Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Thoughts on a Tenth Birthday

Today is my kiddo’s 10th birthday. I wrote her a note earlier and it got me thinking a lot about how much she has experienced in her first ten years. I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that it’s been ten years since the very first time I held her in my arms. It seems impossible to me that she’s no longer a baby—still MY baby (forever and always!), but no longer a tiny baby who physically fits in the space between my fingertips and elbow. No longer the baby who struggled to breathe her first breath, no longer the toddler being whisked to the hospital in the middle of the night because her lungs just wouldn’t work the way they were supposed to. It’s in her past. And that girl is gearing up for the future.

She is turning into such a strong and lovely young lady. If it seems like these first ten years went by fast, I can only imagine that the next ten will go by even faster. I don’t have to tell her that sometimes life can be very difficult. Cancer happens out of the blue, a body can turn on itself and go haywire, best friends suddenly aren’t, truth can get trampled by lies, and sometimes it’s hard to tell who to trust. She knows, fortunately or unfortunately, that we can do things right and fight for what we believe in, but things won’t always work out the way we planned. We can fight quietly and stoically, and we can fight loudly and kick up a fuss, but sometimes, the bad guys are going to win. Life is not a fairy tale. The bad guys can and do win. We may get knocked down. Hard. It’s okay to go down kicking and screaming, but it’s also okay to go down quietly. In the long run, I know that goodness, truth, and justice will come out on top. No matter what, during the time we’re down, we just have to remember to use the time to plan our next move so that when we rise again, we rise stronger and wiser. That’s something else I try to teach her—the difference between being intelligent and being wise. Intelligence comes entirely from the brain and is based on what we have learned. Wisdom, while it can come from the brain and be based in part on what we have learned, comes more from the heart and is based on experience and what we know deep down inside. Wisdom will prevail.

She has learned about being brave. She knows that being brave doesn’t mean never being afraid. It means it’s okay to be afraid, but making a decision to do what’s best in spite of the fear. It means doing what’s right, even if nobody agrees with you—especially if nobody agrees with you. We live by that saying, “Right is right, even when nobody’s doing it. Wrong is wrong, even when everybody’s doing it.” Being brave means making mistakes in life, but owning up to them and doing what you can to make it right. Being brave means saying, “I love you” and “I’m sorry”, even when you’re scared to say it.

My kiddo has a sensitive and loving heart and she demonstrates it every single day. She’s intuitive and gentle, with a splash of feisty, unwavering in her stubborn pursuit of what she wants, and full of hopes and dreams. A while back, we converted our spare bedroom into an art room. It had been her room when she was a baby, but when she was two, we moved her into the larger bedroom. She spends hours in that room, sketching and designing, sorting through chalks and paints, quietly singing to herself in the sunshine. She recently asked if we could paint the room a different color. I told her we could, but asked why she wanted to. It’s a happy color, the same Winnie the Pooh yellow that it’s been for the past ten years. She smiled and said that it’s not a bedroom anymore and she’d like a different color in there. As I was leaving the room, she quietly said, “Maybe a different color will help me not be so sad when I remember that it was supposed to be a room for my brother or sister.” When I turned to face her, she was looking out the window, thoughtfully gazing at our willow tree, biting her lip. I know she feels an ache inside. She had hopes and dreams and plans for being a big sister. That is not lost on me, just as my own years of hopes and dreams, though quietly kept to myself, are not lost on her. She looked at me then, those dark eyes so much like mine, seriousness with a sparkle of mischief. “I love you, mom.” Just like that, she went back to her easel, the moment caught in both of our hearts.

I’m pretty sure I’m doing okay at the mom thing, at least for the most part. I’m doing my best to make sure that she knows she’s loved every single day. She never has to be afraid of me, or my voice, or my hands. People and the world will knock her around enough. She doesn’t need me to demonstrate that. I will teach her to handle herself and remind her that home is her safe haven. I am her safe haven. My love is there forever. I won’t put her down or hurt her. My voice, my words, and my actions will not shame her. (Embarrass her? Maybe. Okay, probably. I do like to sing loudly in the car and she pretends she can’t hear me. And probably prays that we don’t drive past anyone she knows.)

I hope that I’m doing everything possible to help her look ahead and dream big while at the same time planning for what’s possible and real…and maybe planning a little bit for what’s impossible and unrealistic, because that’s part of the fun of living. And I hope that she’s always proud of herself, because I certainly am.

Ten years… “Loved you then, loved you still, always have, always will.” Happy Birthday, Baby.

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