To my daughter on her birthday…

Dearest Gaelynn,

Today is your 12th birthday, and you’re sick.

You had a sore throat on Monday but you toughed it out and went to school, through your usual routine of chores and diversion, but early Tuesday you awoke feverish and speaking in a painfully dry croak.

An armchair diagnosis from your mother determined strep throat and you’ve been quarantined ever since. So, thus was I robbed of the honor of giving you a hug and kiss for your birthday.

Looking at you in this condition, sickly wan and bundled up on the couch, your brow furrowed at one of the puzzle mazes on your Legend of Zelda game, I cannot help but marvel at you. Your age represents something of a transition: your last year of “official” girlhood. Next year you’ll be a teenager, trading one arbitrary cultural grouping for another. But enough about that… for now you’re only 12, though even that seems too much.

This time has hastened along at a blistering pace. I still remember everything about you… from those first gulping moments when your mother told me she was pregnant, to the moment a few days ago when I saw you standing next to your mother. Standing as tall as she, in your bare feet, I realized how less a girl and how much of a young lady you have become and are becoming.

I don’t mean to say that I “realized” it in the strictest sense of the word, as if I didn’t know it before. Rather, I noticed it more than I had previously. You seemed so tall and womanly, it made me feel terribly vulnerable. That soon I must surrender my dominion over you as your father, and send you forth into the keening world.

Gaelynn, you are one of the most remarkable young people I have ever known. You think of and hope for the best in others, you give of yourself without thought of reward, you love fearlessly and ferociously. You are courageous in a way that I can hardly understand, but you are delight to me. I am honored to know you as my daughter, and it is a privilege to watch you grow into the woman you are becoming.

You make friends fast, but are drawn to solitude. You still enjoy the loud rumpus of children’s play, and yet will disappear for long quiet hours with a book in hand. You have an emotional maturity and sophistication that sometimes causes confusion or even consternation among some of your peers, but you prove yourself time and time again to be a loving and loyal friend to all.

Academically you continue to flourish, working at a newspaper it gives me great pride to see my children’s names in the honor roll listings. A guidance counselor told me that, by the time you graduate from high school, you would likely be nearly finished with your sophomore year of collegiate coursework. But we’re not rushing things…  I am content to allow you freedom to grow and to study at your own pace, though we gladly encourage your intellectual ambitions.

Skilled in creative writing as well as visual arts, you still are drawn toward science and the empirical. In my fancies I think of you becoming some manner of rustic scientist-naturalist… a wide-eyed feminine synergy of James Audubon and Charles Darwin, of Michael Faraday and Ansel Adams. You are comfortable in both worlds, the mystic as well as the academic, the fantastic as well as the pragmatic.

Within our household you hold a vital role. I tease you, call you my “Shieldmaiden” and “Cupbearer” but underneath this fluffy mirth is a steely resolve. Your chores and responsibilities are vital to our family. The way in which you aide your mother and I makes the difference in what we are able to accomplish as a family. Moreover, as firstborn child you lead the way for the four little ones who walk in your shadow.

The relationship with your mother has sweetened subtly into more of a kinship than anything else. Though she still holds tremendous sway and authority over you, the two of you are close in a way that is not at all unlike two sisters or close girlfriends. I suspect this will only continue to deepen as your maidenhood continues to surpass the more childish aspects of your personality, even as I marvel at the former and lament the loss of the latter.

In the question of your faith, I admit, there is little question remaining for me. Your belief in God is as sophisticated and capable as any hoary head in our midst, and yet I remain fearful. I do not trust it, for I have known too many inculcated with the doctrines and teachings of our paradigm… only to see them cast-off once out from under the rule of their parents. But I cannot help but see the reality, as Samuel Beam writes, that you are starting to believe in the hymns your mother sings. I see it, and am hopeful. May it be that even as I adore you as my daughter, I can also come to embrace you as my “sister” in Christ our Lord.

But for now, I will relent and await what is yet to come. Such as I have done these twelve years now past, and have never been disappointed.

May God continue to give me the courage and conviction to be the father that you need, to become a strong woman in a world where they’re so desperately needed.

I love you my sweet girl, I am so proud and grateful to call you my daughter.

Love, your devoted father,
Matthew

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