Your mama's been a weepy mess for three days straight. Last year's birthday letter came so easily to me, but I've been pondering this year's for days, weeks even, and I'm still struggling to string together the words.
Kaiya, I want to tell you right now:
You are loved. You are safe. You are secure.
When you walk into a room full of people, and you grimace and pull into me, and start licking your lips, a part of my heart breaks. Because I wonder, "Have I done this to you? Have I brought on this shyness by moving you here?" And I remind myself of my own awkward childhood shyness, and I pray that you, too, will find the courage deep within to keep putting one foot in front of the other to overcome it.
Because when you let go and let out that free, free spirit, my heart bursts with joy and your dad's bursts with pride, and we tell everyone stories about our singing and dancing girl who is ready to take on the world one exuberant shout at a time. Your love is big and strong and fierce and protective. And your silly jokes and dances light up every room you enter.
I'm so proud of you. I'm proud of how hard you have tried to take it all in stride this year, and I'm sorry for all the hard parts. The day we left Canada back in August, you were so excited for our new adventure. You insisted on pulling your own luggage, as you loudly declared to anyone who would listen that we were moving to Qatar. A fellow traveler winked at your dad and I saying, "Three going on fifteen, huh?" You sure were.
When we arrived in Doha, you excitedly pointed out the new sights and sounds. You were thrilled to go swimming every day, and you tried, oh you tried to be good while we dragged you through shopping malls those first few tiring weeks when you should have been sleeping in your bed. You are a bold and spunky trooper, yes you are.
I'm proud of the little cross-culture communicator you've become. When we were at the park last week, and I explained to you that the little boy who was playing with your sand toys couldn't speak English, you knew just what to do. Instead of yelling or grabbing back your toys, you quietly made eye contact, insistently pointed to your bucket and then pointed to yourself. He understood and gave it back, didn't he? And later, when I tried talking to him, you loudly reminded me, "Mom, he speaks Arabic! He doesn't know English."
You've taught me a lot this year. I've been stubborn, you get it from somewhere, but yes, I'm slowly learning. You're bringing out a gentler me, a me who's learning to give a little more, to slow down and play a little more, to love and hug instead of push away and discipline. Be patient with me hon, I'm still learning to listen to you, and I still worry too much about what everyone else thinks. But I promise to keep working on that, to keep softening my heart, and to keep putting you first.
I know I've said it before, but don't grow up too fast, okay? You don't need to play with the older kids, getting anxious as you try to impress them. You just be four, okay? And if that means you still want to suck your thumb and hold onto your blanket, that's just fine by me. You'll be off and running around with the neighbourhood kids before we all know it, so take your time. This turning 4 thing is a little tough on your mom, you know? You are most definitely a little girl now. So anytime you want those hugs and snuggles, you know where to find them.
Happy birthday, Kaiya bear.