Dear Baby Girl, You threw your hand up the other day to display the age you would soon be turning, and a cold, disbelieving chord thrummed in my heart, like the sound that intones on a sitcom when someone unpleasant arrives.

But you are anything but unpleasant. It's just that you're turning five. Your age, spread out on your hand in full starfish position--it is incredible, inconceivable, impossible to me.

When I look at your face, I see, all at once, the skeptical, beautiful baby that you were and the bright, determined, sensitive girl that you are, and I celebrate. You are thriving and sweet. And gone are so many of the fears I once held about you.

Even before you were born, I was fear-filled. I know many new parents are anxious about how they will manage this new person's needs while not lapsing into a depressed, starved zombie that hasn't showered in days.

For me, my fears always centered around my own fallibility. I feared the day when you would find me out: when you would discover that I am clumsy and imperfect, just getting through each hour on fumes and improvisation.

That day has more or less already arrived. You are aware, Baby Girl, that I am a mother who makes mistakes. Who sometimes loses her temper. Who sometimes forgets that it is Friday a.k.a. "snowflake shirt day" at school. For some reason, you do not seem to hold this against me eternally. Not yet.

You have a good heart. I overhear you going all Dr. Phil on your brother late at night, "Tatum, are you hurting?" I observe how you cradle your stuffed animals like a Mother Teresa swaddling orphans in Calcutta. When I yammer on about backaches or cramps, you are quick to grab me a pillow or rub my back.

I try and tell you how lucky I feel to be your mom.

But sometimes I am really busy. Rueing the broken world into which we have brought you, shaking my fist at the crimes committed against children and growing ever more anxious about preparing you for this construction zone while preserving your pure heart.

I am inspired by the person that you are, especially to your small but significant sphere of influence. If it is possible to be a preschool rockstar, baby, you are it.

Last week we took you rock climbing and I stood in awe. The rock gym attendant was surprised that you just scaled the first climb without hesitation. "She's dominating!" he said. Two hours later and you were still going strong.

Are you dominating, Baby Girl? Are we really teaching you to dominate? I like to think that we are teaching you to be a problem-solver and a peacemaker, but a dominator? Our hope is that you would let the Lord dominate your heart and that dominion would only be something to seek when it comes to your own deeply-lodged fears.

I am still learning this and I am more than the age that you are right now.

The full hand, all the digits raised. Count 'em: today you're five.

Love you five times five times five to the fifty-fifth power.