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Letters to Julia: The Necessary Process of Transition

I write a lot of letters to my baby girls. If you're a parent and you haven't already adopted this practice, I highly recommend it.  Tell them stories. Tell them about their character.  Tell them what you've learned.  Tell them how much you love them.  Tell them.

Hand write it, type it and print it, or just write an email to yourself and save it in a special folder. Someday, when they're graduating high school, getting married, or applying to graduate school, you'll be glad you did. I hope to make a little book for each of my kids with the letters I wrote them. Here is one such letter, written for Julia on the day she lost her first tooth:

October 24, 2013

Dear Julia,

Today you lost your first tooth. You're only 3 and a half. It was a shock to me, and something I wasn't expecting, but you handled it like a champ.

You were climbing up the slide at the playground (in your usual ambitious spirit) and slipped over the side, landing face down, and effectively displacing your top right front tooth, root and all.

You cried for a minute from the surprise, then laughed it off, with your ever joyful attitude.

We rushed you off to the pediatric emergency dentist (with the tooth in a bottle of milk to preserve it). You played happily in the waiting room, not fully aware of the situation, but totally willing to go along with it. Your laid back, unassuming, relaxed demeanor was totally opposite of mine: frantic, worried, and scared.

I asked if the dentist could please put your tooth back. He explained that it couldn't be done and cited concerns that it could graft to the bone and cause complications for your permanent teeth later. After all, it was "just a baby tooth."

But it wasn't just a baby tooth. That little tooth was one of the first you ever teethed on. One of the first you ever brushed. And it was a perfect little piece of my firstborn baby girl. I wasn't ready to let go of it. It would be 2-3 years before your permanent tooth would replace it, and I guess I just didn't want you to have a gap in your smile for that long.

You sat in the dentist's chair so patiently as they examined your teeth and took some x-rays, obliging them of every little request with polite obedience. You asked me to hold your hand. I think it was more for my comfort than yours.

They told you that you could pick 2 prizes for being so good. You chose a bouncy ball for your first prize. When I asked you what you'd like for your second prize, you looked at all the stickers, balloons, cars, rings, and said, "I want to bring home a bouncy ball for Rachel, too." What a kind, selfless act! You had just experienced one of the most traumatic experiences of your life, and you were still thinking about others. You wanted to surprise your sister.

When we left the dentist's office, we got you a strawberry smoothie. You sat in your Graco car seat (at 27 lbs.) and drank the whole thing.

As we drove home, you began sensing the emptiness in your mouth, feeling the void in your top gum line with your tongue. You said, "Mommy, I want my tooth back now."

Later, you asked again, "Can I please have a new tooth?"

My eyes welled up with tears as I tried to explain the process: "Well, you'll get a new tooth there, but it has to grow first. You need to wait for it."

Oh, if only I could ease your pain! I'd do anything to go through this instead of you. But, my sweet Julia, there's a reason.

With every phase of life, we have to go through transition. We have to let go of the old to welcome the new. We have to experience loss to appreciate gain. And we have to endure pain for growth.

It's easy to want to go back. You're used to that old tooth. It felt normal to have it. And now in the early stages of life without it, you're unsure and you might feel apprehensive.

Know this, Julia: better things are coming. Pain doesn't last forever. Although change is inevitable, God's guidance and loving presence are always with you. He will never leave you or forsake you.

Life will be full of moments like today. You may lose things. You may be taken off guard by an unexpected turn of events. You may be left in a holding pattern, wondering when the next thing will show up.

But be sure of this - God loves you. I love you. Daddy loves you. Your whole family loves you. And there's a reason for everything you experience, even if it's just to prepare you for what's next.

You are a beautiful girl, Julia. Inside and out.




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Dear Julia,
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