Tag Archives: growing up

He’s big. He’s bad. He’s Four.

We told ourselves that the first year would be the hardest, that life would find normal after that. The next year, we told ourselves that, really, adopting and adjusting must require at least two years. It’s year three and he’s never stopped rocking our world.

But we wouldn’t get off this ride, not even if it meant uninterrupted sleep and endless free time, because life with the boy is worth it.
Happy 4th Birthday my son!

You crouch low, stomping bare feet on the grass.

“I’m big. I’m bad. I’m big. I’m bad.”

Then you blow my house down. I scream. You clap your hands, shrieking with laughter.

I remind your wandering feet that we don’t go into the road. Not even big, bad wolves. You spin a tale of wolves growing wings and flying over the road. Big hand gestures. A grin that could swallow the whole world.

I’m pretty sure one day it will. You’re irresistible!

Not many can understand your chatter, but it’s coming. You work so hard with Cathy, the speech therapist we have to sneak into the house. She has to work with your sister first, because once you catch sight of her, you won’t rest until she gives you her undivided attention. You understand more than anyone imagined. You are delayed in some ways, but outstrip much older children in many areas.

You’re so smart! I’m one of the privileged few that gets to see just how bright and creative you are. I was amazed when you started naming all the letters you saw last fall. Sure, we’d read alphabet books and you liked to watch that phonics video with your sister, but we’d never taken the time to intentionally teach you these things. You just picked it up. Pretty soon you were naming all the letters, both upper and lower case – and the sounds they make. Pointing them out on signs and in books, shuffling through flashcards and playing alphabet games – little else can hold your attention like the letters.

Except maybe trains. And volcanoes. You’re obsessed with volcanoes.

You started preschool this year, and you LOVE it! You’ve done so well, enjoying the general busyness, the interaction with other kids, the outdoor play, and the hugs and attention from Miss Kathleen, Miss Christine… and your very own teacher/helper (Miss Christy). They’ve noticed how sweet and intelligent you are too.

This year, we saw beyond your struggles to your strengths. We don’t know what the future will bring; we’ve been warned that you will need extra help to learn. You need help with safe behaviour, social cues and sensory modulation. But you are resilient and good natured and you keep surprising us. No tiny preconceived box can hold you.

You have a relentless determination when it comes to overcoming obstacles. Unfortunately for us, these obstacles are often there for a reason – like the deadbolt on the front door. One of the scariest moments in my life was seeing that door hanging open and you nowhere in sight (we found you three doors down laying in the road with a friendly cat). Then it happened again. And again. The latches on the back gate. The child lock on the medicine cabinet. The time you found an unlatched door on the school, then locked yourself in (and daddy out).

I hope you survive your childhood. I hope we do. It’s exhausting, and scary sometimes, because I love you so much and want your life to be safe and easy (and sometimes just a little quieter). But you are not built for safe and easy. You’re meant to be extraordinary! Not to mention fun, rambunctious, silly, happy, imaginative, affectionate, sweet and full of love, love, love!

Bringing you home, to our family, is one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

Happy Birthday buddy!

Love always, Mom

 

And now… a word from Daddy.

Shortly after you came home forever, we celebrated your 2nd birthday. At the time, I was a little overwhelmed by how crazy you were. I had never experienced such energy combined with such little regard for personal safety and reasonable limits.

Of course, it’s perfectly normal for a toddler to get into all sorts of trouble. So I told myself, if we could just survive till you were 4, things would surely calm down.

Well, here we are on your 4th birthday, and unless you’ve radically changed since last night, all I can do is laugh. If anything, our crazy dial has been turned up another six notches. But, our capacity for crazy has likewise expanded.

I now realize that you have a zest for life that cannot, will not and should not be denied. Yes, it needs to be checked by common sense and a concern for those around you. And yes, I very much look forward to the day when we can go out in public and your mom and I can just relax, without one of us having to constantly follow in your footsteps to make sure you don’t do any damage. That will be nice.

But this is who you are: a boy filled with wonder, a thirst for adventure, a need to move, and a desire to experience everything your world has to offer. And you do it all with an irresistible grin that makes it impossible to stay frustrated with you for long – even when I want to!

Lately, you’ve taken to stomping around the house, whispering to yourself, “I’m big. I’m bad. I’m big. I’m bad. I’m big. I’m bad!” I believe you lifted that from the Wonder Pets.

It couldn’t be more fitting. You’re big. You’re bad. You’re tons of fun. And you are loved. I’m so glad you’re part of my family, Mr. Goob! Happy 4th birthday!

Love, Daddy


Once Upon a Marriage

This feels deeply personal, and a little strange to post. But I’ve enjoyed reading and learning from the other letters in Amber Haines’ Marriage Letters link-up. So, I’m jumping in with a letter on this month’s topic: Once Upon a Time.

Dear Glen,

Remember once upon a time, when we lived to be together? Starry eyed teenagers… with a smug certainty of our own importance and bright future… with a mix-tape blasting cheesy love songs through the speakers of your Volkswagon Rabbit… with plans growing, morphing and changing in all aspects except one – we’d be together.

We weren’t wrong about that.

I got to know a lovely young woman in my last writing class. She’s 19, the same age I was when I chased our happily-ever-after down the church aisle in my white dress. She’s in love with Mr. Wonderful and they’re making plans. She assured me that their happy ending wouldn’t dare start until they had finished school, established careers, built a nest egg, and put a down payment on a reasonably-priced nest in a good neighbourhood.

The Sensible Mom in me was pleased. The Romantic Teenager in me sighed.

It wasn’t easy, getting married as young as we were. But we were too stupid naïve, too thrilled with our new-found freedom and togetherness to care. Remember the hideous second-hand couch we were so excited to receive? It was SO uncomfortable! But we threw a green sheet over it and decided we were really grown ups now. At our age uncomfortable seating didn’t seem like such a big deal. Besides, it was just temporary. Eventually life would get easier, better, more secure.

Somewhere along the way we stopped scrambling for every penny. We added meat and the good toilet paper to our grocery list each week. Acting like grown ups stopped feeling like a thrill. We faced losses and victories, created homes and packed them into boxes, had children and buried children, changed jobs and sizes and styles and beliefs. We bought ourselves a huge brown sectional, big enough for a family of 6 to stretch out and watch American Idol together.

It is SO comfortable!

And crowded.

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All along, we’ve expected things to get easier, better, and more secure. Someday.

I don’t think it ever has. The things we planned on – careers, moving away, having children… are harder than we ever expected. The things we hadn’t planned on – grief, changing goals and ideals, special needs… are more than we could have anticipated or prepared for. In many ways, those early years were the simplest ones.

The only thing we got right was that we’d be doing it all together. And even that isn’t as easy as we expected.

So I told my young classmate that. That I didn’t regret our years of eating ketchup sauce on noodles and going to the library as a “date.” That there’s no way to skip ahead, past the hard stuff. That as much as I’d like my own kids to take an easier road, I’m not sure it’s the best road. Or that it even exists.

She laughed at my jokes and nodded her head at my advice. But she didn’t really understand. Of course not. No one does. Not until they live it.

Growing up is hard. It’s been 22 years since you held my hand in the halls of our High School. We’re not the people we were then. In some ways we’ve grown together, in others we’ve grown apart.

Most days we feel old, and tired, and a little bit overwhelmed. This life stage is tough. I want to believe that it’s going to get easier, better, and more secure. I want to believe that we’ll be finished growing up and have life all figured out eventually. But I doubt it.

Maybe the only realistic goal is that we’ll face it together.

After all we’ve been through… that’s good enough for me.

Loving you more than ever,
Christie

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So here’s us.


Nine Years Old

5504996471Dear 9-Year-Old,

I’ve always railed against my children growing older. But none more than you. You may be a big sister and a school kid and a joke-teller and a rider of three-wheeled bikes… but you are still my baby.

You’ve gotten so tall lately. Objectively, I know that’s not true, since you aren’t even on the growth chart for your age and only hit 5th percentile on the Down Syndrome version. But each night when you climb into my lap and we sing our made-just-for-you-that-moment lullaby, you are all lanky arms and legs. When you dance with arms akimbo, they seem to stretch so far and so wide. When you “stir” the salad for dinner, you don’t even need a stool anymore. You are still my baby, but you are getting big.

Not just physically either. You are becoming more independent. You like to play on your own in your room, then tell us the story about your latest pretend, or that dream you had last night. You occasionally tidy up without being asked. You prefer to read at school with your teachers and bask in the familiar routine of listening to Mommy at home, but you’ve begun to interject a word here and there when we read Caps For Sale and Dr. Suess. When we can bribe you to read a book on your own, it is always a masterpiece in my ears – especially your silly favourite, No, David, where each page brings a new gale of uproarious laughter.

You are someone who loves to laugh. What your jokes may lack in intelligibility you more than make up for in sheer enthusiasm. I may not understand every word of the build up, but when you shout “MEATBALL!” then crumple into a fit of giggles… I can’t help but join in.

You are a gentle soul, the first of my children to pet me when I’m sick and reassure me when I’m sad. No matter how spitting mad you might get (literally spitting over and over again), it doesn’t occur to you to hurt someone. You are sensitive and have a great capacity for kindness. You are the cheerleader of the entire world – you say “Good job!” to everyone: the lady who waited on our table, the man painting the walls at school, your sister for opening the door… every classmate for every accomplishment. You offer applause at every turn. We clap a lot at our house.

In a world of pretenders, you live without masks or defenses. This isn’t always socially acceptable, but it’s often refreshing. We don’t wonder how you feel or what you want.

You are easy to love. Not always easy to parent, with your iron will and refusal to be rushed through life. But effortlessly and entirely loveable!

I don’t care if you are nine-year-old or ninety, you are still my baby.

I love you!

Happy Birthday!

Mom

And now, from Daddy…

Dear B,

How can my baby girl be 9 already? It hardly seems possible. And yet I can hardly deny it. Wherever I look, I see signs that you are growing up.

This was a year when some things that you’ve been working very hard on for a very long time really started to snap into place for you. You’re a stubborn little girl, and that comes with some challenges to be sure, but it also comes with a tenacious drive to accomplish whatever you set your mind to.

We were so excited when you brought a book home from school and read it to us for the very first time. Your favourite teacher, “Ms. Smelling” spent time with you every day at school, helping you learn how to read. We were amazed at how quickly you learned, and the proud beam on your face as you read to us showed that you knew just how big an accomplishment it was.

And then there’s potty training. We’ve been working on that for six years, and sometimes it seems like it’s never going to end! But this summer, you made up your mind: this is going to happen! We’re not done yet, but we can see that day coming… and when it comes, boy are we going to celebrate!

And that’s what’s wonderful about being your daddy. You celebrate harder than anyone I know, putting your whole body into it: singing, dancing, laughing, jumping. You are absolutely infectious; the grumpiest person in the world can’t help but smile when you’re excited. And you make your daddy so proud when you belt out Airborne songs at the top of your lungs as we drive around in the blue van!

I think Ms. Smelling said it best. She wrote a paper about you, and she expressed how we all feel about B:

“You have been and will continue to be a source of joy, humour, inspiration, and learning. You have been the greatest gift and teacher I have ever known; unknowingly you have led me to a greater understanding of what is truly important in life.”

There’s nothing more important in my life than being your daddy. I love you Becca. Happy birthday!

Love,
Daddy


Ugly is a Matter of Perspective

The downside to 11-year-old slumber parties is clear – a very big mess, very little sleep and the very real danger of permanent hearing damage. If you have not experienced the extraordinary pitch and volume of excited pre-teen babble… well then, I’m happy for you.

On the upside, it’s a fascinating peek into the mind of children-becoming-women. I mostly hung out in the background at my daughter’s first sleepover party, as per her strict instructions. And if I happened to lurk in the hallway listening from time to time, who’s to know? After all, it is my house.

It’s a lot like I remember. A lot more OMG and iPod usage than I’d like, but the silliness and the shrieking and the inhuman levels of energy ring a bell. The enthusiasm of childhood intersecting with the concerns of growing up.

The birthday girl wanted a “fancy dinner,” so she and all her guests dressed up, then big sister played waitress and Mom played chef and somehow everyone got fed. There were candles and flowers and the good china and the good white tablecloth. It’s possible that more food ended up in the “wine” glasses than in their stomachs, but they weren’t complaining.

After cheesy party games, presents, a movie, pranking poor big sister and several hours of whispering (until Mean Mom made an appearance at 2:30 am), they managed to get a few hours of REM in.

Enough, apparently, that the next morning they found a few minutes to wax philosophical. They even asked me to weigh in on the conversation. I think the question had originally been asked in jest, but the discussion seemed pretty serious for pajama clad partiers.

If you had to choose,
one or the other for the rest of your life,
would you rather be pretty or smart?

On the surface, it’s a simple conversation starter. Like, what kind of superpower would you choose? Or where would you go if you could go anywhere in the world? Fluffy and unimportant. But in this day and age, for a group of young women just discovering who they are, it’s a serious question.

What’s most important to you? Who do you want to be? Why?

Of course, this is a rhetorical argument – we don’t have to choose, though it may seem like it sometimes (but that’s a blog for another day). And on some level, our physical appearance and natural intelligence is not within our control. We are who we are. Accepting that is the first step to contentment. Still, we can nurture and enhance both our mind and our look. With limited resources, we tend to focus more on one or the other.

Our priorities and values, especially as women, can be largely determined by our devotion to either appearance or substance. It affects how we see ourselves and others. It affects our goals and our dreams and our sense of purpose. It affects how we spend our time and our money and our lives.

I gave the girls the “Mom Answer” they expected. Of course, I’d rather be smart. That’s what I was supposed to say.

Afterwards I wondered… is it really true? I mean, I definitely want to be pretty. I’d love to have movie-star good looks and wear size 2 and fend off drooling hoards of admirers. Who wouldn’t?

But would I trade the power of my mind, the things I know and have experienced, my connection with God, my common sense, and my hard-won slivers of wisdom for that? Even just a little bit?

Never. Not for all the pretty in the world. I wouldn’t lessen myself that way.

Yet, women do that all the time. We live in a world that tells girls, in thousands of different ways, that their value lies in how they look and what they weigh and how well they can attract a man. Sometimes we even slap a “feminist” label on it and call that power. But real power isn’t being noticed or shaking your ass – real power is being confident, unique and strong in a way that is MORE than skin deep. The world doesn’t need more pretty women, it needs more smart ones.

Without time to prepare, I didn’t offer the eloquent, inspiring comments I would’ve liked. I said something about looks being temporary. That I need intelligence to understand and enjoy the world. That I want to do something good and important and make the world a better place, not just decorate it.

One little girl looked at me, then said, quite sadly,

“But then you’d be ugly.”

There was a pause then, before other conversations intruded and crepes wanted flipping and sleeping bags needed folding and the party carried on.

I carried that sad comment with me all day. And I wondered about the nature of ugly, about the world we live in and the world we’re making.

If a girl chooses smart. If she chooses substance. Could that, ever, be ugly?

So here’s my answer girls: don’t pick pretty. Pick smart. Even better, pick kind or brave or outstanding. Because there’s nothing uglier than a pretty face with nothing behind it.


What is this “Teenager” You Speak Of?

It’s a made up thing. Adolescence. Teenage-hood.

It’s a modern phenomenon. In other times and places, there is no unique life-stage between childhood and adult responsibility.

But here and now, we put a lot of emphasis on it. We paint pictures of wild rebellion and terrible angst and exhilarating adventures. A lot of things happen during the teenage years. A lot of things change. It seems like a really big deal.

Today you are 13. Today you are a teenager. And it kind of is a big deal.

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Ideally, you will gain independence as you gain the ability to handle it over the next few years. You will begin to see us, your parents, not as your foundation, but your support. The picture of who you are and who you want to be, something we have carefully nurtured for many years, will guide your decisions – and not the tide of conformity, with its pseudo-wisdom and sexy marketing. Your beliefs will become your own – God, relationships, values, priorities… It’s your life, not ours. We’re just here to point the way and cheer you on.

I see all this happening already. The woman you will be is taking shape. And she’s cool. I really like her. What’s even better, I respect her.

At your very core, you are kind, patient and gentle. Your littlest siblings think of you as another parent. We try not to expect too much of you, but you jump in to help out without being asked. You can coax a smile and occasionally co-operation out of them, far better than we can.

You are responsible, disciplined and a hard worker. When we realized that Dance Camp was too expensive for our budget, you didn’t whine or feel sorry for yourself, though many would have… you got yourself a paper route, and paid for it yourself. We don’t even have to keep track of the funds, because you are so diligent in making sure you pay us back for exactly the right amount.

Although you are by nature a quiet person and an introvert, you are a lot of fun too! You love to play games and are fiercely competitive. You dance and perform, not to show off, but because you truly appreciate the art. You are interesting, and interested in others and the world around you. I am SO looking forward to our big trip together this fall. There’s no one else I’d rather see New York City with!

(Long ago we decided that to celebrate 13th birthdays we would plan a one-on-one road trip with a parent. In this case, a judicious use of air miles, staying with family and birthday/Christmas funds has allowed us to plan an amazing Mother-Daughter trip in October, complete with a Broadway show and a side trip to Boston to visit my sisters families AND visiting NEPHEWS!!!)

You’re not perfect. You need to remember that being accurate is not always the same thing as being right, that the sister your share a room with is a human being too, that “she’s SO annoying” is NOT a good enough excuse, and that it’s okay not to have everything figured out, all the time. But you’re definitely on the right track.

Most parents dread the teen years. I know I’ve felt twinges of terror. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to watch you make mistakes (and FYI you WILL make mistakes). It’s hard to remember all the angst-y and hurtful and stupid in my own teenage-dom that you might have to face. It’s hard to remember all the thrilling and wonderful and safe in my own teenage-dom that you might not.

But, it’s your life, not mine. You’re doing a great job so far. I am SO proud of you! Enjoy 13!
Happy Birthday!
Love
Mom

Sometimes we let Dad get a word in too…

Dear L,

It occurs to me that the last time I wrote a letter to a teenage girl, I was writing your mom (instead of paying attention in high school social studies). How did we all get so old, so fast?

I was thinking the other day how easy life was back when it was just you, me and mom. You were such a content, easy-going baby. We could take you anywhere. Thanks for taking it easy on us.

Now, as far as teenagers go, you’re still content and easy-going. Let’s face it: our life is a three-ring circus. Somehow, even with only two little kids, it still feels like we’ve got kids running in every direction all the time. And yet, through it all, there’s steady L: unflustered, unflappable, and (almost) always ready to lend a helping hand.

The world is noticing the remarkable young woman you’re becoming. When you dance, people marvel at your beauty and your grace. When we spend time with aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, the adults are quick to marvel at your sense of responsibility, your patience with the little ones, and your obvious caring heart. When you’re in school, your teachers tell us what a pleasure you are to teach, how well you get along with others, and what a strong student you are.

I’m noticing, too. I’m noticing how you’ve got your mother’s beautiful face, and your father’s winsome personality (ha ha). I’m noticing that I can trust you with important things. I’m noticing that you’re willing to work hard for what you want, like when you took on a paper route to pay for summer dance camp. I’m noticing… and I’m proud.

One day a long time ago, I came up with the brilliant idea of having each of our girls take a trip with their mom when they turned 13. I never imagined that you would be going to New York. But most of all, I never imagined that day would come so quickly. I hope you have a fabulous time together and make memories that the two of you will share for a lifetime. I love you! Happy Birthday!

Love,
Dad


The Magic and The Misery of Turning 11

2956539243I sent my 10-year-old to spend a few nights with her cousins.

Tomorrow I’ll get an 11-year-old back.

Nothing has really changed in the course of a day. You’ll be pretty much the same kid you were before. This growing up thing is so slow we barely see it. Over the course of this day and the next and the one after that… and pretty soon 365 days of barely noticeable changes leave their mark. This year, more than any other before, you will grow up.

Ten was a great year! You were still young enough to enjoy silliness, and insist your Dad piggyback you downstairs to bed each night, and draw pictures for me to put on my mirror, and tell me every detail of every thing that happened and how you felt about it and what you thought. You were old enough to watch interesting shows on TV I actually want to see too (like “Get Out Alive” and “Top Chef”), and make us laugh with your sly wit, and talk about things like the evils of marketing and consumerism and fair trade (or at least pipe in with a few thoughts before rolling your eyes). I’ve always thought of myself as a baby-person, but I think I enjoyed you as a 10-year-old, more than any other age!

I hate to say it, but… it gets complicated from here on out.

Don’t worry, this isn’t another “beautiful-changes-your-body-is-going-to-experience” talks (I know how much you enjoy those). That’s definitely part of it, but there’s more. Over the next few years your relationships – with friends, with your family and, yes, with boys *shudder* – will get more and more complex. Your choices and opportunities and temptations will get bigger and more important. Your feeeeeeeeelings…. oh, all the feelings… will get stronger and louder and more confusing and more exciting and more all-consuming. It’s horrible and wonderful all at once.

You’ll probably think I don’t understand and couldn’t possibly know how you feel and am so out of touch I don’t have any good advice left under my belt. Sometimes, you’ll be right.

But no matter what…
No matter how frustrated we are with each other
No matter how long we’ve talked circles around each other
No matter how busy, and distracted, and overwhelmed I am by all the other things in life

YOU are important to me!
One of the MOST important people.
One of my FAVOURITE people in the whole world.
And that’ll never change.
Because
nothing and no one can love you like I do!

So bring on 11. We’re ready for you.

Bring on the emotional intensity – because that’s something we already have in common. It’s exuberance, which makes us fun to be around… aaaaand it’s temper and overreaction, which is slightly less fun. Bite your tongue. Take a deep breath. Respond, don’t react. I’ll try to do the same.

Bring on the laughs and the silliness (because the best people never outgrow that entirely) and the subtle wit that comes with age (and all-around general awesomeness). Of all the qualities you have, your sense of humour is one I’m most proud of. It’s more than just fun – it’s an instant connection to other people and it’s an important coping mechanism when life inevitably gets hard. I’d just as soon send my children out into the world naked, than have them tackle adulthood without a decent sense of humour. One piece of advice about our favourite form of humour: sarcasm is like a strong seasoning; apply lightly and skillfully and it works, but too much, in the wrong time and place, leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. You are the Queen of Snark; wield it well.

Finally, bring on the social butterfly. You are already the only extrovert in a house full of introverts (since the 3-year-old doesn’t really count yet). I’ll admit, this isn’t something I understand or relate to. Much like you don’t “get” why we all like to stay home, or sit quietly, or be alone. On the other hand, you’re ALWAYS looking for a party. I’ll try to remember that you NEED a lot of people time and a lot of talking time… and a lot of me-listening-to-you time. At 11, I’ll enjoy the fact that you’re still happy to party here, at home, with us.

Bring on 11, with all the feelings and all the fun. You’re going to love it!
Happy Birthday!
Love Mom

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And now… a letter from Dad:

Dear C,

I’m writing this letter the night before your birthday, but you’re not going to receive it on your birthday. That’s because, for the first time ever, we’re not going to see you on August 20.

You’ve been away a lot this summer: camping with P… a week at summer camp… staying at Lake Okanagan for five extra days… and now a couple nights at Opa and Oma’s as you take on the role of Junior Leader for the second time this summer.

You’ve been reminding me all week that you only have a few more days of having to order off the kids menu at White Spot. But the truth is, you don’t have to remind me. I can see the evidence all around me: you are not a little kid anymore.

I see it in the way you care for the little ones – S and B, yes, but also your younger cousins, and the kids that you’re helping with at all these summer camps.

I see it in the jokes you tell – no longer silly kids’ jokes that I have to pretend are funny, but the kind of dry, sarcastic wit that I actually find hilarious (and that I like to think you got from me).

I see it in the books that you read, and in the movies and TV shows that we love watching together. I see it in the clothes you wear, and the wild colours in your hair.

I see it in the pictures that you draw – already easily the best artwork produced by any member of the family. I see it in your hip hop moves, and your courage in enrolling in the dance class that you don’t want to take, so you can take the one that you do.

I see it in the hours you spend texting your friend on your iPod – already.

When I see the young lady you have become and are becoming, I see my pride and joy. I see passion, I see persistence, and I see love. I couldn’t be happier with what I see.

Happy Birthday C!

Love,
Dad


8 Years Old

Total honesty… not the cupcakes I made for B’s Dr. Suess birthday, yet. These are the ones I’m planning to make. I’m sure they’ll look JUST like this. Really!
from goodlifeeats.com

One more birthday letter for the year…

First up, my favourite Guest Poster: the Dad.

Dear B,

As you’ve been telling me for weeks, you’re 8! Today it’s finally true! And, since you’ve been telling me “Happy Birthday Daddy!” several times a day for the past year, today I’m thrilled to be able to say, “Happy Birthday B!”

It’s been another year of adventure for us with you, as we wait with expectation for your next surprise that will have us laughing loud and long. Often it involves layer upon layer of dress-up clothes. Lately it’s involved you shouting, “Blow me down, guys!” and when we do, you teeter and squeal and eventually fall down backwards. Of course, once you got one laugh, we were destined to play this game about 800 times. That’s okay though; it’s still just as funny as the first time.

This was the year your world got rocked. After almost 8 years as the unchallenged ‘baby’ of the family, there’s suddenly a new baby on the block – one who’s not afraid to stake his claim to everyone and everything in our house!

There was no way to fully prepare you for what was coming when we decided to add S to our family. As much as we talked about him and explained that a new brother was coming to live with you, we couldn’t really help you understand what was about to go down.

We worried about how you were going to react to this new little person competing for our time and attention – not to mention your toys! And, truth be told, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. You gave us a good run for our money for a little while there, finding ways to get our focus back on you, for better or worse.

But through it all, I was amazed at how you loved S. If you were upset about all the changes, you didn’t take it out on him. You’re not known for your patience, but I think you’ve been extraordinarily patient as you and your brother have adjusted to each other. You’ve shared – often willingly – and you’ve been a wonderful, loving big sister.

You’ve also grown up in ways that I didn’t foresee. Maybe Mommy and I being busier than normal has caused you to try things for yourself instead of waiting for us to help. I’m not sure, but I know that you have seemed much older and more independent these past few months. You’re talking in much longer sentences – it’s wonderful to be able to have real conversations with you!

Amidst all the changes, I hope you know that some things haven’t changed. My love for you hasn’t changed. My promise to be here whenever you need me hasn’t changed. The fact that I am so proud of you hasn’t changed. And your ability to make me laugh harder than I’ve ever laughed before hasn’t changed either. Thank you for bringing so much joy into my life. Happy birthday!!!

Love from,

Your Daddy

~~~~~~~~

Today you are 8-years-old.

For most people, 8 is when the cute starts to wear off. Not you. You remain as cute and sweet a little girl as ever. Except when you are cute and ornery. Even then, we’ll keep you.

This has been a big year for you. A lot of change and a lot of growing up have made for a bumpy ride at times, but we’re getting used to the drama. Our life is never boring, and usually, we have you to thank for that.

You are a born comic. There is not much you won’t do for a laugh. You’ll yell “Blow me down, guys!” until we’ve stopped what we are doing to puff in your direction, at which point you flail your arms, make worried “aaah, aaah, aaah” noises before collapsing in a heap on the ground. Your gales of laughter afterwards are contagious. Each night before dinner you lead us in the song “Open/Shut them” (presumably to ensure that our hands are properly folded for prayer time), then thank God for the food and for the cats who are partying. You’ve decided that your horse at therapeutic riding is named “Toot”; which is the word for ‘fart’ in our house and consequently, super-funny (he’s actually named “Dot,” but you will not be convinced otherwise).

You’ve always had a lot to say. From the beginning you taught me that everybody has stories to tell, whether they can express it or not. But this is the year we’ve begun to understand so much more of your stories. It is such a gift to hear your thoughts and ideas and strange pretends. You love to jump on the trampoline, then when “BubbleMan” comes, we are all required to lay down. Okay, so I still don’t understand a lot of what goes on in your world.

You are a true believer. When you are pretending, you do it with your whole heart and assume that it is just as real to the rest of us. Whether you are barking as a dog and eating your snack off the floor, or wearing 6 fluffy skirts, a neck tie, large floppy hat and mismatched shoes all afternoon (the costume of choice for a discerning “pwetty pwin-cess” we’re told), or even answering to a nickname (sweetheart, honey, silly goose…) – you will very seriously demand my attention, throw your hands out and trill “It’s me! B!”

The biggest change this year has brought is your sudden acquisition of a baby brother. Since he is not actually a baby, but the ripe old age of 2, you have actually acquired a partner in crime. Most of the time he is your little shadow, dogging your every step, getting into your stuff, and trying to hug you with his entire body. You have been mostly patient, if not a bit alarmed by his desire to wrestle. He’s a pretty good sport too, because you’re sister-ing style is somewhat tyrannical.

We call you the “Dastardly Duo,” and you have brought mischief to an unheard of level in our home. Just last week I noticed the bathroom door was closed with both of you in it (never a good sign). Worried that you had once again blockaded yourselves in the room (took 1/2 an hour to extricate you last time), I rushed in. Just in time. To see the sink overflowing onto the ground while you happily splashed one another. As I bundled up the sopping towels, having turned my back for no more than 2 minutes, I heard a piercing shriek. You had both climbed into the tub, fully clothed and turned the cold shower on. I was just relieved that nothing found its way into the toilet that day.

I’ve probably written more in my blog about your funny little quirks and extreme stubbornness, ahem… determination, than just about any subject. It can be a challenge, but you are certainly worth every long day, tearful break and prolonged battle of the wills. Because at the end of the day, you are a kind, gentle, funny, strong person. And the world is a better place because you are in it. And I am a better person because you are my girl.

I love you!

Happy Birthday 8-year-old!

Mom


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