My dearest Elizabeth,
Today you turned four. It took quite a bit of convincing before you believed that’s a good thing…I’m actually not sure you’re completely sold on the idea yet. “3” has been your favourite number since you learned, somewhere along the line, about having favourites, and you’ve not been very impressed with the idea of not being your favourite number any more.
But you proudly showed four fingers today when Oupa Kokkie and Ouma Iréne asked how old you are, so you’re already adapting. You’re truly amazing in how well you adapt to change…
2020 has been a year we won’t forget soon, and we’ve likely not seen the worst of it yet. I have darker days where I wonder if we’ll both still be around and that I can write you another one of these in a year’s time.
As I write this, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, with a virus that has infected millions, and killed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide since the start of the year. You’ve only left our yard a handful of times since March. You haven’t seen your friends or played on the beach, and are already completely used to the idea that your ballet classes takes place in our living room, with images of your teacher and fellow ballerinas being streamed onto the TV.
And you have been incredible. You’ve accepted the new normal with barely a complaint, and when we leave the house you wear your mask with a smile. You make art, you’ve started your own veggie garden (can’t wait until it’s time to harvest your first crop of butternuts), you tell stories, play games, go on adventures, help around the house.
And you care. You have empathy on a level that many adults will never achieve. I guess being stuck at home with your mom and me, each of us trying to deal with our stress in our own way, you can’t help but pick up on it. I am sorry for this – I wish I knew how to do a better job protecting you against this, as you shouldn’t be sharing these types of burdens with us yet – but it has brought out something beautiful in you.
I can’t express how much it means when you come to my office just to give me a hug, or when you walk up to me, look me in the eye, and tell me I’m the best. It’s a cliche, but you truly are a little ray of hope in our lives.
I admit, I’m afraid, not just for our immediate future, but for the world you’ll be growing up in once this is over. But when I look at you laughing and smiling and finding ways to cope without even really understanding what you’re coping with, I’m a little less afraid. Because I see a little girl who’s going to grow up to be someone who makes a plan, who knows how to find the hidden moments of joy around us, and who makes the best of what life throws at you.
This birthday I don’t have any sage advice for you. I only have thanks. Thank you for being you, for being the best little girl a dad can ask for, for hugs and giggles and kisses on my cheek and back-scratches and make-believe tea and crawling into my lap not because you need to be held, but because you can tell I need to hold you.
Love you more than I can say.