Hadley Elizabeth is my younger sister's first daughter and my first niece.
To me, she's also the most beautiful reminder of how much it takes to be a girl in this world. Of how hard it can seem and how scary it can feel. How special it is and how much it matters.
As I watched Hadley grow from teeny-tiny newborn to lively little girl, I couldn't stop thinking about the world from her perspective. I started writing letters. Thoughts and memories collected as I moved through my days and thought of her. Little bits of encouragement to pass along to the girl who has my sister's eyes, my middle name, and the whole wide and wild world ahead of her.
Over time, I realized that as much as these letters were for Hadley, they were just as much for any girl growing, learning, tripping, flying and trying to figure it all out as they go.
"Humans are the only animal that blushes, laughs, has religion, wages war, and kisses with lips. So in a way, the more you kiss with lips, the more human you are." -Jonathan Safran Foer
I had my first kiss in third grade. It was in the tube slide on the playground with a boy named Jeff. It tasted like grape bubblegum and lasted for three seconds.
Jeff and I secretly kissed a lot that year. And then we kissed again in high school at senior prom. He wrote me a song that he sang in front of the whole school and I thought I was lucky that the same boy who was my first kiss would also be my last, because I was sure I was going to marry him.
I'm still not sure who I'm going to marry and I'm not sure when you'll have your first kiss. Maybe you'll be in third grade, like I was, and you'll feel like you have to keep it a secret from all the grownups because they'll say you're too young to be interested in boys. Or maybe it won't be until much later, like high school, and then you'll have to ask uncle Nick what that's like. Or maybe your first kiss will be with a girl. And that will be just fine, too -- although I don't have any good specific advice on that.
But no matter what, I'm sure you'll have a lot of first kisses. And second and third kisses. And thousandth kisses, even. You'll have good kisses and terrible kisses. And eventually you'll realize, like I have, that a kiss is the quickest way to tell how you really feel about someone.
Even the terrible ones count for something.
I love you, little one.