Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Dear Harper,

Today you turn five years old. Five! Which is baffling, because I'm pretty sure it was just yesterday that I was looking at you, swaddled in your crib, wondering just what I was going to do with you all winter.

You are a big girl today, in so many ways. I marvel at all you have learned this year, making huge strides in everything from gymnastics to coloring, from swimming to reading. You write by yourself, you read and spell simple words, you swim underwater, you memorize show tunes! You are so capable it is almost heartbreaking because I can see all the ways that you are learning to do for yourself the very things that you used to count on me to do for you. It is bittersweet indeed.

Pretty much from birth, you've had a mind of your own. Yet over the last year your independence has become a thing both awful and wonderful to behold. It can be so frustrating, your absolute belief that the world and all the people in it should bend to your will. One of my biggest challenges as a parent is to allow your free spirit to flourish at the same time as I try to help you, at times more gently than others, understand that your wants and whims aren't actually the most important in the world. For the rest of your life you will be part of our family, part of a classroom or workplace, part of a community, and, much to your dismay, you won't always be the one in charge.

It's a good thing that homeschooling isn't part of our long term plan because whenever I try to correct or help you with something these days, you respond by telling me that you're just doing it your own way. If I try to clarify song lyrics, for example, you'll say, "Well, that's not how I sing it!"

You are acting like such a grown up girl now. At school there is a little boy, T, who sometimes has trouble walking in line or sitting in circle but he will do it if you hold his hand. Your teacher is a little worried that you are going to feel like taking care of T is your job, she doesn't want you to feel burdened by a responsibility that isn't yours. But when I talk with you about it, I can tell how much you like to help T, you are proud that he will stand and sit with you. You are a nurturer, Harper, it is the soft and pleasant side of your take-charge personality. I am happy that you are in this world to help take care of the lives you touch.

One of the new experiences you've had this year is seeing plays and musicals. We've taken you to some local children's theater and you just love it. I adore musicals and I'm so happy that we will be able to share them as you grow. Right now your favorite part is meeting the actors and getting autographs after the show. You are so proud to come home with your playbill all signed. Daddy and I suspect that you'll want to be the one in the play, sooner than later, and I know you'll also be thrilled to greet your audience after your performances, signing your name like a pro.

Your amazing imagination remains one of your most delightful qualities. You continue to create intricate worlds and games with your toys, as well as with pieces of string and rocks and leaves and pretty much anything else you can get your hands on. Right now Michael drives you crazy by moving your stuff and disrupting your play, but soon enough he will be a happy co-conspirator in your games, and so lucky to have a mater storyteller like you running the show.

We have high expectations for you Harper, sometimes unreasonably high, and one of my biggest worries as a parent is that you will look back at your childhood and only remember the bickering and the nagging and feel, somehow, not good enough - when nothing, nothing, could be further from the truth. You are creative and caring and smart and funny and beautiful my girl. You are a truly amazing creature and I don't know how I got so lucky as to be the one who gets to witness your growing and learning. I am humbled by the chance to help you become the person you are meant to be.

I know that I get it wrong a lot of the time, in big ways and small ones, that there is an awful lot of learning as I go, but I also know how fiercely I love you. And I think you know it, too.

There are big things in store for you this year Harper, and I'm so very happy to be the one who gets to share them with you. I love you.



Emily said...

Beautiful, Kelsey. Happy birthday to such a special and fortunate girl!

Anonymous said...


I love you so very much. Your mom does an excellent job of communicating this letter to you every year on your birthday. I share many of the thoughts mom has. I am inspired by your life and humbled by your love. You will always be my little girl. Love, Dad

Erin said...

Beautiful as always, Kelsey. Harper is very special indeed and lucky to have such a wonderful family.

I look forward to these letters each year, partly because it is truly a little glimpse into who Harper is as her age turns a year. But also because Harper & Calum share many strong personality traits, and I feel like I'm getting my own little glimpse into what might be in store in the next year. Of course they are also very different, but it's thrilling to feel like I'm projecting myself out a year and looking back. It's truly awesome to me that we can share parenting this way.

Keep up the great work, Momma!

Sara said...

So beautiful! Makes me cry every year. Happy birthday Harper!

tracy said...

Happy, happy birthday to Harper.

The story about T is so touching. What a kind, thoughtful, gentle soul Harper is. Her love and consideration for others is such a gift to this world. And it is, undoubtedly, a testament to the example that her parents have set for her.

Her spirit and energy are infectious. My child spends full days wanting to do nothing except pretending to be Harper! What an amazing little person, at such a young age.

Happy birthday to Harper, and congratulations to you, Kelsey, and Matt on the AWESOME job you have done parenting her. You inspire me all the time.

I love you all!

Mommy Daisy said...

Happy Birthday Harper! 5? Whew!

CARRIE said...

A milestone for Harper and mommy.