I feel like I have said this before, but this has been a big year for you.
Two months to the day after your 8th birthday, your little brother was born. You were the first person who got to know if your new sibling was a girl or a boy. You not-so-secretly were wishing for a sister, and when Shawn leaned down to whisper in your ear, your entire face fell and your shoulders slumped perceptively, giving away the baby’s gender without saying a word.
But you then walked over to peek at the new bundle snuggled against my chest and as soon as your eyes met his, it was almost as if I could actually see your doubts and disappointment disappear in an abundance of love and adoration. You immediately made us promise we wouldn’t mention your preference for a sister again, because you didn’t want to hurt your brother’s feelings.
I feel a little guilty starting your birthday letter with an anecdote about your brother but if I’m being honest, that’s how a lot of this last year has been. There has been so much energy and focus siphoned into your brother, with our days revolving around his schedule and needs. I often travel through my days in a sleep deprived haze and I know you aren’t getting the very best version of me- I want to apologize to you a thousand times for this. Maybe its been character building? I'm going to go with that. I am so proud of your seemingly easy transition into the role of big sister. You have handled all these changes with a poise and compassion that feels far beyond your years. Most days, you are eager to help and often change diapers and prepare bottles. You seek out your brother immediately as soon as you get home from school and are proud to show him off to everyone you know. At school events and birthday parties, it feels like you are auditioning him to be the official mascot of the third grade. Watching you blossom within this new family structure and seeing the relationship between you and Everett grow has been an unbelievable gift to me. Thank you for that.
You also started a new school this year, I worried about taking you away from the safety and security of the school you had been at since kindergarten, but as it has been with most things, I shouldn’t have worried so much about you. You navigated the beginning of the school year with not even a single hiccup and we all enjoy how much closer we are to your school and being able to get involved with your school community. You had your first “school” birthday party this year and we marveled at what a lovely group of polite kids showed up (even at a wild trampoline park!). You struggle with organization (you got my genes on that one, kiddo) but still excel in school. The third grade recently put on a wax museum and it might have been my favorite school event yet. You had a hard time choosing between portraying Abraham Lincoln or Serena Williams but eventually settled on Serena because you figured that you looked most like her- since you both have curly hair and own tennis rackets.
You’ve gotten infinitely cooler and continue to curate a set of interests totally separate from mine. You love to watch cooking shows and have started to add your own educated commentary on each contestant’s strategy. And although you’re always ready for a dance party in the comfort of our kitchen, car dancing requires a lot more cajoling (in case anyone catches a glimpse of our sweet moves). You embarrass much more easily which is low-key one of my favorite things (probably because it reminds me of my own experiences growing up- teasing is our official family language of love, I think.) And you no longer default to finding Shawn and I automatically hilarious- we’re not always the coolest people in the room which is surprisingly bittersweet. You’ve started to discover musical theater and absolutely love Hamilton which warms my heart and reminds me so much of my own childhood hours singing along to songs I really didn’t understand, being transported by the music and magic of it all.
I feel like I’m watching you change before my eyes. You’re entering into the part of childhood that’s just in between, not so little anymore but still not a dreaded teenager…the last single digit year. I’m not even sure how it’s possible. You hate when I dance in public, but still want to snuggle with me on the couch. If I let you, you would follow me around the house constantly and some of my favorite moments are when I give in to your pleas and crawl into your bed and giggle with you at the end of a long day. You still ask me for hugs and hold my hand in public. I am constantly trying to remind myself to cherish this sweet time because I am going to blink and just like that, it will be over.
You have always felt emotions in a big, bold way and that hasn’t changed. It has instead become amplified in ways that are both impressive and challenging as your experiences in the world have become more complex. I worry that I’m not doing the best job of helping you figure it all out, but I’m trying my hardest.
You are immeasurably kind. When children are really little, kindness feels like sort of a default setting. They have no understanding that the world is anything other than unicorns and rainbows and ice cream. But as you grow older, I am realizing that you somehow manage to make kindness a priority, that it is an integral part of who you are. You choose to sit with a new student at lunch so she’s not sitting alone. You choose to hide a sweet note for me to find in the fridge. I can’t take full credit for this part of your character, but I certainly admire it.
The bigger you get, the more I am filled with this overwhelming and somewhat suffocating desire to protect you. I want to hold fast to every little bit of your innocence for as long as possible. I’ve got the giving you roots part of parenting down— but the whole idea of also giving you wings terrifies me.
Someone recently pointed out to me that we’re entering “the second half”. In another nine years, you will be (in some respects) an adult. The first nine years were about keeping you alive & generally happy. The next nine will be spent helping you figure out how to live— and probably making you mad. I hope you always want to dissect every moment of your day with me and that you remember you can talk to me about anything, no matter how uncomfortable or strange. You are going to make mistakes but…so am I. And they will probably be bigger than all of the ones I’ve already made so far (like when you spent an undetermined amount of time this year topping your breakfast cereal with sprinkles without me even noticing).
As your universe expands and you begin to assert your independence- please remember that you will always be the center of mine.
I continue to be endlessly proud of you— and you will always be the very best thing to happen to your Mama.