Eight!

RR is eight. You guys, it’s so much fun to see the delight passing to horror passing to acceptance on the faces of our work acquaintances who realize that oh my god we’ve known these people and their baby since she was in utero and it was that long ago?! Followed by (I suspect) how am I that old/how has almost a decade gone by/why are you (or I) still here? I don’t feel overwhelmed myself, just happy she’s still the delightful little person she always has been (Wolverine-ing aside) and that we’re all still coming out on the good side of life.

I don’t often think of eight in years. Sometimes it’s milestones like number of teeth lost, inches grown, clothing sizes (you guys, we’ve finally left 4T shorts behind. miracles), stuffed animals acquired, or shoes outgrown. Sometimes I think of it in terms of child development expectations: on-grade skills in reading and math, check. Increasing self-awareness and social skills, check. Behavior ups and downs, check.  I’m not proud of this, but eight sometimes is calculated in why nots: Why can’t she ride a bike? Why doesn’t she talk about friends more often? Why does she insist on liking My Little Pony? Why doesn’t she complain about playing alone? Why doesn’t she tell us about her day? Why can’t she swim faster? Why isn’t she a genius at something?

Most often I think of eight in terms of accomplishments. When I do, I’m amazed at how wonderful, smart, charming, cheerful, and strong she is. She’s an artist with skills well beyond her years. She speaks with adults with growing confidence and finesse. Her cursive writing is lovely. She reads stacks of chapter books and has preferences about what she likes (adventure) and what she doesn’t (“boring family stuff”). She writes and illustrates her own chapter books and graphic novels. She tells jokes (and remembers the punchlines). She has mastered gliding on her scooter (I never thought it would happen). She can swim (I never thought that would happen either). I finally witnessed her roll over which I say in jest but, if you’ve been following along, you know that it’s a developmental baby holdover that exemplifies RR’s nonchalant approach to growing up. Her teachers think she’s wonderful and her school is helping her grow to be independent and considerate, a gardener and nature conservator, empathetic and inventive, a herbalist and animal care-taker. I value those things far more than being a genius at something.

Eight will bring 3rd grade, a bigger backpack to hold all those books, more adventures, and a bike ride come hell or high water. Eight is also going to pack in a heap of delightful surprises, I’m sure of it. Onward.IMG_6473

 

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If I Grow Up

Last night, RR turned to me and said “If I grow up to be a chef, I will definitely not cook [things in squid ink].” I was charmed by her turn of phrase – if I grow up to be rather than when I grow up I’ll be. Really, this statement captures everything about her.

If I grow up to be. As if it’s pre-ordained. Or as if it could be anything, independent of her wishes or choices. Perhaps personhood will be bestowed on her at some point and she will become a fully-realized someone overnight. It’s a lottery, this growing up business.

I come from a when I grow up I’ll be world. I assure you that I sprang from the womb planning the next five steps to the current goal. So I think it’s curious that at almost eight she still hasn’t offered a when perspective, only an if. Perhaps this is why bike riding (and potty training previously) doesn’t inspire her. She expects that one day she’ll wake up and be able to ride, or not.

Judging by the way she handled speaking, walking, reading, and nearly everything else, she’s probably right.

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Welcome Fairies

RR loves a fairy. I suppose it’s only fair here to note that I still believe in fairies because life is magical and just because I haven’t seen them doesn’t mean they aren’t out there somewhere. That’s fine. You can still like me for my other qualities. Don’t let fairies come between us. Camp is teaching RR lots of things, things I wish they hadn’t, things I wish I’d thought to teach her first, and things I’m hope to hope Montessori knocks clean out of her.

Fairies though, that’s fine. And so when she came home from what must have been a particularly delightful art session (only so noted because it’s the only thing she’s ever talked about enjoying. once.), and said that all you have to do to get a fairy to move in is:
make a fairy a welcome mat
close your eyes
cross your fingers
say “I wish a fairy lived here” three timesI sincerely hope that such a pattern can’t be used on all magical things because I sort of superstitiously quiver to think you can just invite…things… in. Again, we can still be friends, you and I, even though I am admittedly a bit to the left of just-like-you.

And so RR rushed to make a welcome mat, and I’d like to say for the record that it was my wife who indulged her in this endeavor, did the requisite crossing and muttering, and dictated a note just to be perfectly clear to future fairy residents that they were quite welcome.

And so I drew her a tiny door. Because wouldn’t you?

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She was over-the-moon delighted. Since she hadn’t seen the fairy she commented that it must be coming at night and, since it was on the wall adjacent to the yard, it must be a Nocturnal Mushroom Fairy. No artistic rendering of the fairy is available at this time. And wouldn’t you know, a giant toadstool grew out of the yard not too many days after, just across from the tiny door where the tiny Nocturnal Mushroom Fairy comes and goes. I’ll let you imagine just what happened when RR saw that.

 

 

Sneaking Out

Dear Sophie’s Mom,

I understand Sophie will be picking RR up at around 11pm to go on a Secret Mission. I’m sure little Sophie will be adorable in her tiny pedal car. I’ll be sure to pack some sort of Secret Mission snack. I believe the girls will be driving about three hours and RR will be sleeping in a trailer in the back while Sophie drives. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I wonder if you might send Sophie with a tarp to cover RR since it hasn’t stopped raining all day. Also, the directions to our home have been inscribed in RR’s Tiny Book of Secrets and so I’m not sure if Sophie will be able to find us before daybreak. I’ve included it here, just in case it helps.

From one mom to another, I’m sure you had a good chuckle when your daughter announced that she was going to sleep at 7pm, in her clothes, so that she was “ready to sneak out at night for the Secret Mission.” Adorable, wasn’t it? Oh and I’d almost forgotten, since the girls are sneaking out and driving three hours to see Tyler, that scamp from Cabin 4, would you remind them no smoking, no drinking, and no sex for the next decade at least? Thank you so much. I’m sure Sophie will see RR waiting for her on the curb. At night. In the dark. To sleep in a trailer. For the Secret Mission. Please send the tarp.

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The real question – had Debra and I not faked a call from The Real Sophie’s Mom, would our daughter have crept out in the night to the street? I was willing to bet on her sleeping too soundly or being too nervous to try but Debra faded to a remarkable shade of pale pea green at the mere thought.

I admit to a teensy tiny worry though, as I hear her in her bedroom, an hour after I left the room, singing and chatting animatedly and shuffling around making noises that some might say sound very Secret Missiony indeed. Send a tarp.

 

The Mysteries of Camp

We got through five days of camp with not a single tear and only one teensy accident. We even got to hear about the sorts of things she likes. She likes something about camp.

Lots of things, actually. She liked tie-dying a t-shirt. She liked pizza sticks. She liked a purple bandana, swimming in the pool, and her friend Kate. She did not care for the ponies, or the loud singing on the bus, or raising the flag, or playing ball, or her almost-but-not-quite-beacuse-she’s-mean friend Natalie. I can’t believe we’ve heard anything at all about camp, actually, given her tendency to cold-war-era communication.

It’s weird, isn’t it? The things other people get up to when they’re away. Especially when it’s a person who has spent the majority of her life an open book. Physically, at least. Invitations into RR’s thoughts come few and far between. My grandmother would say she keeps her own counsel. And indeed, it’s true. Occasionally she favors us with answers when we inquire how her day was. Like at Friday supper:

Debra: Did you sit with your friend on the bus today?
RR: Yep.
Debra: Well, what did you guys talk about?
RR: This mosquito bite I got.
Debra: Oh? You have a bite?
RR: Well it’s not a mosquito bite. It’s a sting. I got stung by a bee. Here on my arm.
Debra: You were stung? When did that happen?
RR: During Chill-Out time*. It came along and (sound-effect enabled bee flying noises) bit me there on my arm (brandishing her armpit and flailing her piece of pizza in the general direction of her upper arm). And then I got white stuff on it. Well, I had to go to the office. And then they helped it.
Debra: You got stung by a bee? Didn’t it hurt? RR: Well, I cried a little bit. So just a little bit of tears.
Debra: Wow. Huh. So does it feel okay now?
RR: (fills mouth with pizza, engages in no further discussion)

It’s weird, this idea that my child had her very first bee sting out of sight and it was so uneventful that she didn’t think to mention it until she’d been home several hours. My first bee sting was monumental (age 6, in a sandbox, clapped it in between my palms). It seems an important milestone, albeit not one that makes the first tooth-first words-first steps continuum. It was a glimpse of what’s coming. A whole life of unvoiced experiences that will be unknowable for us.

Soon we’ll be passing into grade school where, I imagine, they won’t call us every time she bumps her head. I’ll know less about her but she’ll have more to keep for herself. Think of all the secrets she’ll hold. Not deliberately withheld but resting like unique seashells scattered on a hard-to-reach beach. Exciting isn’t it?

 

Nicknames

Yesterday, my daughter skidded her scooter to a stop next to me and said, “Mama, I gave myself a nickname.” I, of course because that is the best, said, “Oh? What is it?”

“I call myself RR the Explorer!” she announced. If she could have leaned on some reverb, I assure you she would have.

I melted then. I want this small person to be curious and a discoverer and investigate, but all too often it seems that she takes the status quo and settles comfortably into it.

There’s a dinosaur in the dining room, you say? Please give it some breakfast, too.
Hmmm. For some reason my room is blue instead of yellow. Well, that’ll do. Or even,
I’m really unhappy with the choices you gave me but since those are the choices, oh well.

When she was small she used to yell at us  THOSE ARE NOT MY CHOICES! but apparently we’ve either learned to offer the correct choices or she’s becoming complacent. In fact, at mealtimes when offered any sort of choice, she usually says “surprise me!” It’s sometimes exasperating to constantly watch her opt out of making a decision but I console myself with the fact that she accepts whatever you give her so at least she’s not picky about her surprises. This nickname though, it’s an excellent development.

Also, can I add that my daughter was riding a scooter? Because, you guys, that child can do a cartwheel off of a balance beam but she can’t ride anything with wheels. God forbid you ask her to pedal. It’s like you’ve asked her to put each of her markers into the fire one by one. A scooter! We’ve reached the big time!

And Now We Are Six

YOU GUYS.

She is turning six tomorrow.

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Also, you know how you think, oh, I wonder what she will look like when she’s older? Pretty much exactly like this. So I’m still wondering what she’ll look like at 15, 20, 50 but I’m thinking much of that little person is here to stay.

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But now, she does this:

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And this:

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And this:

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In fact, she mostly does that.

So six it is. There are a few things I thought she’d be doing at six that she still isn’t (riding a bike, asking where babies come from) but lots of things that I never really internalized would happen someday (making up jokes, reading, actually reading, asking about death and dying). She’s nervous about first grade, she bites her nails, her best friend is Meemo, the bunny she has slept with her whole life, she wants a scooter and a light up mermaid for the bath for her birthday (check and check), she can flip over the bar in gymnastics and do cartwheels, she is as kind as she is beautiful.

Debra and I still get frustrated that she has accidents and that we can’t save her from them. We hope she will grow out of it. This year will be hard. She will probably lose some of her pets and her grandfather. She will have a new school, friends, and teachers. She will encounter big girl expectations and consequences. She will find she can’t always bat her eyelashes to get out of them. She will face the pedals on a  bike and overcome them.

But she will also make it through a whole week and realize she hasn’t had an accident (please let this be true) and she will find that her remarkable empathy, coping skills, and deep personal relationships with adults and children will hold her up when I’m too mired in grief to truly help her. She will swim to the other side of the pool and laugh in triumph as she bobs in the water. She will read a whole book to herself in her room and open a secret world neither Debra nor I are privy to. She will find independence she didn’t know she had and successfully push for more. She will relish six, fully and completely. She will bask in its opportunity.

So happy birthday, baby. Welcome to a new world.