Happy first birthday, my daughter!

Hey kiddo! I know you’re not reading this on your first birthday — you can’t quite walk on your own right now, let alone read anything. So I have no idea how old you are now that you’re reading this. You could be 4, 14, or 40. It doesn’t matter how old you are, though. You’ll always be my little girl.

It’s been quite the year. I remember where I was exactly a year ago to the moment I’m typing this: sitting in a small, dark room with your Mom as she was coping with labour. It seems simultaneously so long ago, and as if it were yesterday. I remember the nervousness and excitement we were all feeling. You were coming. We didn’t know you at all yet. Not what you looked like, what you’d sound like, if you’d like us at all, if you’d be a happy baby (and you have been such a happy baby!), or even if you were a boy or a girl.

The moment of your birth seemed to stop time slightly. (Or at least, that’s how I see it now.) I didn’t get to hold you at first, though — the doctors whisked you away to make sure you were alright. But then they said: “Come here, Dad, and meet your daughter.”

I held you in my arms for the first time, and you just stared at me. No sound, not even a whimper. You just listened to me. I’m sure there was a certain amount of “Who the heck are you?!” in your thoughts at that point, but you didn’t seem upset. Just cold, understandable given the circumstances.

I remember your first bath at home. You probably don’t know this, but I’ve given you most of your baths. Each time, you seemed to enjoy it a little bit more. (Right now, you just love splashing. Luckily, I don’t mind getting wet.) At first, you didn’t resist much if I took a hand or a foot. These days, you tend to want to play with things (the squeaky crocodiles are a favourite at the moment), so there’s a bit of wrestling going on.

Your Mom and I have taken you more places by your first birthday than we’d both seen by the time we were each 5 years old. You’re a well-travelled kid, and you’ve charmed people across 2.5 continents. It doesn’t matter what language they speak, it always seems to be something about how precious a child you are. You always giggle and smile, which only eggs on the compliments.

Just don’t let it go to your head, okay?

First Birthday, Avalon Country Club, Río Oro, San José, Costa Rica, 22 August 2008

Your Mom and I love you deeply, far more than I ever thought possible. You are everything to us — we can’t imagine life without you. It’s been only a year, but it seems to much longer with all the things we’ve seen and done. You’ve grown from a tiny handful to a happily babbling little girl, just on the edge of walking on your own (you only have to let go of us and trust yourself — something I’ll be reminding you of many times throughout your life).

But I do have to apologise, my dear daughter. I’m not always there. I feel like I’ve cheated you in many ways. Work keeps me away from you — I spent a month in Costa Rica missing you so much. I was so relieved when you recognised me at the airport. Your Dad isn’t always there, though I really do wish I could be. This is only one of the many unfair things of life. But know that even when I’m not there to hold you, help you walk, feed you, bathe you, swim with you, or play with you, that you are on my mind and in my heart every moment. And nothing gives me more pleasure than to see your smiling face when I come home in the evening.

So happy first birthday, my daughter. You’ve had a wonderful first year, and you’ve many more ahead of you.