Happy birthday, Kara. It’s hard to believe you’re eight years old already. And although this birthday fell during the coronavirus lockdown, I hope you’ve had a good day.
It’s certainly been an unusual birthday this year. But I hope you’ll look back on it for positive reasons rather than dwelling on the things we couldn’t do.
Yes, there was no birthday party this year. No seeing your grandparents, other than via a Skype call. No opportunity to mark your birthday with your friends at school or gym. (Although it was lovely that your martial arts class sang Happy Birthday to you via Zoom.)
I hope we’ll have a deferred celebration later in the year with everyone else. But we made sure we celebrated as a family with you today. And a good birthday isn’t only about having a big party and receiving lots of presents. It’s about the people you love celebrating you.
Not your standard birthday
At least your birthday started in a familiar way with some family traditions. A little treasure hunt to lead you to your hidden gifts. Opening your cards and presents together with all five of us on our bed. Lots of hugs, cuddles and smiles.
Your mum took the day off to spend time with you. I took the afternoon off for you to cash in your ‘Daddy time’ voucher, going on a bike ride and playing Swingball. Small but significant things we don’t always make time for. Even though we couldn’t go out and do something big, we wanted this day to be all about you.
We finished the day with a shared birthday Zoom party with friends, a Skype call with my parents and finally a dinner of party food followed by a film.
Not so bad, really.
What I love most about writing these birthday letters is that I can reflect on memories and photos from the year. There are so many but here are three of my favourites.
I keep forgetting that you’ve only been doing martial arts for 15 months. You took to it like the proverbial duck to water and have been racing through the various levels. Lockdown means you’re spending less time doing gym training. Instead, you’ve filled the gap with three or four martial arts sessions each week. You passed your brown belt grading a couple of weeks ago; you’re already well on your way towards your next belt.
Another benefit has been that I’ve been able to watch you train at home. You’re amazing to watch: so focussed, so committed. Your gym strength, conditioning and balance were always going to transfer across well. But your natural aggression and fearlessness add an extra dimension too.
For your birthday today, we bought you a new punching bag. I expect it will get plenty of use in the coming weeks and months. And I will end up with fewer bruises.
Your brothers love to sing too, but you’re the bravest and most enthusiastic vocalist of all. (Although I have to be truthful and say that your voice is less Mariah Carey and more Jim Carrey.)
How many seven-year-olds would take to a holiday camp stage to perform YMCA solo in front of a crowd of strangers? And yet you did exactly that last summer.
Progressing to karaoke at a private party with friends was child’s play. And when we did home karaoke recently, we had to send you to bed after three hours to stop you singing. Karaoke, Kara-oke: that’s nominative determinism in action for you right there.
Most of all, though, singing is something you and I do together. We sing travelling to and from gym training. We sing when we’re preparing the Sunday roast, putting on a playlist of show-tunes or Queen songs. It’s something we do together: our little daddy/daughter thing.
We don’t call you ‘The Cat’ for nothing. It’s a name that has stuck. Not only with the five of us but also with your grandparents and even within some of our circle of friends.
You slink around the house, purring in your cat onesie and your cat-eared headphones. Or you flaunt your patented eight-going-on-18 ‘cat-titude’. It’s sometimes infuriating but it’s a key part of what makes you special.
You’ve always been a girl in a hurry. If you see your brothers or even your parents doing something, you believe you can do it yourself. And you’re often right. For every attempt that ends in tears, there are three others when you show a skill or a maturity beyond your years.
In part, it’s the old truism about girls growing up faster. And it’s also a factor of being the youngest of three siblings. But you constantly amaze us with what you can do. Yes, your cattitude means you’re a right pain in the proverbial sometimes. But it will also carry you a long way in life. Don’t ever change (except when I’m asking you to do something, that is). That feistiness and ferocity will take you a long way in life.
In three words
If I had to describe you in three words, they would be: vivacious, fearless and independent. You are so full of life and energy. So undaunted in the face of new challenges. And you always want to do things yourself, even things your brothers baulk at. You’re happy to make your mum and yourself a cup of tea. You head straight for the fastest, highest rollercoaster. There’s no stopping you. You tackle every new challenge with the training wheels off.
You are so many things that I admire and wish I was myself. As much as you are (I hope) still learning from me, I am learning more and more from you with every passing day too.
Despite the lockdown restrictions, today was all about celebrating you, our gorgeous girl. And there really is so much to celebrate.
We have created some great memories together during the past year. Here’s hoping we can make many more over the next one.
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