"I will never stop choosing you."
That's what your barely-open, newborn eyes were saying to me on that day back in 2011.
At least that's what I told myself.
It was June 7th -- three weeks and one day before your due date --, and after 22 hours of labor and 2 hours of pushing, you were in my arms, looking directly into my soul and staking forever claim to my heart.
"I will never stop choosing you," I whispered in your ear as I breastfeed you, pushing through the early pain to ensure you were adequately nourished.
Fast-forward eight years and that brings us to today -- your birthday -- a once-a-year reminder to your father, myself, you and the entire world that on this day eight years prior God blessed this planet, me, and all of your family and friends with an angel child who, without a doubt, already is, and will continue to change the world.
Not all children are innately kind.
Not all children are natural "givers."
Not all children respect all people.
Not all children unrelentingly seek knowledge.
Not all children value family above all else.
Not all children are mold breakers.
I will never stop choosing you, my daughter, and that's not because of all that you do and all that you are -- though those are terrific reasons -- but because my love and admiration for you are unconditional, unwavering, and inexorable.
And, do you know what fills my mama heart so full on this special day in our family's history?
That earlier this week, you were sure to share with me, via the sweetest handwritten note, that you still choose me (despite the many parenting mistakes which I believe I have made over the last eight years).
I'll never stop choosing you, Payton Kinley Merritt and God-willing, you will never stop choosing me.
Happy 8th birthday, my lovely, and can I tell you just one more thing?
I want to be like you when I grow up.