Dearest Sydneygirl,
It probably gets old for me to start every birthday letter with the same refrain: I can’t believe you’re another year older!  But truly, FIVE years old seems to be the start of a new season.  Actually, in the last 6 months or so, I feel like we’ve entered that season.  It’s the season where you start to become YOU.  No longer just a quiet little sister; the easy-going, late-walker, late-talker; the sweet, shy girl who doesn’t say or do much.  You are blossoming into the girl that is and woman that will be SYDNEY PAIGE!  You are realizing that you have thoughts, opinions, likes, dislikes, friends, favorites, talents and WORDS to describe it all.  You are no longer subjected to being carted around town for events that involve only your big brother.  Now YOU are the one who gets to be in the middle of the action, and you have risen to the occasion. 
It may seem trivial now, but I love recording details of your life for you to remember later.  Right now your favorite book to read is Richard Scary’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. Well, actually, we usually don’t read this book, we look at the pictures together and you find the little gold bug hidden on each page.  There are over 30 spreads in this book and you know where Goldbug is on each and every page.  We do this as many times a week as mommy can stand it.  You also love the familiarity of some Sydney classics like Knuffle Bunny, Pinkalicious and Purplicious.   But you’re also getting to the point where you’ll pick your own new books out at the library, and not just rely on me to choose for you.   After we read together at night, you are also super obsessed with doing a little back scratch game I taught you.  It’s a little rhyme that says “Going on a picnic, X marks the spot….”  You ask for it every night and even memorized it yourself and do it on Asher’s back!  It cracks me up.

You are very girly and drawn to feminine things.  You love dressing up in fancy play clothes and especially love the forbidden fruit of wearing play makeup.  You are excellent at imaginary play, and enjoy dressing and redressing your barbies and other dolls, putting them to sleep, baking invisible foods and serving them to me all day long.  You like watching Doc McStuffins, which is a cute show about a girl who is a doctor to her stuffed animals.  In fact, the other day daddy asked you what you want to be when you grow up, and you said you want to be a mommy and maybe a doctor.  Of course this pleases me to no end, that you feel like you can be and do whatever you want, and especially that you see value and fulfillment in being a mommy!

You have quite the sassy attitude currently, and it gets you in trouble daily.  Of course sarcasm runs thick in this household, so you come by it honestly.  But sometimes your budding wit catches me off-guard.  The other day the three of you were playing with our toy kitchen and you were bickering relentlessly.  You each wanted to be the head chef of the restaurant and were pushing each other and whining.  Ignoring my reprimands, you marched up to me for the 6th time as my “waitress” and, with a little pad of paper in your hand and a sneaky smile on your face, you asked “What would you like?”  I did not smile and said, “I would like my kids to get along while they play.”  Without missing a beat, you dropped the smile, raised one eyebrow and said “We don’t have that here,” and walked away.  Ha! 

Your confidence has also soared in the last year.  You went from a girl who cried every day at preschool drop-off to a girl begging for playdates, confidently skipping towards swimming lessons (where you completely shine!), and bravely conquering a two-wheeler at age 4.5.   You’ve slowly been learning all your letters and sounds, and numbers.  It doesn’t come easily to you, but you have shown that when you are determined, you can make great progress.  You LOVE writing your name everywhere, and have gone through approximately 597 blank cards and envelopes this year, writing imaginary notes to everyone you’ve ever met and get well cards to any friend of yours who misses a day of preschool. Sometimes they have letters or numbers, sometimes pictures, often just multiple colored lines, which you correctly identify as patterns.  If we sent all the “pattern cards” you made this year, we’d be broke from the stamps alone!  But I love that you are thinking of others and that you like to express yourself through writing and drawing.

Another interesting aspect of your blooming personality is that it has caused me to think more seriously about parenting a daughter.   Before this last year, when I read and saved articles on tips for raising a daughter, it was mostly in theory, because you were very young and honestly so low-maintenance.  We had never had actual discussions. Now we are having conversations and you are noticing the world around you, soaking in what you hear and observe.  I know those first few years were formative, but now, more than ever, I can tell that you are shaping your identity, your view of life and, most importantly, your view of yourself.  This world is hard on girls—on women.    I want so desperately to give you every possible head start as you enter into it.  I seek wisdom constantly on how to ground your confidence in Truth.

 I want you to know from the core of your being that you are a child of God and VALUABLE and worthy of love. I want you to see yourself as a capable, talented, funny, and smart girl.  But I also want you to know that you are beautiful.  Sweet daughter, there is a difference between pretty and beautiful.  Pretty is skin-deep.  Pretty has only to do with appearances.  There are many, many pretty girls in this world.  Red hair is extremely pretty.  You are definitely pretty, and people tell you that all the time.   But beautiful?  Beautiful is MORE. Beautiful shines.  Beautiful is rare.  Beautiful takes what you look like on the outside and magnifies it by the strength and compassion and graciousness that you pour out.   Beautiful is red hair on a girl that LOVES PEOPLE and puts other first and cares when others are suffering.  My precious girl, you are BEAUTIFUL, and I pray you always strive to find the source of that beauty from Him.  

It’s the eve of your birthday, and I could stay up late into the night telling adult Sydney who is reading this letter everything I love about nearly-five-year-old Sydney.  As you look back and remember your childhood, I pray that it is a blessed blur of generally happy times; I pray God will give you selective memory to cover our rougher days.  I hope we have conveyed to you how much JOY you bring to our lives, and how deeply and completely you are loved!  Being your mom (and your brothers’) is the absolute greatest privilege of my life!  I can’t wait to see what the next five years bring.  And the next.  And the next. And the next….

Love, love, love,