What does a besotted father say to his daughter on the occasion of her fourth birthday?
There are so many things I love about you.
Let’s start with the obvious. You have always loved a dramatic entrance. From the day you were born – due date plus 18, which goes beyond even ‘fashionably late’ – you have never been one to tiptoe quietly into a room and take a seat at the back.
I recently described you to your mum as “the sort of girl you invite to a party because she has so much personality – and then regret inviting because she has so much personality” and I mean that in the most affectionate way. As much as you love your two older brothers and so often have a great time with them, you’re as much Little Miss Bossy as you are Little Miss Fun.
Your mum and I still haven’t quite worked out which of us you’re more like. While Isaac takes after Heather and Toby is my mirror image, there are elements of both of us in you – and some characteristics which come from neither of us. Your burning need to take centre stage is something that is unnatural to both your parents and your siblings. At turns, you’re a tomboy (I guess that comes from having two older brothers) and a girly princess (something your mum would never claim to have been). You’re definitely more like Isaac than Toby but you’re very much your own person.
I can see there are elements of your character that are ‘nature’ and others that are ‘nurture’ – and some that are sheer force of will. You are not the kind of girl who will be dictated to. You will be whatever you want to be, and you have the determination to make it happen, no matter what.
I love that about you.
Your physical and educational development this year have been astonishing. I know it’s the same for all kids as they move from three to four. Even so, I’ve watched you scale climbs that your brothers find challenging. I’ve watched you learn to dance (with a nimbleness and co-ordination you definitely did not inherit from me!) And you never fail to astonish and amuse me with your mastery of the spoken word. You will start school in September and even though, as a May baby, you will be one of the younger members of your academic year, I have no doubt you will thrive.
Every day you make us proud. You make us laugh. Sometimes you infuriate us – the ‘witchy’ phase you went through in the middle of your fourth year was … let’s call it ‘challenging’. And life would be much easier if you didn’t argue about everything.
When you were born on this day four years ago, I didn’t know what I wanted or what to expect from a daughter. But you have been everything I could ever have wanted and more. Whatever expectations I had, you have surpassed. Every day with you is an adventure: one filled with smiles, laughs, occasional tears and lots of love and cuddles.
I have learned as much from you as you have from me. Being a dad to a daughter has brought out new and different sides of me. Dancing in public while queuing for a ride at Legoland? I didn’t give it a second thought but ten years ago even the idea of it would have terrified me.
And maybe that’s the best part of having a daughter, especially having grown up mostly among males: a mum who worked nights and often missed out on mornings and bedtimes, a single brother, boys’ school and so on. Being your dad is a two-way street and if there is one thing I hope you will always know it is that you have enriched my life as much as I have hopefully done for you.
I’ve selected some photos below that sum up your fourth year. I wonder what your fifth year will bring? I can’t wait to find out.
Happy birthday, Princess.
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