July 08, 2010

Happy Birthday

Dear Kaia,

It is the night of your fourth birthday and you are asleep in the room next to me at a hotel in Jakarta. We just moved here last week, and we are trying to get settled. I was thinking about what a strange life we have created for you. Your father is an Iranian raised in California. Your mother is from Wisconsin and you were born in Malaysia, spent a few years in Qatar and are now ready to start your new life in Indonesia. You have been to Thailand more times before you turned four than most people will go in a lifetime. You have been on safari in Kenya. You have crawled through Roman ruins in Tunisia, have ridden the subway in NYC, and walked the streets of Stockholm.

You talk about going to Jamaica because your former teacher is from there, and then to Holland to see friends of yours from your old school. You know Bali is next to Jakarta and you look forward to going there. The other day you were singing a song I had never heard:

when I get older, I will be stronger
They'll call me freedom just like a wavin' flag
And then it goes back, and then it goes back
And then it goes back, oh

You knew all the words. Turns out it was the official theme of the World Cup. You are aware.

In short, you are the most remarkable person I have ever met. I marvel at your sense of style and confidence, even when I am frustrated by your obstinacy. You are already a master negotiator and your grasp of logic is frightening. It is strange that I write these letters to you now, because I can already see you at every age. Even before you were born I could see you as you are now, and no matter how much you change I feel like I will always know you so well. You are the best and worst pieces of your mother and I, as well as your own unique sticking agent.

We have only been in Indonesia for a week, but I can already see the affect it is having on you. You walk about like you own the place. “Don’t be so shy!” you tell me. I hope your time here, exploring the many wonders it has to offer, will help you learn some humility as well as understanding. I am sure we will see many things that will leave lasting impressions on who you will become. I will be here to guide you through what you see. Actually we will be here together as a family.

If you were wondering what you were like at four here are some off the cuff ideas:
  • You are currently obsessed with pink and purple and shiny pretty things.
  • You love to draw.
  • You love books.
  • You can do many things by yourself.
  • You are very independent.
  • You are a monster when you are tired or hungry, but most of the time you are very polite and mature.
  • You love pesto pasta and princesses and pizza.
  • You love to ride your bike and roller coasters.
  • You love Mickey Mouse. Strawberry Shortcake and Handy Manny.
  • You always want sprinkles on your ice cream.
  • And often times order your food at restaurants.
  • All in all you make us very proud. I know all parents must say this, but you are something special to everyone you meet.
I am sure we will look back when you are an adult doing something extraordinary and say, “You have been like this since you were born.”

I love you and happy fourth birthday. I hope that our friends and family will share some thoughts in the comment section below.


  1. Kat Massengill10:15 PM

    Dear Kaia,
    Happy Happy Birthday to a beautiful, sassy girl who redefines what a princess should be!
    Who knew that the little girl who moved in next door would make such a BIG difference in our life. Having you be our neighbor for 2 years was the best thing that happened to us. Through your friendship with Aidan, 2 sets of adults forged indelible friendships and bonds that I hope will last a long time. Because we didn't have it, Shawn and I always hoped that Aidan and Morgan would have "childhood friends" that they could connect with throughout their lives. I think you and Skye will be those friends. We are already planning our first trip to visit you and it's exciting for all of us. I hope you know how lucky you are! You have an incredible family and everything you need to be anything you want to be. You bring a sparkly energy everywhere you go. We love you Kaia and can't wait to hear what 4 brings for you! Best wishes and Love always,
    Shawn, Kat, Aidan, and Morgan

  2. Karen Swift10:14 AM

    Dear Kaia,

    A belated Happy Birthday from one of your Dad’s work muckers. (friends)

    Your Daddy described who you are now at 4 and I’m sure he’s pretty accurate.

    This is probably who, you will be inside when you are 14, 24, 44 or even 104!

    What will change is the outside world and you will choose how you fit in to that world or others will try to decide for you.

    My Gran said the only person who can truly love you, respect you and care for you, if you let them is: yourself and I have seen how true this is.

    She wasn’t saying be selfish or unkind, but always be true to your self.

    As I reflect on you at 4 and me soon to be 44, the poem that springs to mind is “Warning” by Jenny Joseph. I’m not going to begin to rattle it out. But liking purple at 4 and knowing what you want and who you are isn’t a bad thing but realizing later in life means you’ve an awful lot of catching up to do as this poem says. ☺

    So enjoy the years ahead and fill them to the brim with all the things you find you are passionate about. With two special parents and an adorable sister there to guide you I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

    May you have many more happy and healthy birthdays and may your world be a place of peace, joy and fulfillment.

    Take care

    Karen Swift

  3. I remember the 1st time I saw you. You were only 1 month old and so very tiny. Now you are a big girl of 4. You have changed so much. I think your father described you perfectly. I still remember you mother at 4 and liking some of the same things you like now. I think you are an amazing girl.