Before you, I thought parenting worked like science – laws and equations, inputs and outputs, theories to be proven and disproven with clear, quantifiable results. I may not have used those words. I may not have been aware that I believed this. But my first few years as a mother, and my experience as a daycare teacher, led me to calmly assume that I could manage and mold, if not control, my children.
Your sister, who’s always been predictable, logical and mostly straightforward, strengthened this approach. I had Opinions. I took Positions on the Issues.
Then you came.
You came in a swirl of colour and emotion and self determination. You knocked us out of our neat, manageable orbit. You made us laugh. You made us cry in frustration. You made us see things differently and pay attention to what matters most.
You still do.
For the first 8 months you refused to sleep in a crib, ever, peacefully slumbering the nights away in your car seat. As a preschooler you INSISTED on wearing a plastic, gold-foil tiara all day, every day, for more than a year. By school age, you eschewed nightgowns and pjs, sleeping fully clothed, occasionally with your back pack strapped on your back.
You have always danced to your own off-beat tune.
You still do.
I love that about you. There’s so much I love about you. We butt heads a lot. Me parenting you and you being parented by me, is not something that’s ever going to be easy. We’re too much alike in temperament. But I see you, and even when we’re completely at odds I see the great and amazing person you are becoming too.
- You are creative, not only in the art you make, the strange inventions you think up, but lately in the stories you tell (in serial form to eager classmates); the Unhappily Ever After novella you wrote was dark and snarky, but vibrant and descriptive in a way that warms your writer-parents’ hearts.
- You are passionate, feeling all the feelings deeply (and loudly).
- You are sociable – an extrovert in a family of introverts, who genuinely enjoys people and values that interaction above whatever task or activity is happening.
- You are funny, so cleverly, sarcastically, mature-beyond-your-years funny that guarantees we laugh more than most families. Wit is a hallmark of brilliance (that and your newfound appreciation for science fiction – bravo).
- You are beautiful. And I know that you can’t see that most days. Which might be your age, or your desire to be tall and willowy, or this stupid, plastic, air-brushed world we live in – but I hope that every time you look in the mirror you see past all that, and see the beauty that I do. If you can do that, I will promise to stop call you “cute” which I know you hate.
It’s not easy being a middle child. Especially not in a family like ours. But you are strong and spirited and that bold personality refuses to fade to the background. Since I first began coaching your 4-year-old sister NOT to let the baby (you!) push her around, I knew you’d be a force to be reckoned with. From day one you’ve challenged us, and though it can get bumpy and intense, I believe that in the end, it’ll be a good thing, both for you and for us. It’s possible that my personality is just a smidge ‘strong and determined’ too, so I have to take some credit/blame.
The world needs more good, strong women – and you have all the makings of a great one. I’m so glad to be your mom!
And now a word from Dad…
In so many ways, I feel like we’ve learned more about you, and the woman you are becoming, in the past year than in any year that’s come before.
I see it in your artwork, which stuns me with each new piece. You have so much creative talent bottled up inside you, and now that it’s spilling out onto the page (and your bedroom door), I’m absolutely astounded – and so proud. I just can’t wait to see what you will produce as you continue to learn and grow in your skills and passion.
I see it in the Once Upon a Time story you wrote for school which, let’s face it, was really more of a novel. I didn’t know whether to be disturbed by the darkness of your tale or excited by your ability to spin it with a vocabulary that far outstrips your age, but I chose the latter. I know you don’t see yourself as a writer, but in a family of writers, it’s clear that a little something has rubbed off.
I see it in your wicked sense of humor, in the movies you enjoy, the books you read, and the songs you sing. You are a ton of fun to hang out with, which makes it all the more sad when you take off on us for three weeks, like you did this summer for Chicago. And yet, I’m so glad you got to have that amazing experience.
I see it in your dance, where you worked so hard and stuck with a class that you hated, just so you could do the ones that you love. That willingness to persevere and go after what you want will serve you very well.
I see it in your love and patience with B and S: how quick you are to forgive when he unintentionally hurts you, and how you always choose to play with the kids rather than put away the dishes.
And I even see it in your desire to make up your own mind about church. I know that our change has been hard for you to accept, and while we do want Nexus to be a family thing for now, and for you to give it your best shot, I greatly admire you for standing up for what you believe, and really owning it. I will always support you in that, whatever path it leads you down.
I love you C, and I’m proud and grateful to have you in our family. Happy 12th birthday – next year’s a big one!