Posted by: Kate | April 19, 2010


Dear Emily,


Look how young! I look like I’m about 10 years old in that picture. OK, maybe 16, but still… barely out of childhood. Hardly old enough to be expected to handle the responsibility of operating a motor vehicle, vote, or purchase lottery tickets.

Actually, I’m 22 there. Which is, admittedly, tremendously different than 16, in a lot of ways. By this point, I had not only moved out of my parents’ house, but I had moved out of state, and was more than halfway through my dual masters degree program. I had not only earned my driver’s license and been operating said motor vehicle safely for several years, but I owned my own car, a little Saturn SL-1 sedan. I was not only living with my college sweetheart, but I was engaged to be married to him a few months later.

On other dimensions, though, 22 is awfully close to 16. Only six years apart, and I can tell you, from the perspective of 32, now, that six years is barely a wink of an eye. And I know it will only speed up, the older I get, but I feel like I’m allowed to act just a little older and more jaded than other 32-year-olds because I’ve only been out of the hospital for nine days, after more than a month in. Time gets funny, when you’re that sick and that scared, and believe me when I say that 16 and 22 are really pretty much the same. The hours and days sometimes crawl by at a snail’s pace, leaving you aching for the next day to finally come along and provide some hoped-for change (even if you don’t know what that change might look like)… but the years scream by as if on speed, leaving you blinking and wondering what the hell just happened.

And so, if 22 is barely different from 16, then how is it possible that, when zooming back, there is a bigger picture:

That’s you, ten years ago. Which means that, now, somehow, inexplicably, you’re ten years old.

You’ve attained double digits, and I’ve only barely started counting your age in terms of years instead of months. It’s just one more case where I can sit around and blink and wonder at it all, or I can suck it up and accept the inevitable and enjoy you as you are in the moment, because you’ll be different again by the time I finish this post and before I know it you’ll be 11, then 12, then 21…

And as a person, as a ten-year-old, you’re a pretty cool individual. Your brain just works so fast, and you can juggle so many different thoughts and ideas at the same time, it’s amazing to watch you process. I see some of myself in you, but the difference is, when I reach that state where I’m percolating a dozen different possibilities and feeling excited and wanting to share what’s going on inside, I start to stutter, as all of those ideas try to push themselves to the front of the line and they all get stuck together trying to escape out of my mouth all at once. This applied even before the hospitalization; now I can’t get a single idea out without stuttering, which makes this point all the more noteworthy. Because you? Somehow you’re equipped not only to have these thoughts, but to parse through them and express them, and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard you stutter or struggle to find the right word. You’re able to be both eloquent and quick, and that combination is simply astonishing to watch.

Our relationship has blossomed, too, in this past year. It had just started to bloom last year, when I was given a new way of seeing you, a new lens to help me understand your special brand of focus. I think a lot of people would view an ADHD diagnosis as a bad thing, an obstacle to overcome or a problem to address. But for me, it was an opened window, a way of shifting everything just a little so that, suddenly, your behaviors make more sense to me. And what frustrates me the most in life is feeling confused or like I’m not quite getting it. Now that I have a new way of understanding you – more importantly, one that actually works to explain why, just about every time – I’m less prone to that frustration. (Don’t get me wrong, I still get irritated and snappish in the short run, but when we pull back to that bigger picture again, I’m able to slow it down and communicate better, both when listening and when talking.)

So I’ll do something different this year, because we’ve had it pretty well-established that continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results is just a sign of insanity, not hope. I won’t ask you to slow down. You can’t, anyway; full speed ahead is the only speed you know, and when try to pull you back it only highlights just how fast you go.

Instead, I’ll tell you that I’m trying my best to keep up with you, and I know that you’re trying your best to pull up to a speed that allows us mere mortals to at least see you on our horizon, if we can’t keep up. We’ll keep doing our best with each other, and I think that will be enough. Because our best is pretty good, and underlying it is a love for each other that is fierce and strong and steady.  And you have that same love for your family and your friends and your interests, and I think you use that intensity to self-propel through life with a grace that is just uniquely Emily.

You go do what you need to do, darlin’. I’ll find a way to be what you need me to be in the process.

I love you to pieces,


  1. Such a wonderful birthday letter. She’ll treasure these when she’s older.

  2. What a lovely post for a lovely girl. She’s lucky to have such an amazing mom.

  3. Happy Birthday E, and Happy anniversary of becoming a mom K. I love you so much, and I am so proud of you and the mother you are. Take care, and I am here if you need me!

  4. What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful daughter. I was impressed with your boundless love and dealing effectively with ADHD. I loved your writing style, it brough tears to my eyes as a dad. Kudos

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wiilder

  5. Amazing photographs and tribute… happy birthday to Emily!

  6. Another lovely birthday legacy. Happy Birthday, Emily!

  7. Happy 10th anniversary of motherhood Kate.

    The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. ~Rajneesh

    Your 10 year old is beautiful, and lucky.

  8. Just beautiful – the post and the pictures. She looks SO much like you, too. 🙂

  9. Happiest of birthdays to Emily, and happy tenth anniversry of motherhood to you, Kate!

  10. Great letter and post. You always express yourself so eloquently. Happy Birthday Emily!

  11. Wow – the double digit day!! Happy Birthday beautiful Emily. I’m so glad you were able to celebrate together at home as a family!! Love to all of you!! xo ❤

  12. Beautiful tribute…beautiful daughter…beautiful mom. Just beautiful all around.

    Happy 10, Emily!

  13. Happy Birthday Emily!
    Such a sweet way for you to record these times… I think you’ll both cherish them in years to come!

  14. Happy Birthday Emily!!!

  15. Happy Birthday Emily,
    Kate what a beautiful letter.

  16. Happy Birthday to Emily! I’m so happy you were able to be home with her.

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