Yesterday you asked me, “Why do we have to wear underwear anyway?”
A typical start to a typical day as your mom. You rise, wander to my room, climb in and cuddle up beside me. But neither your mind nor your body can stay still for long.
“What’s worse: a flood or a fire?” you ask. Or maybe, “Why don’t characters on TV ever go to the bathroom?” or “What’s the difference between crystals and jewels?” or “How do bees survive the winter?” or “Can you explain exactly what happens to your body when you die?” While your inquisitive mind keeps me (plus Google) on my toes, I love it. I love that you have a thirst to know and learn and that your mind works overtime, even while you sleep. It makes for the most wonderful conversations.
Today you turn six, a milestone that was once unfathomable to me. But now it feels just right. I feel like you’re growing into that big brain and all that energy, as you eagerly explore the world around you. At six, you have an awesome sense of humour and a very upbeat, energetic disposition most of the time (when you’re happy, you’re very happy). You start sentences with phrases like “Speaking of which,” and “In fact.” You really, really love to talk. Special events like birthdays or holidays delight you beyond words, and you gush over decorations and pretty dresses and jewellery and other sparkly things. Not only are you asking more mature questions, but you’re taking a more active interest in things like the environment, in the dynamics of relationships, in different cultural traditions, and in TV shows like The Voice and American Idol. As always, nothing gets by you.
You are a terrible liar, a trait that I, of course, always hope you’ll possess. You try, but your face totally gives you away (unlike your sister, who seems to have this one down pat at age three). “How do you actually know if I’m lying or not?” you ask me. “Moms just know,” I tell you. I hope that I always do.
You are a leader. Teachers have said it from the time you were two years old. This can translate into you being a bit overbearing in some social situations as you try to show everyone how brilliant (and better!) your ideas are. It’s something we’re working on, reigning you in a wee bit so as to not overwhelm your friends, while still letting you be you.
At six, you are a hockey player, a Spark, a swimmer. You are an enthusiastic student, in love with SK and your teacher, confident in printing and reading. Your love of books brings joy to my heart. We read together every night and I relish this time we spend together exploring chapter books and kids’ novels. You are still devoted to your family, showing your affection through enthusiastic hugs and kisses, as well as a steady stream of artwork. A few times a week you bring home something on which you’ve printed “I love you Mom, Love Anna,” (my love notes, I call them) or a portrait of our family. I must have hundreds of these by now, and I keep every one. I know someday you won’t be quite this into me, so I hang onto them as proof that I was once your sun, moon and stars.
You still go to bed at eight o’clock, without a hint of protest (as long as you’ve had your books, and a little talk and quiet time lying with me or your dad in your bed). I think you’re so high-energy all day long that your body is completely spent at the end of each day.
The birthday letters I’ve written to you in the past may have had a hint of apology in them, like I was failing you, despite my best efforts. There’s been an emotional undercurrent inside me, one that I tried hard to squash, that I wasn’t being the “right” mom to you, that you had specific needs I couldn’t figure out or appropriately meet, a temperament I didn’t understand. It tore me up, to be honest. I felt you deserved a mom who was more patient and understanding and accepting of you, exactly as you are.
Then someone very special said to me that I was exactly the right mom for you, that you were lucky to have me for your mom. Lucky? I wasn’t sure what she meant at the time, but now I realize that you and I were paired up for a reason, that I’m not only exactly the right mom for you — you’re exactly the right child for me. And not for the reasons I expected, not because we intuitively “get” each other or think the same way or like the same things, but because we’re so very different.
No, you’re not the “easy” kid I envisioned raising, but you are a truly spectacular kid. You are spirited. You have very strong feelings and high energy levels that propel you through your days with gusto. You have a bad temper and trouble being flexible. You will probably always be this way. My job is to appreciate and encourage the great things about your vibrant personality (there are so many) and accept and help you manage the challenges — learning to play fair with friends, to compromise, to stay calm when things don’t go your way. And you will. I know you will.
And I will too. We’re both working hard. I’m learning so much from you, Anna, especially about throwing the way I thought things would be or should be out the window and embracing everything that is, everything we have. You look at the world in a completely different way than I do, and you’re opening me up to such beauty. I’m getting excited about the young lady you’re becoming, seeing the choices you’ll make, the conversations we’ll have, the new things you’ll show me. Despite all of our struggles (and probably because of them), you and I have such a rock-solid bond. I’ve become your anchor, but you’ve become my wings.
I picture us in the future, cuddled up in your bed, talking about things — ordinary or extraordinary — and hope we’ll always have that closeness. I know someday you’ll want space and I’ll have to give it. But I hope you’ll still let me into your heart so we can keep talking and dreaming and wondering about this crazy world together. Because I need it as much as you do. And because being with you is one of my very favourite things.
Happy birthday, my sweet six-year-old.
To Anna, on her sixth birthday
Tracy writes her annual birthday letter to her smart, sweet, wild and crazy daughter