Dear J,

Last year, your teachers asked us to write you a Valentine’s Day letter. This year they didn’t, but I want to anyway. I love you so much, little girl. You’re so independent, so curious, and so smart it blows me away. It seems like you remember everything, and it’s given me a real sense of my responsibility to teach you everything I can. When you look at me, your eyes are so clear and honest. I used to always say I didn’t want a dog because I wasn’t comfortable with the level of worship that they had for their owners. But children are the same, and when you look at me I can see that you trust me fully, openly, and with everything you are. It is sometimes a frightening responsibility, but I promise you that I will always do my best by you. I will hold you safely through all your feelings, big and small, hard and easy, ugly and beautiful. I am strong enough to stand with your anger and revel in your joy. And when the inevitable day comes when you realize I am not perfect, I hope I will have shown you that it’s okay to be imperfect and given you the tools to enjoy both your own imperfection and mine. And if I haven’t, well, I will still stand firm in my love for you as you lash and howl at the unfairness of imperfection in the world. I know that being two is so hard. There is so much to learn and your emotions are so volatile and frightening. I know that sometimes all you want is the power to keep me by your side always, and that it hurts you that I leave. One day, you won’t feel this way. I’m sorry I can’t be there all the time until that day comes. But I hope you are secure knowing that I am never very far away. I’m proud of you, too. You are learning so fast and changing so much and you are facing it bravely, with nothing less than eagerness. The last two and a half years have been some of the most exhausting, exhilarating, enlightening days of my life. You’re everything I ever wanted in a daughter. And then some. I hope you always keep your face in the sun.