Happy birthday, my incredible niece! Six years ago today you made your grand appearance, and the world immediately became a brighter place just because you’re in it; and today on your birthday, there are some things I want to say to you, which you are probably too young to understand right now but which I hope you’ll remember as you get older.
1. We loved you before we ever met you. You didn’t have to do anything to “earn” our love; you didn’t have to be “good enough” or “smart enough” or “pretty enough”. As soon as we heard that you were going to be joining us, we realized that we’d been waiting for someone like you forever–and as soon as we met you, we realized that you were exactly the person we’d been waiting for. And that’s how it will always be: you will never have to prove yourself to any of us, because we already automatically love you. Yes, sometimes we will kinda want to strangle you, or at least send you away to boarding school in Switzerland. And that’s ok; sometimes you’ll want to strangle us, or send us to Mars, or find out that your “real” family is out there somewhere and you were stuck with us all this time because of a mixup at the hospital. That’s ok too. We all promise to keep on loving you, even when we don’t like each other very much, because you are exactly the person we were waiting for whether we remember that in a given moment or not. And I want you to hang on to that knowledge and everything it implies: as you get older, you will find yourself facing people who want you to act or talk or dress a certain way so that you fit in, and you will probably find yourself wanting to conform to that. It’s ok–everybody deals with that sooner or later. Just remember, please, that when we say things like “your true friends are the ones who like you for who you are, not how you dress/what you brought for lunch/etc”, what we really mean is “We love you so much we can’t stand it, so we can’t understand how anybody else could possibly find fault with you–or how you could possibly think you have to change anything about yourself to make them happy. Keep being your perfectly lovable self, because you don’t owe any of them anything, and sooner or later the big dummyheads will wise up”. We’re just not supposed to say things like that, because grownups aren’t supposed to call people names.
2. You have already changed the world. Before you were born, your Mommy and Daddy were just two people roaming around the universe. They weren’t a Mommy and a Daddy yet; I wasn’t an Auntie yet; your Maccahs and Papas weren’t grandparents yet. We were all just people, hanging out, being a family. And then you showed up, and suddenly we all became these new people–we became Mommies and Daddies and Aunties and Maccahs and Papas–and that was all because of you. So if you can do that just by being born, imagine what you can do if you set your mind to it! You have already changed the world once just by showing up; so now your job is to learn everything you can, so that as you grow up, you can keep changing the world in whatever ways are most appropriate to your gifts and talents. (And I think I speak for all of us when I say that I can’t wait to find out what you’ll do!)
3. You are already amazing. Every time I see you, I am blown away by how much you’ve changed just in the little gaps between our visits. You can run and jump and dance; you can write your name and help take care of your little brother; you can help with the dogs and tell stories and build things and put away toys. You know what you like and what you don’t like, and you know how to say “please” and “thank you”. You can make friends, and you can make art. I remember holding you when you were a wee bitty thing and you couldn’t do much of anything except lie there and look cute (although you were very, very good at that) and occasionally stink up the room (and you were exceedingly good at that); so thinking back to how you were when you first arrived, and looking at what you can do already in just these six short years, is absolutely incredible. And it only goes up from here. You are amazing, BeanieBaby, and I hope you remember that forever.
4. You are not perfect, and you’re not supposed to be. Neither are we. This is a hard one, because we secretly kinda do think you’re perfect, at least in all the big ways. But we know better, deep down inside; we know that nobody is perfect, including you, and including us. We know that you’re going to make mistakes–and you’re probably going to make some really big mistakes before all is said and done–and that learning from those mistakes is going to be an important part of your growing up. We know that we’re going to make mistakes too. So if you’ll be patient with us, we’ll be patient with you, or at least we can all agree to try to be patient…because we know, if we really think about it, that nobody is supposed to be perfect, and nobody can be perfect. All you can really ever be is perfectly you, and for us, that is absolutely enough.
So tuck those thoughts away for later, Bean; maybe think about them as you’re getting older and navigating the world of lunch tables and designer jeans and popularity and friendships and (god save us) dating, which won’t happen until you’re 35 and all possible date candidates have submitted their complete background checks including three letters of reference from pillars of the community.
In the meantime, today we celebrate you–perfectly lovable, amazing, world-changing you. Thank you for making the world a better place just by showing up; thank you for making us better people just by showing up; and thank you for teaching us all sorts of things about ourselves just by showing up. We’re proud of you, and honored to be your family, and we are so. very. excited. to see what happens in the next six years, and the six years after that, and so on for the rest of your whole, perfectly incredible life.
We love you more every day, Beanie.