A Birthday Gift to my Daughter

this is what carefree looks like

Today is my daughter’s eleventh birthday. It’s such a remarkable time in her life. She’s so full of hopes and dreams, of interests, things she wants to learn, to be, to achieve… She’s decided to have a Pump It Up party, popular with the younger kids, because, “you are never too old for a bouncy house.” So true.

I normally don’t get her birthday presents. She doesn’t want for much, the occasional Minecraft upgrade or art supplies, that’s about it. She’s never been much of a toy kid. And when I think about where she is now — on the precipice of such a critical stage in her life — the gift I want to give her most is nearly impossible to give.

Like I said, right now my daughter is confident, quirky, driven, passionate. She loves writing, art, dancing, making short films, playing soccer, playing basketball, studying science, learning technology (in particular html/css), building websites, baking (on her own and without recipes), oh and let’s not forget playing Minecraft and Fortnite with her besties. She’s a kind and caring friend, a good student, a lover of all animals — a self-imposed vegetarian since she was eight. And she can give me a ton of trouble when its time to go to bed! Not everything is perfect and shouldn’t be. :)

Studies show that the middle school years are tough on girls. They lose confidence, they lose interest in STEM subjects, they worry too much about fitting in. I know, I was once in middle school. I can only imagine the pressure now, what with social media and all of that. It’s like the world forces us to take who we are and stuff it in a box and store in the corner of an attic somewhere only to be sought for and found decades later.

And that brings me to my gift… the gift I am giving my daughter for her 11th birthday. In addition to today being her birthday, it’s also my last day of work before heading out on a 13 week sabbatical. My daughter has an extra long summer due to a school construction project and we are going to spend it together.

This is also a gift to me. This will be the summer I find that box, blow the dust off it’s top, and sort through it’s treasures. I am kicking off the sabbatical with a 7-day silent meditation retreat. I am going from a mile a minute, getting lots done nearly every. waking. moment. (which I (think I) love) to nothing… To me alone with my thoughts (with others alone with their thoughts) for 7 days! As advised, I am withholding forming expectations of the week to come, but I am nearly certain it’s going to be interesting. My biggest hope is to emerge more present and available to fully experience the rest of my time off, because I have plans for the weeks to come.

This will be the summer that I will attempt to whirl a beautiful and magnificent cape around this beautiful and magnificent girl.

I believe the best parenting comes from leading by example. I demonstrate my commitment to self care. I talk about how grateful I am for every day, for the amazing people in my life, and opportunity I have. I try to show the value of hard work, the importance of engaging in life as your best self, and being a positive impact in the world. I try to live and act authentically, caring about what I care about, and not worrying too much about what the rest of the world thinks. I push myself to be creative and to show my struggle with being creative. My daughter loves that because it’s one of the areas where she dominates!

This summer my daughter has things she wants to study: geography, math, html, and css. She wants to make art: paintings on beach rocks, sand sculptures on the beach, anthropomorphized driftwood. She wants a job: we are opening up our art workshop at my aunts cafe & bakery.

This summer I have things I want to study: corporate finance, python/data science, and creativity (I know this is a buildable skill!). I want to reach old and new levels of fitness: get back to my old 5k pace, kayak every week, and finally do a pull up. This summer I want to connect to my deepest self: to my core values and to my authentic self as I too am on the precipice of a critical stage in my life.

My daughter and I are both embarking on a next chapter. I feel extremely grateful that I have the ability to take this time off to mark this transition in a way that I know will be hugely impactful to the both of us. I will never regret taking this time away from my professional life to connect with her. It’s the best gift I can think to give — showing her what it means to have values and live by them — to take care of yourself, put your family first, to always be learning, to try to be a positive force in the world, to feel grateful for every moment, and manifest your creative spirit in a visible and tangible way. I am so grateful for the present and so excited for what the future holds for both of us.

In close — Happy Birthday, Naomi — I am so excited for the next 13 weeks! And to my work family (aka Ohana), I will miss you and I have so appreciated your support as I take this time. Finally, I plan to post an update after the silent retreat. I know many of you are wondering how its going to go…