hope you will always love it. I'll keep reading to you as long as you'll let me.