I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
April 15, 2013
I have to admit, I’ve put off writing this letter to you– because every time I thought about it, a lump would form in the back of my throat. This is the most difficult birthday letter I’ve ever had to write to you.
This is the year you began to grow up.
When you turned eight one year ago, you were still very much my little girl. The only signs you showed of getting older were a desire for an outfit from that tarts-in-training store known as Justice (thank GOD you chose a long, flowing skirt over their many short shorts and minis) and a new interest in hair and makeup.
Other than that, though, you were in no hurry to grow up. While most of your friends were beginning to talk about boys and pop stars and those supremely irritating tween programs on Nickelodeon, none of that interested you. You loved God, your family, reading, dogs, and horses. Probably in about that order. You preferred hanging out with us over doing things with your friends, and told us you definitely were not ready for sleepovers. You’d miss us too much.
Little did I know, things were about to change.
The first half of your eighth year was bumpy. You endured a rotten summer camp. You dealt with your grandmother’s unexpected death. You struggled to make friends in your new third grade class and faced your first bully. You missed me terribly when I traveled for work– and I traveled all too often.
You were hurting, and there wasn’t very much I could do about it. And that killed me.
But as I watched, you reached deep inside yourself and found strength. Courage. And a newfound maturity. After a few months of feeling like “the odd man out” in your class, as you put it, you swallowed your fears and insecurities and worked hard to make friends, and your efforts paid off. Today, you’re a regular social butterfly, attending parties and playdates and chatting on the phone with your pals. Little notes from your classmates spill out of your backpack, telling you that you are funny and smart and cute and kind, and I know you’re sending the same kinds of notes right back to them. You made this happen all by yourself, and I am so proud of you for doing it.
Your confidence blossomed, and it was a joy to behold. In classes at the Nashville Children’s Theater, you discovered a love for the stage, and stole the show in your role as the Golden Goose during your final acting class. Girl, you honked and scraped the ground like nobody’s business!
You picked up the first Harry Potter book and started reading it one day– and got completely, totally, irrevocably hooked. A few short months later, you are on book number 7. You want to be just like Hermione and have begun “studying” in your spare time- which to you means checking out books from your school library on a particular topic (so far: kangaroos, toads and frogs, and koalas) and writing facts down about what you’ve read in a special spiral notebook.
I want to write JK Rowling a love letter now, because the Harry Potter series FINALLY convinced you that you were ready to go beyond those ridiculous series books and tackle something bigger. Reading has now become your obsession. You read 53 books during Spring Break. 53! I’d worry about all the time you spend reading now, if it weren’t for the fact that I did the very same thing at your age– and it changed my life.
So go on, girl. Read, read, read.
Of course, as you read, your best friend is always right by your side.
We call Dottie the family dog, but everyone knows her heart belongs to you. She follows you around the house all day, sleeps with you at night and has nervous breakdowns on the rare occasions that you’re able to sleep in. She whines and paws and cries until you wake up and the two of you are reunited. Your love for Dottie has inspired you to campaign tirelessly on behalf of shelter dogs. You’ve raised over a hundred dollars so far to donate to Dottie’s shelter, and written your first published piece, urging all parents to get their kids a dog from the shelter.
One thing I know about you now is that you have a big, BIG heart for animals and people in need. I have absolutely no doubt that this will figure in to what you decide to do with your life.
Your little brother can be infuriating, but you go out of your way to accommodate him. You included him in the fun at your birthday sleepover and used some of your birthday money to buy him his own “little treat.” You play with him, put up with him, and you’re his biggest defender when he gets in trouble. Your love for each other runs deep, and it warms my heart to see it.
We crammed so much into your eighth year, Punky, from trips to the beach and Disney World and Louisville and grandparents’ houses to school dances and field trips and parties and classes and camps and plenty of time spent playing together outside. Throughout it all, you were a joy. A part of me wanted this to continue on, just as it was, forever.
A bigger part of me knew that simply couldn’t be.
As your ninth birthday approached, you started changing.
I noticed it only a few weeks ago, when we were talking after school.
“Do you have a crush?” I asked you casually. You had been telling me that some of your friends at school now have secret ‘boyfriends.’
“No!” you said stoutly. “And I wouldn’t tell you if I did!”
“You wouldn’t tell me?” I said. “But you tell me everything!”
“I don’t tell you about my personal beeswax,” she declared. “And information about boys is personal beeswax!”
Personal beeswax? One day, this will be funny.
But on that day, it stung.
You were beginning to pull away from me, just a little bit. And it was only natural.
But it hurt my heart. I can’t deny it.
As I mulled over what was happening, I realized that you were starting to grow up in a thousand tiny ways. Asking for your own cell phone. Spending more time by yourself. Shaking off my hand when I reached for yours. Going on sleepovers.
Having personal beeswax.
As if to underscore the point, just a few days after that…
You turned nine.
How on earth can you be nine?
It seems so… old.
But here’s what really gets me– I have realized, Punky, that this birthday marks the halfway point of your childhood. Nine years have flown by– nine years of playgroups and picture books, dolls and songs, snuggling and walks in the woods. In just nine more years, you’ll be preparing to graduate from high school, and go on to college, and start life as an adult.
And I’m sorry, Punky, but that that’s just not enough time. I need more time. We’ve done so much together, yes, but there are still so many more things I want to experience with you. So many things I still want to tell you and teach you. So many more hugs and hand squeezes and lullabyes, without this damned clock ticking over our heads.
Oh, Punky, I’m a mess, aren’t I? I told you I didn’t want to write this letter.
I’ll say this. At nine, you are exquisite. You are a deep thinker, a loving sister, a generous friend, and a compassionate citizen with great concern for both people and animals. You are far more amazing than any daughter I could ever have dreamed up for myself. The only way I can come to terms with you growing up and away from me is to know that this world needs you. The dogs without homes need you. The homeless, whom you worry so much about, need you. The children growing up in slums around the world need you. You know this already. It’s in your heart. And I can’t wait to see what great things that heart leads you to do.
Happy birthday, sweet Punky. And happy halfway point. I promise to fill your next nine years with all the love and attention I can possibly give you.
And I’ll also try to stay out of your personal beeswax. Emphasis on ‘try.’