Eight. I honestly cannot believe it. I’m certain I say this every year but truly…eight feels so old to me, so grown up and impossible.
You are flying through second grade. You’re learning how to write in cursive and read with a fluency and fervor that continues to impress me. You get frustrated with math and your imperfect penmanship and are quick to claim you are not good at either subject, which breaks my heart a bit. But with a little coaxing, you are able to see it through. I hope I have the patience to continue to build your confidence because kiddo, I truly believe you are capable of doing anything.
You are so kind. Recently, you ran in your school’s annual 5k and after the race a friend of mine pulled me aside and whispered “She could’ve ran much faster, but her loyalty to her friends is impressive”. I am so grateful for the countless times I don’t have to remind you about doing the right thing.
You absolutely love to make people laugh. You immediately sense when something you’ve done has made someone smile and amplify it to one hundred, even if it means being unbearably silly.
You have a fire in you that is challenging. You still throw tantrums bigger than I thought humanly possible and are unbelievably stubborn (which is completely infuriating 100% of the time). You push me in ways that have led me to shut and lock my bedroom door and dissolve into angry tears on the other side of it. I am completely terrified of when you are a teenager but try and remind myself that this strength and self-assuredness will someday serve you even if it kills me first. This is the constant contradiction I have found while raising a daughter, wanting you to be sweet and kind but also strong and sure.
Someone recently, after briefly meeting you, referred to you as an “old soul”. They mentioned that you had a polished, self-contained quality about you that isn’t often seen in second graders. That you were articulate and confident. Sometimes I worry that I keep you woven in too tightly with me, try and control your experiences too closely and that maybe I’m denying you some sense of a more carefree childhood…but that comment made me radiate with pride.
You may be growing up faster than I would like but you’re still full of that crazy exuberance that only comes with being little. You have an imagination that is astounding, inventing outlandish scenarios for your imaginary friends and your entire army of stuffed animal “children” who are often suffering a multitude of broken bones due to the ineptness of your mostly absent husband. You are the leader of a super secret spy crew and often interrupt me mid-conversation to take very important phone calls from your boss about a variety of nefarious villains. Shawn, Kali and I have all been inducted into this crew but we aren’t allowed to talk about it so I’m still not exactly sure what my role in the whole thing is. That’s probably for the best. You are currently obsessed with Ed Sheeran and we start many days with very serious dance parties to his latest album and I never tell you how grateful I am for that reminder to give in to joy.
This is the first year that we’ve been apart on your birthday. It’s your weekend with your Dad and if I’m being honest, it has been harder on me than I expected. I’ve been on the verge of tears all day, even though I know you are being celebrated and spoiled and loved. But maybe this is a lesson for me, to loosen my grip a little bit. The time is rapidly approaching when most of your time will involve experiencing the world without me and learning to appreciate the times we are together will become even more vital.
When I kiss you good night I often remind you that you are the best thing to ever happen to your Mama. Recently, you’ve been asking me “But what about the baby?”. The first time you asked it shocked me into silence because yes…what about this new baby?
I feel this self-inflicted pressure to make these last few months of you being an only child the most perfect months ever. To fill them with the best memories. I am so worried that you won’t be able to recover from the way your whole world is going to be turned upside down by a choice that I made. You have taken the news of becoming a big sibling in stride, feeling excited and sure everything will be wonderful even though you know that babies cry a lot and that it might be a brother even though you’re longing for a little sister. I’ve been struggling to find the words to explain to you how it is that you and this baby will both be so loved but that it is also so distinctly different.
This baby was hoped for, prayed for, planned on. But you? You were something else entirely. You were a marvelous and terrifying surprise that pushed me farther than I ever imagined I was capable of. You gave me a strength that I was sorely lacking from the moment you burst into the world and we did a whole lot of our growing up together, hand in hand. For so long we were a team, taking on the world together. With some quiet and careful hesitation, I slowly opened up our tiny world to include other people, people like Shawn. And in doing this, the love and happiness in our universe just continues to expand. It honestly keeps getting better and better. I reassure myself constantly (because you truly don’t need reminding) that this is what will happen with your new sibling, that the love and joy will just double.
So, I told you that this baby would be the best dream I ever dreamed and that you would remain the best thing to ever happen to your Mama.
And that will always be the truth.