To My Emma on Her 8th Birthday

Letter to my Daughter on The Sent

Emma winning her “7 Going On 17” award at camp a week before her 8th birthday.

When my son turned one, I felt it on my heart to capture the overwhelming sentiments I was feeling in a letter. I wanted to give him some guidelines about how I hoped and dreamed he would live his life. As my oldest girl headed into her 8th birthday last week, I couldn’t help but feel overcome with a strong sense that she is on the cusp of explosive and exciting change. Still the little girl who needs me to hug her and hold her tight when she skins a knee, but also very much a young lady who wants to talk about topics and ask questions that seem much more astute and grown up than in the past. She is getting closer to becoming less the child and more the woman she will be. Here’s what I want her to know as she rapidly races towards tweendom and all that it entails.

Dear Emma,

Don’t ever stop being silly. You love jokes, being goofy, and laughing with your family. Life is supposed to be fun and funny. I love that you still have the ability to laugh at yourself when you fall in the pool, snot milk out your nose by accident, or say something that makes no sense. As you get older you will be tempted to let the small stuff stress you out. Life is complicated and the expectations of the world around you can feel suffocating. Rise up and work hard, but not so hard that it robs you of your joy. Make time for fun.

Being smart is cool. There will be a moment (I hate to admit it) when you will wonder if being smart is dorky. Take it from a geek, who married a geek, once you are an adult people will want to hang around you because of your wicked smart mind. Being cool can be kind of boring. Being smart is endlessly entertaining. 

Read good books. I’m so thankful that your wonderful teacher got you hooked on reading this past year. Books and stories open doors to wonderlands of new and unique places. TV is great but books are better.

Do unto others as you would like done unto you. When your friend harmlessly mentioned a party you weren’t invited to – it hurt your feelings that you weren’t included. This will happen again and again because not everyone can be invited to everything. BUT I was okay with it because it was such a good opportunity for us to talk about how it might make others feel when you accidentally do the same thing. I think you really got it, and I know you will be more thoughtful when you share things you are excited about with others in the future.

Be grateful for your teachers. Many of them are overworked and underpaid but they always show up. They are teaching you a lot more than just numbers and letters. They are teaching you to be a good citizen, and for that you are such a lucky person. Many people risk their lives to get an education. You are blessed to have access to such great teachers. 

Love. Your. Body. God gave it you. It works. And it’s amazing. No matter what your friends say, your future boyfriends say, the media says, or even family members say – if you are acting healthy, and feeling healthy than your body and it’s shape are healthy. I pray that you have the confidence to feel great in your own skin. This world makes us all doubt ourselves from time to time when it comes to our weight and the way we look. Don’t fall for it.

Respect your friends and make time for them. They are the family you have chosen.

Fight for the underdog. When you see someone being bullied or treated with disrespect, I expect you to stand up for them. That’s part of what we do in our family. We lend a hand when it’s needed.

Always say please and thank you. Nothing is as admirable as a lady with good manners. And pick up after yourself. A clean space is a peaceful space in my humble opinion. 

And on that note – try not to swear. You come from a long line of potty-mouths on your mom’s side. PLEASE do as I say and not as I do on this one. Swearin’ ain’t classy. Except if you drop a can of soup on your toe, the dog pees on the new carpet, or you forget to pick up one of your kids at school. Then it is totally fine. 

You love animals something fierce. I am always amazed how little fear you have when you are in their midst. From dogs, to cows, to the smallest of critters, you want to get up close and personal. I have always found animals to be so healing and calming. I hope that is how you feel always.

You are my Leo, through and through. That stubborn streak sometimes makes me want to sit on you until you will be quiet and listen. That being said – I know your tenacity is a God-given gift and it will serve you well. Always believe in your own voice and things you have to say. Speak often, but always with grace.

Stay close with your brother and sister. They are younger than you and they both worship you. You set the tone in our house and when you lead, they will follow. And for now it’s you watching your little brother like a mother hen. In the years to come I can’t wait to see him grow into the dutiful and protective brother that I envision he will be. My eyes well up with tears when I watch you loving your sister. That relationship will be a lifeline for you always. Even after I am long gone my prayer is that your sister and brother and you will hold tight to each other to keep all of these magical memories we are creating alive.

And lastly know that your father and I love you always. There is nothing you can or cannot do to make us love you any more or less. You are our people and that will never change. Sail on into this next year and know that we are behind you cheering you on at every turn.

Love always and forever, 


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  1. Maggie McCormack says:

    How I love this letter you wrote to Emma!
    To Emma, Sending you Happy Birthday wishes, Love Miss Maggie

  2. beautiful words

  3. Kathy Altomaro says:

    Beautfully & eloquently said???????

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