crazy eight

When I finally sat down to write this, I sat for several minutes staring at a blank cursor. Eight. How can this even be? My beautiful, energetic, sensitive, filled to brimming with love, sweet and sassy daughter is no longer a little girl. She is more my shadow now than she ever was, more needy of my affection than before, more attentive to my words and how I choose those words ever so carefully now. Gone are the days of questions about what words meant and arrived are the toughies like "what happens when we die?" or "how do some people not have a home?" or the hardest by far for me, "why are there bad people in this world?"

She is my constant companion in the kitchen, standing beside me on her stool carefully measuring, following a recipe, stirring, and creating. Even when the mess gets to me, I breathe deeply, laugh with her at the batter gone awry and remind myself that this mess is just a mess, that this moment will fade all to quickly.

We have been watching some very old videos and she is still very much the same as she was when she was two and three and four... full of energy and spunk almost to the point of WOW, please slow down.

Always a snuggler, she and her brother still demand I sit between them so they can each snuggle tightly to my sides. She holds my hand, sighs deeply and tells me "I love you, mama." I literally cannot tell her enough these days how much I love and adore her. How can someone so sensitive and so challenging at times have my heart tied into a such a knot?

What a gift my new lighter schedule at work has been to deepen our bond and allow us that mommy daughter time we never ever found time for before. I find myself picking up a special treat for an afterschool snack on my way home. I delight at watching her at our table working on homework while I sip coffee, in the silence of the house, just us two. We spend quieter afternoons reading side by side in the living room, my arm wrapped behind her back, her head nuzzled into my shoulder. I think to myself on those days, this is how I always imagined it would be. The truth is that 90% of the time I am picking her up to shuttle her to practice or CCD or somewhere else, then picking up her brother, then her again, rushing them both home, and frantically preparing dinner, asking how their day was, deciding whether or not they need a shower and putting them to bed. That 10% is all the more meaningful.

Her sense of righteousness and doing for others continues to amaze and inspire me. My daughter inspires me to open my heart more, ME, a bleeding heart social worker! For her birthday this year she requested we spend an afternoon volunteering as a family at Cradles for Crayons. When we asked her what she wanted or needed for her birthday? Gift cards for a shopping trip to select her donations. In as many ways as I think I fall flat as mother, I see this kid and her spirit of goodness and I can't help but feel that I am doing something, SOMETHING, right. I nurture and encourage this part of her to grow and expand and tell her that doing for others will always make her feel good. I know this to be true.

While her emotional wellness is strongly intact, I can already sense her self confidence shaking when she sits down at the table to complete her homework, especially math. I struggle beside her to make sense of this common core math and reinforce to her that this is hard work, even for mommy. I tell her that this might be something she always has to work harder at, but that with that hard work will come great reward. I walk a tightrope with her and her schoolwork, always trying to keep the balance because one small breeze too much sends her toppling over and to a place of such retreat that I cannot get her back on the platform to take that first step again.

Yet, we have never before seen a girl so scrappy, so confident as when she is on the ice with her cross ice hockey team. I thought I was going to have a ballerina. I thought my fall weekends would be spent waiting outside a rehearsal studio, learning how to apply performance make up again, sewing elastics to shoes, making headpieces in the spring for recitals. I don't know what to do with a hockey player, but I do know that I am sure I feel quite the same pride my mother felt for me when she watched me out there on stage doing something I loved. You can see how much she loves it by the smile on her face. It has clicked for her in so many ways and she loves a breakaway as much as taking it behind the net to defend the goal and NEVER have I seen her enjoy being a part of something like this with her teammates. I don't know how long she will want to play or what might come next, but I know that she loves it now and it is so amazing to witness this incredible transformation in her. It is teaching her so much about teamwork, hard work, endurance. Not to mention that I am incredibly jealous of my eight year old's abs because what a hard working little bod she has! No amount of T25 could get me into the same fitness category as this girl! It might not hurt any that she would prefer a salad for dinner and snack of sliced peppers. ???

I don't get it either.
Eight. I know that the relationship I have with her now will filter into the relationship we have in the harder years ahead and I work hard to set a foundation for that to be a positive and trusting relationship. I lecture. I yell. I sigh audibly. I am imperfect, but when it all comes down to us being mother and daughter she knows I am an ally, a friend, but very much in charge. I hope it stays that way for at least another ten years.

She was the baby who made me a Mom, I thought that was the biggest gift. Each day I am reminded that the gift of her continues to amuse, surprise, delight and improve me in ways I never knew would be possible. Happy Birthday, baby girl.


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