Beloved Sophie Mary Rose, at 4:09 am today, you will be 12 years old. Twelve. A dozen. I can no longer hold out my hands and say YOU ARE THIS MANY, and neither can you, come to think of it, although you might try to, with some concoction of your odd double-jointed digits.
Sophie, my firstborn, you were four pounds at birth. The doctors were solemn about your prognosis. We were warned that you might be developmentally delayed or lack gross motor skills. You do fall a lot, but I blame it mostly on your footwear. You are long and lanky and curvy and floppy and sweaty and funny and clever and sometimes lazy and sometimes stubborn and always creative and miraculously healthy, despite having had more X-rays in your short life span than some professional athletes have had in the span of their careers.
We lost your twin, because whoever your twin might have been, she was smart as the dickens, like you, and said NO WAY AM I GOING TO SHARE THE SPOTLIGHT WITH THAT ONE. I'LL JUST BE A GUARDIAN ANGEL.
Sophie, my obstinate love, my stunning songstress, my wise grumpy owlet, my messy disheveled emo-Goth-uke girl, you tell me I do not tell you often enough that you are awesome.
YOU ARE AWESOME.
This is the truth, and if I don't say it enough, it's because somebody has to occasionally do the dirty work around here of reminding you to wash your face and drink enough water and stop talking about PERFECT PITCH ALREADY or I will stick Lea Michele on your tiny tushie.
I am the Bad Cop, I know. Daddy is the Good Cop. You will be grateful for both of us someday, although my cop role is currently more annoying. I am the Bad Cop out of love, and out of the need to be your Caroline Ingalls (who was not a cop, I know, I am mixing metaphors, which is also annoying, but at least I am not going to say I AM LITERALLY CAROLINE INGALLS because that would be so much more annoying).
I give you a hard time because God doesn't give a gift like you to a mother like me just to have me let you sit behind a closed door learning ukelele from YouTube videos. It is my job to air out your room and help you find your voice, both figuratively and literally, and yes, I used them right, because I learned all that stuff before you imbedded in my uterine wall.
You are a beauty, a wise-acre, a dystopian novelist, a songbird, a bean, and my baby bear. I would shred flesh or take a bullet for you, because your story deserves to be as long as you can make it.
But I reserve the right to cry over your baby pictures forever, and to wish for a granddaughter who is a spunkypants sassymouth moxieface just like you. I also hope you have many years of perky boobs, and that you think of me on the day they start to sag. I will be there, with you, in that moment, wherever I am, and I will be smiling.
Here. Look at you. Look at your perfectness. Look at your pigtails. My God, this is what it is to be alive, this is what it is to know the blessing of a daughter like you. I will always do your hair, if ever you want me to. I will always help you sort out your heart and soul, if ever you want me to. Just say the world. See what I did there? I meant to say world.
You and I almost didn't make it through your birth, thanks to two crummy awful scary things, preeclampsia and the liver-killer HELLP syndrome. But we did, and your eyes have never changed. You have always been you, peering at me with your skeptical eyes, like REALLY, THIS IS THE BEST YOU PEOPLE CAN DO?
I love you for this, for your old soul, even if it makes you a little cocky sometimes. You may have a few lifetimes on me, it's true. Remember to stay humble, and keep listening. Even young souls have things to teach you.
You are beautiful and though it feels nice to hear someone else say it, get in the habit of telling yourself you're beautiful, and notice how much nicer it is to hear when it comes from yourself. That's the secret, kid. Well, one of them. I can't dole them out all at once; that's not in my contract.
I love you beyond the parameters of the word love. I BIG BANG LOVE YOU, and it stretches out east, west, north, south, and all the 3D options of Big Bangs, too.
Speaking of Big Bangs, I had them in the 1980s. I cannot recommend them to you, particularly as your hair is thick and wavy and God only knows what would go down.
Be good. Be kind. Be of service. Listen more than you speak -- you'll look smarter and become wiser that way. Keep others' secrets. Keep your own secrets. Push yourself to be bolder and brighter. Make sure you have enough graph paper. Don't forget to solve today's problems, and not just the future problems of this big bad wonderful world. Get your hands and face and knees dirty. Travel. Learn how to say thank you, in every language that you can. Make your sister your maid of honor, and she won't disappoint you. She is your best friend in the making, even if you can't see it yet.
Above all, surprise yourself. That's the best gift you can give to yourself, and the best part is? It never gets old.
Oh my, do I ever love you, Sophie Bean.
Happy 12th, my blessing, my miracle, my wry angel. I am here, and I will always be here, even when I am not here. Just look for the roses.
I love you,