It's your 8th birthday today, Caroline, and we are celebrating!
I know I speak for more than myself when I say how grateful I am that you were born, that you are here with us today and that I get to be a part of your precious life. When you were born...when they handed your slimy kicking little body to me and you screamed in my face with the strength of a fog horn, I was yours. Right then, you simply ripped my heart out of my chest and made it your plaything, and I didn't care. I loved you that much, even though I'd only known you mere moments.
It hasn't changed today. I'm still yours, and today I find myself reminiscing about the years in between that first day and today. I marvel at how you've grown physically, of course, but the main wonder is how your soul has got so big and how it fits in such a tiny little package. You have one of the best hearts I've ever had the privilege of being near. Your compassion for those around you is unbounded. You have genuine concern for people. One prime example is that homeless guy we saw outside the walls of the Vatican. He had a huge tumor growing on the top of his head and he was crippled and sitting on the sidewalk, not even able to actively beg, but just staring. You had a bag of snacks you were about to eat yourself, but you insisted on giving him both those and the change you had in your pocket. And you didn't just let it go at that---you still ask and talk about him even today, over a year later. "Mommy, do you think that man at the Vatican is ok now? Do you think someone gave him a place to live?" Most people would have given him nothing and pretended not to see him, and those who did condescend to help would have forgotten him right away afterwards. Not you. And he's not the only one, either---just an example.
Caring for our world is also forefront in your mind---you have started protests at school about the trees being cut down behind your playground, and you have been very enthusiastic about recycling here at home. You are very aware of what is going on around you and you are concerned. This, to me, speaks volumes about the kind of person you are. Aren't 8 year olds supposed to be concerned with video games, Hannah Montana and Tamagatchi? Perhaps so, but then you don't care much for the restraints of "supposed to". Your curiosity is just on fire. You are never satisfied with "Because." or "That's the way it's always been done." You want logic and reasons. You want solutions and results. You question everything, and that is something I will never discourage, even if it means being questioned myself. Respect for authority is necessary sometimes, but some of us were raised with an unhealthy amount of it and we never thought to question the way things were. I vow to never do that to you, because I'm proud of your inner fire. It's what makes you YOU and I never want to see it die.
And, lest you begin to think you're perfect, let's keep this truthful and remind you that along with a free spirit and active mind comes a sharp wit--translated into an attitude problem. You are very smart, and yes, you are very quick, but as of yet you haven't learned when to curb your tongue and when not to. That attitude that usually comes with teenage-hood instead came to you at four. You are excellent at sarcasm and you don't miss or forget a detail. There is no getting by you or attempting to put you off--you know exactly what's going on and you feel absolutely free to say when you don't like it. This all can be a very good thing if channeled properly, but channeling is not going to be easy and I know my work is cut out for me. I'll try to teach you when to soften your response a bit and when it's ok to let it be as sharp as you like, but learning and teaching such a subtle skill is never easy. Indeed, more adults than not have never mastered that, methinks. Perhaps I'll leave that lesson to your dad, the master. Your dad? He's one of those people who can be right up front about telling a person they're wrong, but make them happy to hear it AND make them wholeheartedly agree with him at the same time. The man never ceases to amaze me with his lion-taming skills. Yep, I think I'll leave it up to him to polish you. ;o)
In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy you for your good-heart, your delicious imagination, your active brains and your biting humor. You are an amazing person, and I am so glad you were born. Happy Birthday, my beautiful daughter. I love you.