Letter to my daughters on my birthday.

Lila Jane and Georgia, thank you for my birthday wishes and a morning full of cards, hugs, and laughter! You two and your mother are the loves of my life!

Ever since you saw the animated movie “Hercules” a few weeks ago, you’ve been fascinated with Greek mythology. Inspired by all your questions about the gods of the ancient Greeks, your mother ordered us a National Geographic “ancient mythologies for children” book. When it arrived over the weekend, you literally couldn’t wait to dive in and learn more about the deities, demigods, and their stories.

At one point, you landed on the page that tells the story of Cronus, the leader of the Titans who swallowed his children. His story was accompanied by the famous painting by the late 18th-century Spanish artist Goya, “Saturn Devouring his Son” (Saturn is another name for Cronus.)

You were terrified! You were so scared by the gruesome image that I had to stay in your room that evening until both of you fell asleep. We agreed that we would talk about it in the morning and figure out why Cronus ate (!!!) his children.

The next morning we dusted off our dog-eared copy of the Dictionary of Classical Mythology and discovered that Cronus had actually swallowed his children whole (he didn’t rip them limb from limb as depicted in the painting). We also learned that all of them survived after the youngest, Zeus, vanquished his father.

What a relief! We were all glad to find that the story had a happy ending.

The world is such a scary place right now. In all of my 53 years, I have lived through some pretty frightening stuff but never anything like this. You, your mother, and I are all living through and navigating a time when none of us — not one of us — knows what to expect or what will happen next. But we are getting through it together.

The same way we used that book to shed light on the unknown, on something that made us scared, we are using knowledge and learning to guide our family ship across these uncharted waters.

You’ve both been extremely brave this year. And your mother and I are immensely proud of you for your grace. We’re also proud of you for empathy and the way you care for each other, your parents, and your friends.

When you finally fell asleep the other night, I remembered how scared I am — how scared we all are — right now. I know that I couldn’t make it through these troubled and troubling times if it weren’t for your love, for the light you cast into the world, for your music and for your laughter, for your tears, fears, and your hugs, hopes, and dreams.

Your mother and I have way too many blessings to count. But the greatest of those is you. I love you, we love you with all our hearts. Every birthday is a great one when we know that you are in and of this world.

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