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.