Category: The Squishy Files

A letter to my daughter on her sixth birthday

A letter to my daughter on her sixth birthday

My dearest Elizabeth,

Enough is enough! You’re to stop growing right this moment, and you’re not allowed to have any more birthdays. You don’t have permission to reach stuff in the upper kitchen cupboards, and I don’t want to hear any more talk of imminent visits from the tooth fairy, understood?

It is hard for me to see you grow so quickly. But so amazing.

Over the past year the little that was left of my toddler has disappeared, replaced by a tall, graceful little girl. Somewhere you’ve started reading and doing sums, and I’m already dreading the day when I’ll have to admit you’re smarter than me. More and more, lately, I find myself in serious, real-world conversations with you, as you question the world around you and start to form your own opinions on how things are, and how they should be. More and more, lately, your mother and I butt heads with you as you develop your own self, and insist on finding your own ways of doing things (usually in your own sweet time as well, thank you very much!).

It’s terrifying and exhilarating. Mostly terrifying 😅

It has become customary for me to impart some fatherly advice in these letters…

I’m sure I’ve already said this, but it bears repeating: Be kind to yourself.

One of the more dubious gifts you’ve received from me is a hunger for perfection, a striving to get things right. That sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? It kinda is. Excellence is never bad.

But it’s a mixed blessing, as perfect is often the enemy of good (apparently this comes from Voltaire, though there are many variations on that saying, attributed to everyone from Winston Churchill to Mark Cuban (some rich guy I’d never heard about until I tried searching for the source of the quote)). What does that mean?

Well, here’s the thing: the first time will never be perfect. Nor the second, nor the fifth, nor even the 100th time. In fact, your first few attempts at anything will most likely be absolute rubbish. You realise that, and every day I see that realisation paralyse you before you even start something. I understand that. You don’t want to make rubbish. You want to succeed.

But the only way to succeed is to push through the rubbish, and for that you need to allow yourself to produce rubbish. And be kind to yourself and recognise it’s not actually rubbish. It’s not perfect, maybe not even passable, but it’s not rubbish, it’s just the first step towards something beautiful. You might still decide the end result isn’t worth putting out into the world; you might decide a particular path or activity isn’t for you. That’s okay, as long as you tried.

And for that thing you decide to stick with, that you decide you want to be great at? Remember Cat in the Hat: the only way to get good at something is to “practice, practice, practice!” (I’m sure of that attribution, as we watched that episode together and I constantly quote it to you.)

So I’m going to keep pushing you to try new things, to do things you feel you’re not good at, exposing you to new situations, and forcing you to stick with those things you start with until you can say you’ve given it your all and can walk away with your head held high. You’re going to hate me for it. One day you’ll thank me.

In the year to come I look forward to many more conversations about the universe, life, and everything, to playing soccer in the street, teaching you to ride your bike, exploring the amazing world around us, reading to you, praying together, and being silly.

Thank you for being my pirate scientist unicorn-wrangler space-cow-a-girl princess. You’re the only one of you there is, and it’s the greatest blessing to have you in my life. Keep doing you.

With all my love,


P.S. Oh, Happy Birthday Aapstert!

I could eat you up

The minion did something adorable earlier, to which the wife said, “I can eat you up!”

The minion’s response:

But if you eat me up I’ll be in your stomach, so you won’t see me any more.

And then I’ll disappear and become poo, cause that’s what happens to food in your stomach.

I’ll be a very big poo!

A letter to my daughter on her fifth birthday

A letter to my daughter on her fifth birthday

My dearest Elizabeth,

As I sit here today, I don’t know where to start. So much has happened this past week, at one point I wasn’t even sure we’ll be able to celebrate your birthday…

Today you turned five. A week ago, South Africa burned. A bunch of bad people with their own selfish agendas manipulated many more sad, angry, frustrated and hopeless people, in an attempt to take our country for themselves. All I could think of as society appeared to crumble around us was keeping you safe, and keeping you from knowing what was really going on, lest the innocence of childhood gets snatched away from you prematurely. Many will surely judge me for staying with you and Mom instead of going out into the streets to protect our community, but all I cared about was protecting you.

Through the grace of God we made it through the unrest, and today we could celebrate another rotation you’ve completed around the sun. Once again I stand amazed at how much you’ve grown.

You still believe being brave means not being afraid, but you’re one of the bravest people I know. Bravery takes many forms. Accepting the disappointment of once again not being able to have a party and see your friends on your birthday, by smiling and making the most of what you can do, is brave. Yes, you were sad, as you had every right to be, but you did not let that stand in the way of having an incredible day. Many grown-ups can’t manage that.

I wonder at how easily you make friends, and how freely you share what you have with them. That also is brave.

I love how you’re exploring and pushing your boundaries. Whether it’s trying a new move on the trampoline, going that little bit faster on your bike or higher on your swing, or venturing out on your own where we can’t see you. That’s brave too.

Your hunger for learning is refreshing. You can’t get enough of this world, and you keep trying new things. You fail and you get angry and frustrated; sometimes there’s even tears. But you keep coming back and trying again. That is one of the greatest acts of bravery of all – getting up and trying again after you’ve failed the last time.

With the bravery, curiosity and compassion I see in you every day, you can do anything. There is no challenge too big for you to meet. You won’t always succeed. But if you hold onto these qualities, you will always learn, always grow even when you fail. I want you to remember this.

Thanks for filling our lives with another year of smiles, hugs, made-up songs, giggles, wicked dance moves, random little presents, the coolest Duplo giraffes ever, magic potions, fairy adventures, and pretty pebbles and shiny shells collected on the beach. You are brave, you are beautiful, you are kind and you are smart. I love you, and I’m proud of you.

Happy birthday!



Now play this on a loop for the rest of the day, and make sure you sing the “all the king’s horses” line EVERY. SINGLE. TIME!

It’s really cute, though, isn’t it? I’ve been changing it up, translating the line to Afrikaans (took the minion a couple seconds to process that, after which she just continued), or transcribing it to “all the king’s soldiers and all the king’s steeds” (that one threw her completely, but mostly just due to quickly-diminishing limitations in her English vocabulary…)