Today you are 7-years-old. As is my normal custom around your birthday, I've been reminiscing about life since you came into it. I've been looking at pictures, remembering stories, drowning in admiration for the personality God gave to you. Let me take this birthday moment to dote: your mom thinks you are a remarkable human being.
(Notably, all of these things are so not-funny in the moment, and hilarious in hindsight.)
And then there are those moments. Those other moments. Like all our summer bike rides to the community garden last summer where that grassy hill beat you, and you would climb down from your bike to walk the rest of the way up. It was without whining or complaint; just a silent resolution that walking was the way it had to be done. Until that one sunny day in late June where I turned around to wait for you at the top and noticed you peddling with sheer determination - all the while whispering, "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." And you did.
You conquered that hill. It was the first of many hills for you to conquer this year. About a month before school started up again, you began to have restless nights, stomach aches, and constant worries about first grade. Things were going so well toward the end of the year in kindergarten, but a summer break allowed your fears to grow and you were begging to move, to be home-schooled, to do anything except go back. Until that moment where you decided you "would give it a try." And as much as I knew this wasn't ultimately your decision, feeling like it was your decision made a huge difference. First grade has been such a great experience. You were given the teacher you absolutely needed to nurture you and expect great things from you. She even put me into tears at times with her sensitivity to you and your amazing spirit.
With this newfound confidence in yourself and conquering your fears, you have really taken off. You convinced us you needed glasses for reading and writing, you worked really hard to improve your handwriting, you determined to work your way into the highest reading group - and you did.
That's not to say you are a perfectionist or "super driven." You definitely make the best of a situation and are often (sometimes to my chagrin) completely satisfied with good enough. Occasionally we will give you a "punishment" of no TV or spending time in your room, and you will respond with something like, "That's okay. I was hoping to draw this afternoon, anyway." Or, "I was feeling like I hadn't been spending enough time in my cozy bed lately, anyhow." I am sure that attitude will help you greatly in life ... as soon as you learn to keep the thoughts to yourself.
You learned to downhill ski this year, and I think the stress of that experience gave me my first grey hairs. You did great, but it wasn't without a few horrifying moments. Most notably the one where you forgot to slow down at the bottom and the other one where you forgot to get off the lift at the top. I didn't expect you to get so good so quickly, but you were skiing down black diamonds by the end of the season.
You remain one of the sweetest, most sensitive kids on the planet. While we were doodling together one evening, I drew a picture of a kitten that happened to look a little sad and you burst into tears. Your great-grandma Elayne passed away this past fall, and you were deeply concerned about being strong and not crying through the funeral. You had so many questions, but handled it like a champ - despite my explanation that it is perfectly okay to cry and it's not a sign of strength or weakness if you do or don't. You were very proud of yourself about the whole thing, and then a couple days later, you burst into tears because the picture of a panda on a cereal box was "just so cute."
So while your love of animals is fantastic, we may have to work on humanity ... I won't even go into your confusion surrounding cremation and the fact that during the funeral you asked, "When will we see her body go into flames?" Thank God we knew Elayne was looking down on us with love and laughter.
These days, as you are growing older, losing so many teeth (6 as of today) and looking more and more like a jack-o-lantern (er, I mean an adult), I am ever-conscious of how fleeting these days are. It occurred to me this morning that you will probably spend more birthdays of your life waking up in your own home than you will in mine. It makes me a little sad that I can't hold you close and keep you with me forever; but it also makes me so excited to think about who you will become and what you will do with your life.
You are funny, clever, smart, artistic, creative, energetic, sarcastic, compassionate, cuddly, edgy ... and you are only going to grow into a more awesome human being. I am so excited to watch that develop, and so hopeful that I will always get to be a part of it. As you grow increasingly self-aware, and the word "embarrassing" pops out of your mouth more and more, I hold onto your hand a little tighter each time you grab it. I know it's possible that those moments may grow fewer and further between. I hope that you never think you have to "go it alone," but know that you always have someone to hold your hand. In whatever way, shape, or form that will take, I will always be there to guide you - and sometimes to follow as you guide me. You are a part of my heart and my soul and I love you to the moon and back.
Love, your mommy forever.