To our darling girl,

Happy birthday, beautiful.

Today, you turn 10 and this morning you headed off to camp for a week.

I can’t believe you are ten already. It really does only seem like yesterday that I held you for the first time, felt your soft skin against mine and looked into your eyes, melting into you, drinking you in. I remember all the milestones – the first time you rolled, crawled, walked, spoke. I remember the first time you fed yourself, your first babycino, the look on your face the first time I gave you a tiny taste of Nutella. I remember your first days of kinder and school and how confident you were as you marched on in, dragging me by the hand. I remember the look on your face when Santa delivered Bella in a box out the front of the house and your words when you found a new tiny black dog in your room just a few months ago. I remember tears and laughter and tantrums and giggles and hugs. So many hugs.

I can still remember the moment we found out that you were growing inside me and I can remember the moment that we were told we were having a girl. I already loved you but suddenly the intensity of that love increased so much that I felt it surge through my bones. In a flash, I had dreams and hopes for you. I had plans and wishes for what lay ahead. A baby girl to love; a daughter to raise. I felt so lucky. I still do.

I was not thinking about pink and princesses and My Little Ponies – although all those things did happen. I could see us running in the park and dancing in the kitchen. I could see you playing with our dogs and growing up surrounded by music and love and laughter.  I could see you sitting there while we sang Beatles songs to you and read you Enid Blyton. I was thinking and dreaming about a girl who would be strong and strong-willed and challenging. I wanted a girl who didn’t accept things as she was told, but would ask questions and want things explained to her. I hoped for a girl who would be fair and understand that unfortunately not all is equal in the world and that for some – for some girls – things are especially tough.

I hoped for a girl who would love to read, who would find the wonder and delight in books that I have. And, dammit, I wanted a girl who knew how to use an apostrophe correctly.

You are all these things and so, so much more.

We are told that we should be careful what we wish for, and believe me, there have been moments where I cursed myself for wishing for a strong girl. There were times where I thought how much easier it would be if you just said ‘okay’ instead of ‘but why?’ But when I think about you, and how inquisitive you are, I know that I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I am so proud of who you are at ten and I can only imagine how amazing you are going to be at 11 and 12 and 13. (Although I may need to come back and read this when you are a feral, vulgar teenager to remind myself that it is just a stage!)

I am proud of the way you are fair and kind and gentle. I am proud of your fierceness and strength. I am proud of how determined you are and how you have such a strong sense of what is right and good. I am proud of how curious about the world you are. I love how you can see the other side to the story and are prepared to hear everyone’s point of view. I love that you know how lucky you are in a lot of ways and want others to have what you have. I love that you can talk to me when you are sad or angry or hurting. I love that you trust me to always be on your side. I adore your cheekiness and spunk and quick wit.

I love how creative you are. I love your drawings – the tiny, tiny detail and all the effort you put in. I love the movies you make and the stop motion animations you have created. Your talent knows no bounds – it amazes me constantly.

I love your love of books – watching you learn to read was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever experienced. I love the way you love Harry Potter and that we can spend hours upon hours upon hours talking about the characters, the plot and quoting and reading aloud passages. I love that you are a sneaky little monkey and read under the covers after lights out because you just want to read one more page!

I love that you can punctuate like a boss! I love that you say things like ‘I am very fond of my grandparents’, as though you have just stepped out of a period novel. I love how you love words and write the most beautiful, funny, clever stories.

But most of all, I love you because you are you. We are such a great team – you, daddy and me. We may not be the biggest family (although by the time you factor in three dogs and a cat, our numbers grow!) but we are a great team.

I watched you climb on the bus this morning. You were a little apprehensive as you didn’t know most of the kids going on this camp. But off you went. You looked back for only a moment and I could see that you were close to tears, but you didn’t cry. You kept going. And I wanted to crumble. I wanted to run after you for one more hug and to suggest that you come home with me and we just stay home together. But I didn’t. I half raised my hand to wave and then turned to go back to the car. My tears started as I drove away. Not because I was worried about you; not because I thought that you wouldn’t be okay. But because I knew you would.

First week home.

First week home.

You are so loved, darling girl. You are so loved. And I am the luckiest mum in the world. Because of you.

I love you.

I love you more.

I love you most.

I love you the mostest (not a word!).