Layla Jean turns NINE on Monday!! Time for her annual birthday letter!
My sweet Layla,
Nine. Years. Old. WHAT??! How is that even possible? It is hard to wrap my brain around the fact that nine is halfway to eighteen. I know how quickly the first nine years went by. How do I slow down the second half? It’s like I woke up one morning and you suddenly went from infant to big kid. From Sesame Street to Cupcake Wars. From rocking you to sleep every night to telling you, “One more chapter, and then lights out!” Will I one day wake up and suddenly find that you’ve gone from big kid to teenager? How quickly will you transform? Am I going to close my eyes for a moment and then open them to find you getting ready for prom? How do I make sure I’m appreciating each moment God gives me with you? I don’t know. But I will continue to beg the Lord to help me savor every second, every season. I hope you know, even when time escapes us, that I am so, so grateful for my days with you.
Layla, you are doing so great! When you were a toddler you had so many words. You would start talking and I would think to myself, “What is she going to be like when she gets older? Who is that baby girl going to become?” And now you are a child and I get to see who you are becoming. I am so impressed. You love science projects and crafts. You have a hunger for reading. You love Jesus and your family passionately. You sing from your soul. You have the best laugh. You are unique. When we go to the library, Jordyn searches high and low for unicorn books, Bryson makes a beeline to the Sonic comics and stays there, but you….you are all over the place in the very best way. I love to watch you go. One moment you’re lost in a Judy Blume book and the next you’re reading about Harriet Tubman. Oh, it makes my heart so happy. Recently, you watched a history video about Rosa Parks and spent the rest of the evening reciting facts about segregation and Jim Crow. You are only nine. But you understand things I would have never expected a nine-year-old to comprehend. Your hunger for knowledge is insatiable and I hope that never changes.
In your reading about activism, and in your every day life, you’ve learned a lot this year about bravery. You did a project for school on Ida B. Wells and I watched you awaken to the idea that we can stand up for what is right, even if it is unpopular. Even if it is hard. Even if we are all alone in the standing. As a young child, you learn to avoid consequences by following the rules. When you get older, rule-following becomes more nuanced. You are learning that people have had to break the rules when those rules were unjust. You have learned that people have faced consequences for doing so. You have learned that sometimes you have to stand up despite the consequence. That being silent about unjust things for the sake of avoiding consequence is wrong. I am still learning those things, too. We can learn them together. It is so, so important. The world will need more of that kind of brave. The kind of brave that I see growing inside of you every single day. I promise to help you grow that bravery.
I promise to support you when you stand up for what is right. I promise not to teach you how to be safe and quiet and comfortable. I promise to teach you to be bold and fearless and strong enough to stand for what is right, even when the whole world tells you to sit down. I promise to stand beside you.
Layla, you are nine. And just like you have quickly grown from infant to toddler to child, you will inevitably grow from child to teenager to adult. But I will be here for every part of it, baby. I will be in your corner. Ready to lead the way when I need to, ready to step back when I need to do that, too. You are going to be amazing. You already are.
Happy Birthday, Layla. I love you with my whole heart.