Happy birthday, Kara! You are seven years old today. It really does seem like only last week that we were celebrating your sixth birthday.
It’s not just that you’re growing up so fast. But with every confident step you take into the future, another piece of you fades into history. I wouldn’t want to stop you growing up for one minute but we will never again get to experience you as a baby, a toddler or a cute little preschooler.
You’re leaving those younger versions of you as a distant memory. Never again will I be able to just snuggle you into the crook of my arm. One day soon you will grow out of sneaking into our bed in the middle of the night and cuddling up between us. The sweet, innocent girl will be replaced by a hot-headed, wilful diva.
Oh, hang on, that happened already.
I’m currently watching the final season of Game of Thrones – which, by the way, you will never be allowed to watch, at least not until you’re old enough – 95, say. It occurs to me that you are our Arya Stark. When we first met Arya, she was a little tomboy who couldn’t grow up fast enough. She wanted to shoot arrows and use a sword. But her innocence was shattered by a series of traumatic events and she became a fearless warrior who wasn’t afraid to tick enemies off her ‘kill list’.
And that’s you, K. In a hurry. Fearless. Okay, not as much trauma and not yet a deadly assassin, but I wouldn’t put it past you. Our own little Arya.
I’ve written about your personality traits in previous birthday letters, so rather than repeating myself let me share with you a couple of stories from our recent holiday at Disney World which are a microcosm of what it’s like to have you in our lives.
The perpetual motion machine
A holiday at Disney World is about as restful as a boot camp. It required a 22-hour travel day to get to Orlando. Then there were the long days in the parks in 30-plus degree heat. It’s not surprising that after several days of this you were tired. (We were all tired.)
By mid-afternoon all five of us would be running out of steam. But then we would stop for five minutes, have a bite to eat and off you’d go. It was like you had drunk five cans of Red Bull and intravenously injected a 90% sugar solution. The smile would return to your face, the spring would return to your step and you would run off turning cartwheels non-stop, like a human perpetual motion machine.
I get tired just watching you.
I love your boundless energy and enthusiasm at times like this. You put a smile on my face and give everyone a lift just by being you.
The adrenaline junkie
Your brothers are like your mum. They’re a little circumspect when it comes to big thrill rides. Whereas in this respect you’re much more like me. You seek out the biggest ride you can and head straight for it without a moment’s hesitation.
Your favourite rollercoaster at Disney was Expedition Everest, a high-speed ride full of dips and turns, much of it backwards and in the dark. Toby declined to go on it. Isaac did summon up the courage – and to his credit he enjoyed it. You, the youngest of the three, demanded we go on it. You squealed with delight rather than fear throughout. And when we pulled up at the end, you turned to me with sparkling eyes and an enormous grin and shouted, “That was awesome! Let’s do it again!”
That’s the kind of girl you are. New experiences are opportunities to be embraced. Fear is not an option. And while it’s pretty much inevitable that lack of fear becomes tempered with age, don’t ever lose that willingness to explore the world and the multitude of experiences it offers you. Keep seeking out the next big ride.
A few other things …
What else makes you uniquely you?
There are your continuing gym exploits. You’ve come so far in the past year, entering competitions and winning your first medals. No matter where we go, there is always a railing to use as a bar or a wall to act as a beam. And I swear you spent more time doing cartwheels and handstands at Disney World than you did actually walking.
It’s not just gymnastics, though. Your strength, agility, discipline, competitiveness and co-ordination translate well to martial arts. Barely three months after you started, you already look like you’ve been doing it your entire life.
It’s the same with any sport you try your hand at, really.
If your physical prowess sets you apart from your brothers, you do share with them a love of music. We took you all to see Hamilton in February. It was one of my happiest memories watching you watching the performance, utterly rapt.
Whenever we’re in the car, we always sing along to the soundtrack together. You love to sing – and I love to sing with you.
The girl of a thousand faces
I love taking photos of you too. The camera adores you. You have such an expressive face. Whether it’s you pretending to be a cat (which is most of the time) or concentrating on a game or just laughing in an unguarded moment, there are so many images from the past year that capture your essence so well.
If this post comes across like a love letter from a father to his daughter, that’s because it is, really. I think you already know how much you mean to me. You are smart and talented, challenging and forthright, and I genuinely believe you can be anything you want to be. Keep growing but don’t ever change who you are at heart.
My life is so much more complete because you are in it. I’m prouder to be your father than I could ever adequately express.
Previous birthday posts