Friday, December 18, 2015

Lucky #13

Happy Birthday, Sweetie!

Wow - a teenager! Happy 13th birthday to you! As I write this, your birthday is a couple days away, but you'll be home from your day soon and your "birthday weekend" will officially begin. Games or Christmas movies tonight at home, then to the mall tomorrow to visit Santa (of course - your yearly tradition). We'll have dinner out, and we'll visit both sets of your grandparents before the weekend is done. Sunday - your actual birthday - is USUALLY your really busy day, running from one activity to another. But it looks like most of those activities are taking this week off. So your birthday is yours to do with as you wish! I'm interested to see if you'd like to attend the Advent Spiral at church, or just take the morning off to relax at home. It's up to you! - this week...

Back to that visit with Santa. We've been taking you to see Santa on or around your birthday every year since you were one year old (of course, that 1st photo was just a spontaneous decision while we happened to be at the mall sometime during the holiday season - you, all dressed in your Easter-colored play clothes). You have never been afraid of the big guy in red, and have always looked forward to your special visit with him. For the first several years you, of course, thought you were visiting with the Santa Claus! So exciting! But after some time, we must have let you know that, no, this is not the true Santa - he's too busy at the North Pole getting ready for Christmas. The Santa you see every year is just one of Santa's helpers. Still associated with him, but not him. Now? I really don't know anymore what you think, specifically, of the Santa we find at the mall each year. Do you still think he's one of Santa's special helpers - able to get your message to "Santa proper" with no trouble at all? Or do you understand that this is just some nice guy who's decided to take on the seasonal job of dressing like Santa and entertaining the kids who come to sit with him a bit? I'm not sure what's truly running through your head on this one... but I do know that when I asked you if you still wanted to go see Santa for your birthday this year, you very eagerly said "yes!" And so - off we'll go. At least for one more year. We'll see what your plans are for next year when we get there...

Because, you see, you still absolutely, positively, 1000% believe in Santa. All your peers tell you he's not real. You hear from them, as well as many adults and Christmas-themed specials we've watched, that he is only a character - a symbol - of Christmas. Your Social Studies teacher even flat out told your class that "Santa isn't real." when, in a huff of stress and anger with a rowdy class, one classmate of yours randomly asked her, "What would happen if Santa died?" You came home that day and told me, as you teared up, about the experience and how hearing her say this "broke your heart a little bit." Oh, Sweetie... It's okay. It's going to be okay. I just couldn't bring myself to do anything but feel for you in that moment and, yes, help you perpetuate your deeply held belief. But... it's time.

For as much as Daddy and I have always loved your belief in all things magical and whimsical... for as much as we've helped to instill this very belief inside of you... the time truly has come to gently bring you down to earth. So, this year, the day after Christmas, you'll be receiving one more gift - the Gift of Santa. A letter I've written to you to explain as well as we can but with as much hope, magic and belief as we can, the truth about Santa's existence in the world. Honestly, Daddy and I are feeling very anxious about giving this to you. How will you react? Will you accuse us of lying to you your whole life? Will you be angrier than you've ever been before? Will this ruin Christmas for you? Or is the letter gentle enough and magical enough to let you simply ease away from one belief and into a new adventure of being part of Santa's Team? I'm hoping you find warmth and inspiration in our words (Daddy and I both worked hard on this letter) and you feel the love with which it was written. We will find out soon enough what you think...

Truth be told, I honestly love how firmly you hold on to that which you believe. Whether it be Santa, or anything else in your world! I love how well "you do you" and aren't afraid to proudly just "be" Sweetie. Case in point - I asked you the other day if a classmate of yours whom you socialize with more outside of school than in had mentioned a certain thing to you during school. You stated that, no, they hadn't because, "well, I'm pretty much known as being the weird kid in our grade - which I'm totally okay with! - so lots of kids don't really talk to me at school, even if we're friends outside of school." I thought this was pretty awesome, actually. You do have good friends in school who talk to you all the time, I pointed out, and you said, "yes, I do - and that's how I know they're true friends!" So I am actually pleased to hear that you aren't afraid to be you and do as you wish, believe as you wish, and act as you wish, just because it makes you happy and that's who you are. Go, Sweetie!

It could be interpreted, though, that you're trying to be weird on purpose and wanting to push people away.. For instance, if you like a certain thing which isn't popular, if that thing were ever to become popular, there's the argument that you'd stop liking said thing because everyone likes it now - it's not you're own thing anymore. But no - I know that's not what you're saying at all. Take your love of Doctor Who, for instance. I know you try to introduce people to the Doctor and are excited when they too get to know the show and begin to love it a little themselves. You're happy to open others' eyes to that which you enjoy. If they like it too - great! But if not - that's totally fine. You'll still love whatever it is and will continue to do so as fervently and passionately as ever, no matter what others think.

(This even applies - yes - to the whole "Santa thing." But in this case, we've advised you to just not talk about your belief in him at school, so that you don't invite others to pick on you about it. In fact, we've even told you that if anyone asks you if you still believe, that it's fine to say, "No,"- again, so that others don't pick on and bully you for what you believe. Sure! Go on and keep believing what you want! You be you! Just, sometimes, it's better to not advertise that which you know to be so different from how many of your peers think and believe. When we spoke to you about this strategy, you regrettably agreed with us, saying, "Yeah, usually I like to be who I am and not just go along with the crowd. But in this case, I agree, it's okay if I say I don't believe anymore. Santa will understand." Yes, he definitely will Sweetie.)

Other things going on this year... well, the one big thing is that you've recently applied to a specialized school for STEM academics. It's a public charter school that specializes in math and science-based learning. It's an excellent school in our state and, in fact, highly respected in the whole country. We recently went to an Information Night as part of the application process where we learned, among other things, how rigorous the academics are and how much is expected of the students. i.e.: lots of homework! We thought surely you'd be scared off by this intimidating information. But, no, after the talk we asked you again how you were feeling about this school and you said you were more interested than ever to go there. Great! We finished the application and now we just wait. Unfortunately, entry into this school is purely a lottery-based process, with a ton of kids who've applied right alongside you. So the chances of you getting in are, quite frankly, pretty slim. But you definitely don't get in if you don't try. We'll know by the end of January what your lottery number is, and by mid April if you get an invitation to attend. We wish you luck!

All in all, 12 has been a really great year for you. You've had a busy year of theater, starting this Spring with getting your 1st much-desired speaking part (at this one particular theater company) of "The Princess of Sweet Rhyme" in a local production of The Phantom Tollbooth (which happens to be one of your favorite books too.) This was followed by a seemingly non-stop fun few months of performing and learning at your beloved summer playhouse. Finally, you went right into the Fall production of The Wizard of Oz, back again with the same company who produced The Phantom Tollbooth. I do love how much you love to perform! For a girl who's such a math and science whiz kid, it's wonderful to see how well you express your creative side, and how much fun you have doing it - not only on the stage, but in your artwork and creative projects you make for yourself, as well as those you create with your Destination Imagination team (5th year on a team and going strong!)

I really do think of you as our "Renaissance Girl" - interested in and talented in so many vastly different aspects of life. My goodness - you want to be either a Mechanical Engineer, and/or an Animator when you grow up! Like I was getting at above - you certainly don't let yourself get locked into a certain box. You're happy to learn about, explore and become enthusiastic about whatever it is that appeals to you, and that is awesome! And you live such a joyful, carefree existence, with hardly a self-conscious bone in your body. You are you and you love it!

Another story - your English class is putting on mini skits this week from your reading of Dicken's "A Christmas Carol." Your group went yesterday, and you dressed the part as you went off to school, taking along with you a change or two of costume so that all three of the characters you were playing looked different. Well, after your first lines with one character, you left the classroom to the hallway, where you quickly put on additional costume items for your next roll. But, as you entered back into the room, you saw that everyone was waiting for you! Apparently, you misjudged how long it would take to get to your next lines. Your classmates got through the dialogue quickly and just needed you back to do your thing. And - no one else brought costumes with them at all. It was just you, changing your clothes from one scene to the next.

Well! As you told me this, I was thinking how absolutely mortified I would have been at your age (at any age!) if that was me. The only one with costumes, and they had to stop the skit and wait for me?! Forget about it! I'd just die (and not bother to change into different costumes.) But you just thought it was funny that they had to wait, and that Fezziwig (your next part) had to wear a skirt because you didn't have time to adjust your previous costume just so. And at the end of it all? You got a 100% and your teacher said it was the best skit she'd seen all day. Great job!

Yes, Sweetie, I so look forward to seeing what the year ahead holds for you. Whatever is on your path, I know you'll approach it with intrigue, gusto, and smarts because that's simply how you approach everything in life. Your future is certainly bright, no matter what. Daddy and I are so proud of you. Keep on keepin' on.

Happy Birthday, Sweetie! Hoping you have a great day and a fabulous entry into the teenage years!



Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Magic is Inside of You

An open letter, in our struggle between telling the truth and keeping magic alive. To be given to Sweetie the day after Christmas, in an envelope titled "The Gift of Santa." 


Dear Sweetie,

Merry Christmas! If we know you - and you know we do - than we’re certain you’ve had a wonderful few weeks full of holiday cheer, awesome Advent Door finds, fun adventures and lots and lots of love. That’s what it’s all about, right? You betcha! 

And - we know we celebrated with you last weekend - but Happy Birthday to you too! Wow! 13 years old already! Why, we remember when you were just a teeny tiny newborn sleeping in our arms, being passed around the room so everyone could get a chance to snuggle with you at your very first Christmas celebration. What a joyful addition you were to our family and, of course, you still are today. You are quite a young lady - so kind, generous, smart, happy, creative, curious, and full of the beauty of wonder and magic. We really are so proud of you, all that you are, and all that you are destined to become. 

Now… we have a surprise for you. As a newly-minted 13 year old, you have earned the privilege of getting in on a special little secret we have had the privilege of being a part of for quite awhile now. And now we'd finally like to share it with you. True, lots of other children - many even younger than you - already think they know. But, really, only the special kids with big hearts, big imaginations and, most importantly, big love can honestly understand and appreciate the truth. And at 13 years old - it’s time you know for sure… it’s time you were told… 

We’re giving you a job. Yes - you! Oh, lots of other people have this job as well. Mostly older teens and many, many adults. Whomever is able to spread love, joy, faith, generosity and magic to those they hold closest to their hearts and - in fact - to the whole world. The world really needs a lot of love these days - both the earth itself, and each and every inhabitant of it. Oh how much we can do towards that end when we work together! And you’re just the heart needed to add to the team.

So here’s the truth of it. It's about Santa (if you haven't guessed that already.)

Santa is real. He's as real as you, as real as us. In fact, Santa actually lives... it's true...inside us all. That’s right. With the world as big as it is and with so many new people coming into it every day, the Santas of the world need to divide and conquer. You never knew this before, but, well… you really didn’t believe that he could go to absolutely everyone on Christmas Eve, did you? Well, we know you did, and that is awesome! Your faith in Santa and his abilities is admirable! But, no - Santa - as one being - just wouldn’t be able to do it all. But by dividing his tasks amongst everyone with a heart big enough, kind enough, and generous enough to care to spread his message and keep him alive in their hearts as well as the hearts of others, well…we get the job done. And you fit that bill to join us just right! 

At 13 years old, you are ever growing, ever changing, ever developing into a truly magnificent young woman full of grace, beauty, faith and love. Able to take on new information and new responsibilities even when you're not sure you're ready. And what an honor it is to gift you with this information and this responsibility in particular! Because now it’s your turn - yes, yours! - to act on behalf of Santa. Your turn, along with us, to go Christmas shopping, wrap gifts, fill the stockings, and give to others in Santa’s name. Your job to keep him alive in your heart and those of others - and especially little children -  not just at Christmas time, but all year long. 

It is every parent's job - responsibility - to bring magic into their children' lives. We have taken this job seriously and have proudly worked hard to do that for you. And what a magical, amazing, wonder-full young woman you have become! We look forward to you one day having a family of your own - if you choose - to whom you can pass along and instill the same, deep-seated sense of wonder and awe - of magic! - that we have instilled in you. 

Well, now you know for sure. Does Santa really, truly exist? The answer is - of course he does! He exists in so many wonderful, beautiful ways. Santa is Magic! Santa is Love! Santa is Belief in that which we cannot see! Santa is Hope! Santa is Generosity! Yes, Santa is Us. And - now - Santa is You. And you are Santa. We are a team. Santa will always exist, as long as you believe and hold him close in your heart. He (Magic, Love, Belief, Hope, Generosity) wants to be everywhere, needs to be everywhere. Haven't you noticed how everyone gets a little bit nicer, a little more understanding, and plain ol' jolly around the holidays? That's Santa at work right there! And now, with your help, these gifts of his can go further than they ever have before. Because of you and your generous, loving, faithful heart, you make Santa’s existence in the world just that much more certain. Without you and so many others like you… his work here on Earth would not be as powerful, amazing and as truly magical as it really is. 

Thank you so much, Sweetie! For what? Why, for just you being you! For being someone we are proud to call not only our daughter, but also an awesome new addition to Team Santa! We know you will work extra hard with us to help spread his message - his gifts - of love, hope, faith and generosity as far and wide as you possibly can. Thank you. Your assistance with this means so very much. 

You will do many great things in your life, Sweetie. As you begin your teenage years of maturing and growing up, may this new task we’re gifting you with today be just the start of all the wonderful offerings you will turn around and give to the world and your fellow earthly companions. There truly is magic inside of you - just as there is in every living creature. Believe in this magic, feel humbled by it, feel empowered by it, and share your own personal magic wherever your life leads you on. 

And never forget - we love you very much. Feel that love, and the love of Santa, and gift it to as many people as you possibly can.

May your Christmas Celebration continue on in joy, love, generosity and magic, and may your New Year be ever bright!

Much Love,

Mom and Dad