My dearest Ava, You may be one of those unfortunate people who grow up wondering what can be said, or done, or written that hasn’t come before, who choose instead to say or do nothing at all. The truth is that no two things are ever the same. No two days. No two people. No two Will Ferrell movies. The whole array of experiences being missed because of this attitude must be astounding.

Before you came along, I didn’t realise just how many things I was missing out on in life, like how getting my clothes washed with children’s fabric softener makes my skin feel like a delicate flower being kissed by the morning dew, or that getting to spend time with the Little Mermaid – albeit, a piñata – was even a possibility. Sure she was hollow on the inside, but hey, that’s princesses… beautiful, redheaded princesses…

Turning 5 is a big deal, and is the entire reason behind today’s open letter. Between now and my very first letter to you, much has changed, and sometimes these changes happen out of nowhere. One day you’re tripping over your jeans and the next they fit you like booty shorts, just like one day your paintings look like Rainbow Dash hit a windscreen, and the next she’s singing and dancing and living a fulfilled life with all of her disfigured friends.

“That’s pretty, Sweetie. Who’s that over there?”

“That’s a smudge, Dad,” – rolls eyes

“Jeez, alright Picasso!”

These changes seem to be happening faster than I or your mother are prepared for, so to get ahead of the curve, I wanted to pass on my “Five for Five”. Five important life lessons I’d like to share with my five-year-old – before it’s too late – for you to take forward with you as you grow and blossom into a wonderful young lady.

*

Aliens don’t discriminate, so why should we? If they were to look down upon Planet Earth, they would see the Human race, plain and simple. They wouldn’t see borders and cultures, or rich and poor, they would only see a species that fights amongst themselves over land, fuel, and parking spaces, all to preserve a particular way of life for their own barbaric tribe. Sure, to them we may all look the same, which is a little ignorant on their part, but hey, I’m sure they’re not perfect either. We grow up identifying as one group or another, and if you identify as anything, let it not be as American or English, man or woman, gay or straight, but simply as a human being, because nothing else should even matter.

**

It’s okay to think Black Panther was painfully average (it was), be true to yourself. If you’d rather snub Coke and Pepsi in favour of a Dr Pepper, I’m not judging. Socks and sandals. Citrus and dairy. You do you, girlfriend. You don’t need to board the hype train, follow trends, or bow to peer pressure, you can be whoever you want. And if you think Miles Morales makes a better Spider-Man, well then that’s where we draw the line.

***

Never take from the front of the shelf, I don’t know why this isn’t rule number one. Whether at the supermarket or in daily life itself, sometimes you have to reach past what you think you want in order to find something better. An undamaged box, a better expiration date, something that bitch Samantha hasn’t had her sticky fingers on. You get the idea.

****

Humpty Dumpty was pushed. Often in life, bad things will happen to good people, and sadly, many choose to blame the victim as a way of convincing themselves that it could never happen to them. “Oh, she was raped, but look what she was wearing” – “Oh, they have cancer, but didn’t they used to smoke?” – “Oh, her husband hit her, but didn’t she serve him a warm beer?”. By accepting that the victim held no blame, it’s accepting that they could one day become a victim themselves, something people are terrified to admit. Have empathy, be kind, and listen to people.

*****

Nobody will ever love you like I do. Your mother may argue for this title but I’ll fight her all the way. Times change and people come and go, but there is one constant that will forever remain the same, and that’s the love I have for you. You inspire and encourage me each and every day to be a better person and a better father, and wherever the next five years take you, I will always be there to pick you up and to cheer you on. I’ll always be your biggest fan.

Happy 5th birthday, Ava.

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