10 Years

Dear Eva,

It's hard to believe you are already ten years old. It seems like not so long ago that you were a tiny baby, and now you're almost done with elementary school, you're a dancer, you're a fashion maven, you're just an all-around interesting person. It's been a strange year, and this is now your second pandemic birthday. Things haven't worked out the way we might have liked them to, but you've proven that you're a resilient and perseverant kid. You managed to keep up with your dance practice even when you had to use our garage as your studio with a chair for a barre. You got through a full year of online school and now you're back and doing great in fifth grade. You do six dance classes a week plus Performance Crew rehearsals, and just about every time I pick you up after practice you are smiling. It's a real joy to see you spending your time on something you love.

There are going to be more big changes coming up in the next year. For one thing, by the time it's your next birthday you'll be a middle schooler! But I know you can do it. You're a strong, smart, hard-working kid, and I'm so proud to be your dad.

Happy birthday!

Soundtrack: "The West (Instrumental)," by Common Creatures. Licensed from Marmoset Music.

7 Years

Dear Mary,

Today you are seven years old. So far today we have baked two cakes and you have gotten your ears pierced. We're in a bit of a lull before the next thing, and you've just informed me that we aren't celebrating your birthday at the moment and so you are bored. This is something I know I can always count on: that you will let me know how you're feeling.

We've spent most of the past year at home, and that has been challenging for you at times. But there has also been a lot of singing and dancing, and you've made rather a lot of tiny laptops out of paper. You also started gymnastics this year, which you've taken to with gusto. And you've given me about a million hugs, all of which have been wonderful.

I love getting to be your dad, kid. I'm looking forward to what we'll do together over the next year. Happy birthday, I love you!


13 Years

Dear Jason,

Today you are officially a teenager! You've grown a lot in the past year. You've grown physically, of course—you're taller than Mom now—but you've grown as a person, too. It's been such a strange year in so many ways, one that we've mostly spent at home. You said the other day that it feels weird that in a few weeks you'll be in eighth grade since you never really got to feel like you were in seventh grade. That makes sense to me, but I also know you can do it. And even though this year has had its hardships, I am so grateful that I've gotten to spend so much time with you. And I know that whatever comes in this next year, we'll have our good times together, too.

Happy birthday!

Soundtrack: "Break Through (With Oohs) (Instrumental)," by Saxons. Licensed from Marmoset Music.

9 Years

Dear Eva,

Today you are nine years old. As I write this, I have just finished making your birthday video, and it's strange to look back over the past year and see how different the beginning of it was from now. And I wonder what you will remember from this time. You'll remember the time we've all spent at home together, and the time we've spent apart from others, I'm sure. You'll probably remember distance learning, too—it's not your favorite thing, but you've still been getting your schoolwork done almost entirely on your own. What else? Virtual sleepovers, sourdough bagels, instant noodles, Roblox, painting. It's been challenging, but I hope you'll have some good memories to take forward from this year, too. I think you will.

But that's all yet to come still. However you remember this time later, right now you are nine years old, you are excited for your birthday, and you are a great kid. You're smart and funny and fun to be around, and I'm so glad that I get to be a part of your life, and that I have you in mine.

Happy birthday, my girl! I hope this day and the whole year to come bring you so many good things.

Soundtrack: "Wanderlust (Instrumental)" by JB Lucas. Licensed from Marmoset Music.

6 Years

Dear Mary,

This evening as I was drying you off after your shower, you leaned in toward me and said "I can't wait until after dinner!"

"Oh?" I said. "What happens after dinner?"

"Bedtime!" you said, and I laughed. You just wanted to do whatever you could to make your birthday arrive sooner. And, sure enough, you went to bed remarkably easily when it was time.

This is the thing about you—or anyway it is a thing about you: you know what you want, and you go for it. Sometimes that brings you into conflict with the people close to you—and, yes, that is a thing we are working on, how to say what you want without being rude. But it's also something that I'm happy to see in you, and that I hope you hang onto, because I love that you are unafraid to take up space in this world. There will be times when people will tell you to make yourself smaller, but you already know how to stand up for yourself, and I think that will serve you well. I hope so, anyway.

You are an amazing kid. You have so many talents, whether it's reading or writing or singing or drawing or dance. I like just getting to talk with you, and hearing what's on your mind—your mind which is always going. This time of quarantine has not been easy for anyone, and it hasn't been easy for you. But you've adapted and found a new groove, and it's pretty great seeing how you fill your days.

You're six years old now! I hope the day brings you much joy! Happy birthday!

Soundtrack: "Roller Coaster (Instrumental)" by Kid Prism. Licensed from Marmoset Music.

12 Years

Dear Jason,

Today you are twelve years old. None of us expected to be celebrating your birthday in quarantine—even when all this started, I didn't think it would still be going on by the time your birthday came around—but here we are. I think that times of adversity have a way of showing us who we are, and during this time you have shown that you are a thoughtful and kind person. It hasn't been easy being stuck at home, away from school and away from friends, but you've had a good attitude about it all. I've enjoyed getting to spend more time with you, and I've enjoyed watching you spend time playing with or helping your sisters. I'm proud, too, at how hard you've worked and how perseverant you've been. During distance learning, you pushed through and spent a lot of time every day getting your work done, even when you had to struggle with some of it. And you've stuck with our running training over the past several months, finishing your first 5K in June. It's not the most comfortable thing, running while wearing a mask, but you do it, and you don't even complain. Well, you don't complain much. ;)

I hope that the difficulties of this time mean that something good is coming, and I hope that your next year brings you a lot of joy. I know that you'll do your best, because you always do. I'm glad to get to spend the time with you, and I'm looking forward to seeing you continue to grow and continue to be the wonderful person you already are.

Happy birthday!

Soundtrack: "Hope (With Woahs) (Instrumental)," by The Dimes. Licensed from Marmoset Music.

8 Years

Dear Eva,

Last night when I said goodnight to you, I told you to get some good sleep so that you'd have a good birthday. You responded with a laugh "Yeah, I want to go to sleep!" And then you just... did. You went straight to sleep. It's something I've always envied a little bit about you, honestly, how good you are at falling asleep. I think you will have a good birthday, though.

This year you had your first audition, for the Performance Crew at your dance school. Beforehand, I asked you how you were feeling about it, whether you were nervous. And you were, a little. That's natural. But you didn't let it stop you from trying. When I asked you how you'd feel if you didn't get in, you thought about it and then said "I think I'd be sad, but that's OK." You've found something that you care about so much: dance. And now that you've found it, you work at it really hard. Sometimes it's difficult, sometimes you don't get all of the moves right away, but you never get discouraged. You just say "Practice makes improvement," which is something you came up with on your own because, as you pointed out, nobody can be perfect. You put yourself out there, and you are so, so brave. You made it through your audition and got into Performance Crew, but I know that you'd have been OK if you hadn't gotten in, that you'd have kept working and tried again next year. All of that is why I'm so proud of you.

You are talented and hard-working in so many ways, but you are also kind and thoughtful. I hope that you always stay that way. And I hope that we can always keep laughing together, the way we do now. And right now I hope that you have a very happy birthday.

I love you!

5 Years

Dear Mary,

Last night as I was leaving your room after saying good night, you called out “Wait. How about one more hug and one more kiss?” And, of course, I obliged—it wasn’t so long ago that you never wanted hugs or kisses from me, and I’m happy that you like having me around. Still, when I left for work that morning and asked if I could give you a hug, you just shook your head and went back to your video. This might surprise you right now, but both of these interactions make me happy. It makes me happy that you feel comfortable and confident setting your own boundaries, that you feel control over your own body. It makes me happy that when you do decide to be affectionate, you do it with your whole self. And it makes me happy that I’ve earned some of that affection.

You have a lot of interests and a lot of talents. You love to sing, to dance, to draw, to read, to work with numbers, to learn. You love to do things on your own. More than most people I know, you are your own person. You insist on it. You can be led, but you won’t be pushed. You have a huge spirit, and that means that sometimes you will clash with others. People will try to change this about you, to make you smaller, and even though it means that sometimes I’ll be on the receiving end of your displeasure, I hope you never lose this. I hope you always keep going after what you want, and putting your whole heart into everything you do.

Very soon you’ll be starting kindergarten. Very soon to me, at least—to you that’s still a ways off. And, truth be told, it’s not as close as it feels to me. We still have time, and lots to do. But it’ll happen soon enough, and I know you’ll do great. Because that’s who you are. You are great. I’m so happy to know you, and I love you so much. I hope the day brings you much joy. Happy birthday, Mary!

Soundtrack: "Do What You Feel (Instrumental)," by Kid Prism. Licensed from Marmoset Music.

11 Years

Dear Jason,

Today you are eleven years old. Something I'm thinking about is how much your birthdays have changed since you were little. In the past when we would ask you what you wanted to do for your birthday, you'd want to have a party or go to an amusement park, things like that. This year, your requests were: Korean barbecue, tacos, and the beach with a few friends. There are a lot of things that remind me that you're growing up, that you're not a little kid anymore. This was one of those things. Mostly, I'm just happy to be able to have the time with you, to have things that we can do together that we all enjoy.

It feels like a milestone birthday this year, to me anyway. Does it feel like that to you? You're headed to middle school next year, and you got your first phone. Sometimes I miss you being little, but I'm always just so happy to get to know who you are now, and who you're becoming. Mostly, I'm just thankful that you're such a big-hearted, kind, funny person who always tries so hard to do what's right. You're a good kid, and you make me a good dad.

Happy birthday, Jason. I hope the day brings you much joy!

Soundtrack: "See The World (With Woahs) (Instrumental)," by The Dimes. Licensed from Marmoset Music.

Seven Years

Dear Eva,

This past weekend we went up to Anaheim and spent two whole days at Disneyland. You brought one of your best friends, and all of us together walked over sixteen miles over those two days. You also went on your first real roller coasters, something you've been a bit nervous about before now. What I mean by telling you this is just that you're growing up, you're getting bigger and stronger and smarter and braver, and I'm proud of you.

What are some other ways that you're growing up? This year you learned to swim, and you've swum both in swimming pools and in Lake Erie. Your reading has really taken off this year, too, and now you're reading chapter books on your own. And in our reading together you've been asking for longer and longer books—we started the Harry Potter series just recently and you seem to be enjoying it. And, of course, you continue to be very serious about dance, and you work very hard at it.

Just all around, you're a great kid. You're kind and smart and a good friend. You're thoughtful, but you know how to be silly, too.

You've been counting down the days to your birthday for weeks now, and now it's finally here. You're seven! I hope today is a wonderful day for you, my girl. Happy birthday! I love you.

Soundtrack: “Let's Go! (Instrumental),” by FEALS. Licensed from Marmoset Music.
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