This is late. And for that I’m sorry, little girl. It doesn’t mean I adore you any less.


You are small.

You are strong. Stronger than anyone expects you to be.

Your eyes are a mystery. Brown from a distance, they transform when you look, unabashed, at me. Now green. Now hazel. Now a mosaic of moss clinging to a tree, a beautiful intruder who withstands, who endures, who protects.

Your hair is as untamed as your spirit, constantly finding its way into your eyes, your mouth. Constantly being pushed aside by a sticky, impatient hand. You still refuse any attempts I make to tame it.

You’d rather endure the annoyance of freedom than suffer the convenience of control.

You love books.

You love stories.

You love music more.

Your smile inspires.

Your smile captivates.

Your smile must be earned. It is not given away.

Your smile will one day drive your lovers to desperation, I fear. Chasing that elusive, hard-earned, mysterious smile, I chuckle and cringe to think what they will one day do for you.

Your sister is our sunshine.

You, my dear, are our moonlight.

Changing. Alterable. Seen only through a glass darkly. You wax and wan, but still possess the power to control the tides.

You bend the very oceans to your will.

Yours is not a naturally generous nature.

But your instincts are impeccable.

I promise to always trust them.

You turn every surface of our house into a drum kit. Into a guitar.

And you play your music for hours while dressed as a princess.

You clap with delight when you see an animal.

You stop and pet every dog.

You believe in dragons.

(So do I.)

You are happiest at home, playing by yourself.

You prefer to be by yourself.

And I try to understand.

Even at school (which you merely tolerate on the best days), you gravitate towards the solitary activities. Painting, drawing, wandering outside, chasing bubbles, listening to music. (Always, the music.)

You rarely speak to the other children.

You seldom acknowledge them.

You give your attention begrudgingly, and not without a fight.

Yet, when they see you, your classmates still squeal with delight. Still grip my hand and look up at me with eyes full of hope, “Is she here today? Is she? Is she?”

A part of me doesn’t understand why your poor, neglected friends love you so much.

A much bigger part of me will always understand.

You are attracted to small spaces. To cubbies, and tents, and forts, and corners.

Yet, you always invite Daddy to hide with you, giggling, under the table.

You are unafraid of the large machines Papaw drives, and look directly at the roaring engines and rapidly spinning propellers, even as they lurch towards you.

But you still cry when he tries to take you for a ride.

You love exploring the outdoors, and always want to walk faster, farther. I push you in your stroller, and hear you cry, “Adventure, mommy! Go, go! Adventure!”

You make me go farther than I think I can. For you.

You don’t need me.

Until you do.

And I will stop the Earth’s spinning if it means I can be there with you. For you.

Because when you do finally run up to me. When you do finally stretch your strong, strong arms as high as they can go, reaching for me, for one who loves you even while she’s struggling to understand the mystery that is you, I have no choice.

I will always reach back.

I have to.

Because I, too, can’t stop trying to define those moss-brown-green eyes.

I, too, crave that elusive, puckish smile.

(The things I have done just to win that smile. Oh, I pity, pity the fools who will love you. Because I am one of them.)

I, too, want to tame you.

And, when you finally snuggle your head down in the deepest crook of my shoulder? When you let your arms dangle down my back, or lazily play with my hair or earrings? When you command me, without saying a word, to sit with you for hours, or for minutes, or just a flash—a precious millisecond of sweetness and light—and I am grateful for gift of your still, powerful touch? That’s when I know that I will never tame you.

You can never be tamed.

Instead, you will tame the world.

You will.

And I know it.


Happy third birthday, my Maddie.

My Madilicious.

My Madster.

My Moonlight Princess.

My Rocker.

My Madeline.