To my not-so-little-anymore munchkin,
Two-ish weeks ago you turned 7, and I didn’t want to let that pass without a little fanfare. Actually, there was much fanfare, probably too much, as the celebration was stretched out across a few weeks to include all of the little and not so little treats you got from us and others. Somehow this year violated our “less is more” commitment, but it was nice to give you a little “more is more” — and fortunately you seem to have come down from it all with some rationality and humility intact.
For at least the last 4-5 of your 7 years, we have asked that your birthday partygoers bring donations to the animal shelter in lieu of presents. We chose the animal shelter because of your early and deep connection to animals, because your dearest love Maxwell came from said shelter, and because it seemed like a charitable cause that you could connect with and understand. We chose to begin this tradition both to combat the tremendous influx of “stuff” that enters our house during these winter gifting months, and to serve as an example of our family’s desire both to live more simply and to give to others. I have always wondered how long we would be able to maintain this tradition, whether the trips to visit the shelter and bring our goodies would sustain your support, or whether there would come a time where your exposure to other parties with tables full of giftage would make you think about, or feel badly about, what you are missing out on. These last few years, the peer pressure of “having” seems to have really intensified for you (one of the bigger downsides about the elitism in private education?), and I really didn’t know whether you’d still buy into this tradition. And yet it is now you, not us, who drives this wonderful tradition. You have shared with me your excitement about collecting for the animals, and brought it up long before I even dared to ask. You told me how glad you were that you did this, and even shared your own awareness that you had too much “stuff” and didn’t want to get anything from your friends. I can’t tell you how much I admire the spirit of giving that you have embraced as a young child. You also allowed me to feel that we could spare to do a little “more” for you from us this year, and to enjoy giving to someone who was genuinely appreciative.
Daddy and I have both noticed some real maturing in you that has accompanied this path to “7”. The toolset that we have worked so hard to give you seems to be getting some real, independent use. You will always probably experience much of life more deeply than most, taking in what is going on around you more acutely, but you have come such a long way in making that sensitivity work for you. You blow me away with the ways you think about things at such a young age (and I’m not just talking about your ruminations about whether PetSmart really was intended to mean “Pets Mart” or “Pet Smart”), and I hope that you will continue to be able to use your gifts to make such amazing sense of this world. It surely needs it.
You seem to be setting your own limits but taking risks so much more willingly these days. Last week at the waterpark, I found myself remembering the first rather torturous experience in a similar venue, having to hold your hand and “nudge” (translation: drag) you to even set a foot in the shallow waters (this after several years of swimming lessons that we had eventually put on hold because of the toll it took on us all). And this round, you were bounding all over the place, swimming underwater, and hurling yourself down water slides on your own volition. I hope that you know that I have no burning desire for you to be a master swimmer or to specifically master water slides, but I just ached for you when it seemed for so many years that we had to back off of almost every potentially joyful experience because of fear and anxiety (or because of our exhaustion in helping you to overcome said fear and anxiety). Daddy and I just about couldn’t contain ourselves at seeing your immense pride in your own bravery, and watching you experience something as a result which brought you joy.
Things have been on an upswing for you in other areas too. I swear, there is a part of me that thinks that the last crazy tooth that hung on for nearly a year was like an albatross around your neck that, when finally released (translation: forcefully extracted by Mommy), allowed your entire being to relax a little. It has really felt like letting that go allowed you to regain some of your own sense of control, and has resulted in a much happier little girl. The fights, the fits, the fears, the overall sass… they’re not gone, but they seem to have settled into a much more manageable level for us all. You are sharing with us much more willingly, you are willingly giving and receiving kindness and love (even the occasional voluntary hug or snuggle!), you’re not a ticking time-bomb when I pick you up from school, and you are even beginning to respond to requests to pick up your tornadic messes without us feeling that we might be battered as a result… 🙂
I know that a part of this transition has been our willingness to take a step back, to recognize that every minute of your life no longer belongs solely to us as your parents, and to give you some of the space and privacy that you are beginning to need. The ironic lesson that this has allowed you to open up and be willing to share more with us is not lost on me, and I’m hoping that I can continue to remember that into your teenage years.
In the meanwhile, I will wax nostalgic about the 7 years that have passed so unbelievably quickly, and look optimistically forward to the years I have yet to spend with you. Happy Belated Birthday!