It’s been hard to find the words to express exactly what this year has meant for me and my oldest baby Sophie, the one with the looooooong legs and the fascinating brain and the crazy sense of humour and the incredible compassion for all living creatures, especially her tired, worn-out, crying mama (there’s nothing that brings a girl to her knees like a 5-year old rubbing your back and telling you it’s going to be okay). She’s turning 6 this week and I’m struggling to pinpoint exactly what made this year different from the year before.
She’s in her second year of school, so that’s not new, but how she’s handling herself there is different since she is in the oldest grade (she’s a Senior Kindergartener now) and her teachers tell me she’s all about helping the younger kids, the Junior Kindergarteners, figure out the rules and talking to them when they’re crying for their parents. It’s such an oldest sister thing, such a me thing, to be a mother hen, that my heart at once is so proud and aches that her childhood is slipping away in the service of others. You give a bit of yourself away every time you reach out to someone, and it’s not a bad thing, but the fact that she’s starting so early makes me worry about whether or not she’ll have anything left for her when she gets older. It took me forever to find that balance – I hope her path is full of as much compassion for herself as it is for others.
She’s still a diva, a fashionista in training, who staunchly believes still that ‘flat pants’, or leggings, the pants that sit flat against her legs, are the only ones that make her look beautiful. She’s stunning. There is nothing that girl can’t put on with her hair and her ridiculous blue eyes and her tiny nose that doesn’t look pretty, but you can’t reason with her. Sophie is only pretty when she’s got her flat pants on. And if she can’t wear those, the tears and gnashing of teeth and stream of self-loathing that follows is irrational, heartbreaking and frustrating as all hell. There are only so many times you can say, “You are gorgeous no matter what you wear.” before it turns into you yelling, “You’re wearing the ugly jeans so just get dressed already!”
She’s trying so damn hard to recognize letters and print like a pro and read a book unaided. She’s not there yet, but this year the Valentine’s took waaay less time to print and the word recognition is coming faster and more furious, and the pages of her printed letters and numbers have littered our house to the point where I toss them out because there are SO MANY. She’s always bringing home a book she’s made, or showing me that she sees her name or wants to know if the random letters she’s printed say anything. She’s trying SO HARD. I can’t wait for the penny to drop for her, not only because things will get read a lot faster, but also the pride she feels in the tiny steps she’s been taking will turn into a full-blown mind explosion of excitement. I can’t wait.
She’s thoughtful. SO thoughtful. And not just in kindness, but in thinking through everything you say and connecting it to other stuff that has been said or that she’s seen. We’ve been watching Full House on Netflix as a family. Sophie is by far the most interested in it. We were listening to the radio the other day and the radio host was talking about how they have guest DJ’s every week. Sophie immediately stopped colouring and looked at me. “Did he just say D.J.? Like Full House?” And thus began a 10-minute conversation about the difference between Full-House DJ and a radio DJ. Tricky stuff.
But again, none of these things are glaringly new or crazy insane. We’ve had a relatively quiet year here with Sophie. She’s gone to school, made new friends, is often at our neighbour’s house to play with another girl her age, and generally we just manage her fashion meltdowns and lippy-ness (her wit and smarts get her into trouble more often than not). And the more I think about it, about the year that was for her and me and us, I kind of feel like I cheated her. I’m so focused on Lillian and the war that we are waging right now and getting her ready for school and I am trying to keep Isaac from killing himself since we’ve firmly landed in the climb-everything-and-conquer-it stage, that I’m really not handling Sophie much at all. Really, the only things that Sophie and I do together are get up, read, get dropped off at school, get picked up from school, and then negotiate our way to dinner and then bedtime. It’s so…removed and hands-off. I don’t worry about her going pee or poop everywhere anymore. Generally when she climbs things it has zero impact (unless it’s a fire hydrant…then a nice, blood-spouting hole appears in her chin). And her temper tantrums are usually dramatic friendship woes (that are normally fabricated by her) or rages against the disgusting pants that flair on the way down and don’t hug her legs.
I was told when I had her, 6 years ago, that the time will fly quickly. That one day she won’t need me as much and I’ll miss the time when she does. And in truth, I can’t believe it’s been 6 years. I can’t believe she’ll be 6. But, I’m so busy being needed by Lillian and Isaac that I’ve missed missing her needing me as much. It makes me want to grab her and really relish in her independence and her sauciness and her laughter and her crazy thinking. And it makes me worry that maybe I’ve failed her. Maybe in not being there for her, even if she doesn’t need me, I’m making her feel unloved or like she’s drifting away from us.
But then yesterday she curled up with me to watch DJ hang out with Kimmy Gibler, and I loved the feel of her weight and warmth and her hand and arm crooked through mine. And today, when we walked across the parking lot of a doctor’s office, she grabbed for my hand without me even asking, just as I was debating whether or not I should ask her since we’ve been walking independently across streets on the way to school now for months.
And then, just like that, all is right in the world again.
To my eldest, my tallest (for now), my sauciest – happy happy birthday, my love. 🙂 I’m excited to see what this year brings us and how far you’ll go, even if it is further away from me.