Birthday Learning, III

Dear Melina,

Maybe you don’t know this, but a certain person we both know thinks of me as a parenting expert. I always shrug that thought away—it holds way too much responsibility for one person—but I understand what she means. With four kids in the mix, I’ve experienced many scenarios and draw from those to make my way forward as a parent. It would be nice to say that by now, I’d have figured out my plan of attack and finessed my playbook. But despite what you might think, I don’t always get it right. (Don’t believe me? Go read 2021’s birthday letter.) And when I don’t, I adjust and adapt to what you kids pitch at me.

Let me be clear, dear: you seem to keep right on throwing some curveballs my way.

Pardon me? You’re not sure what I mean with that expression? I’m sure you don’t. As I’ve learned over this past year, despite your incredible writing talent and reading comprehension ability, nuance is lost on you, and common expressions often don’t make sense. All I mean here, is that I’m not sure what to expect from you anymore. On a daily basis, you’re consistent: I can count on you to ask me what you want for a snack, to practice your piano diligently, and to forget to plug your phone in. I can also count on you to take thirty minutes (!) or more to get ready for bed, to talk nonstop about what you’re currently writing, and to get agitated when someone puts their items on your desk. Some of your personality traits are, shall we say, predictable. And there’s a comfort for me in that predictability.

But this past year, not only did we have the lingering pandemic to worry about, but your little body decided to fall prey to mono, which, if you remember correctly, led to jaundice, several emergency room visits, and spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve eve in the hospital. Thanks to you, we got to see a little more of Dayton Children’s, and we became familiar with Cincinnati Children’s. You experienced your first (and second) operating room visit, and I sat and realized how grateful I was (and still am) for my children’s (overall) good health. As of this writing, you’re taking pancreatic enzyme supplementation and fat soluble vitamins for a condition that may or may not have been connected to the mono (probably not), but the doctors still aren’t sure what went wrong or why.

That’s a lot of curveballs for anyone to handle, and thanks to my age and wisdom (you’d focus on the age part, the being OLD part) and the support of friends and family, I took the events in stride. But so did you, and I have to be quite frank with you here: I didn’t expect that at all. That’s right—despite all the little behaviors you normally do that seem set in stone, when it came time to adjust to some of life’s curveballs, you did, and you did so beautifully.

You handled missing multiple days of school (to the tune of close to three weeks of days missed).

You handled making up work in all your classes in a timely fashion.

You handled being poked and prodded and poked and prodded again (and again).

You handled being asked the same questions about your health thirty times in thirty minutes.

You handled talking about your feces and urine and all the body processes that make you uncomfortable.

You handled having tummy aches every time you ate or before you ate.

You handled being hungrier than you’ve every been before.

You handled finding our way through winding hospitals.

You handled spending holidays away from home.

You handled having a plan and watching that plan be blown to smithereens.

That last statement is the one I want to focus on because it’s something that many adults still struggle with. I’m sorry your health crisis hit this past year, but what it afforded you was an opportunity to learn. It afforded me an opportunity to learn more about you and what you’re capable of, and at the end of the day, how can we complain about a year like that?

So let’s hope that this next trip around the sun is a little more mundane. Let’s hope the doctors give us some answers. Let’s hope that your foray into high school is all smooth sailing. Let’s hope your German classes still bring joy and that you finish writing your novel. Let’s hope you make new friends easily and hold onto the ones you have. Let’s hope that sunshine and rainbows and kittens and puppies make appearances in every one of your days (we can dream, right)?

And let’s hope you realize just how much forward progress you’re making as a human being. I personally am amazed by your growth of character each year. Simply amazed. I’m also proud of you, proud to know you, proud to have you as a child.

Happy 14th Birthday, Melina. You’re a cool kid. One of a kind. Don’t forget that.

I love you.


Image of daisy on a dock by Finmiki at

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