I usually write these on your birthday, but your birthday has come and gone… much like this entire year has flown by faster than a rocket full of monkeys. (I heard that phrase somewhere and thought I’d use it sometime, but I immediately regret doing so. What does that even mean?!)
At this time last year, I was writing about something called COVID-19, clinging to the hope that we’d never speak of it again. Spoiler alert: it’s still a thing and I could fill pages with rantings and ravings about how it’s affected our lives. Don’t worry, I won’t. But you should know that I totally could.
For your birthday this year, you requested only one thing — a Harry Styles themed birthday party. One of the cooler things about you getting older is that we’re beginning to share similar interests (and by interests I mean celebrity crushes) so let’s just say that I wasn’t bummed about your choice of party theme. Randy, on the other hand, did not share our enthusiasm. The thought of you being interested in boys upsets him as much as seeing “LOL” in text form upsets both me and you. I suppose having strong feelings about text messaging etiquette is something else we’ve grown to have in common.
In the last year, you have very clearly become a young woman. Gone is the little girl I once knew and standing in her place is an absolutely stunning young woman. If I had to describe your current hormonal and emotional pre-pubescentness (yes, I just made that word up) I would say it’s kind of like a ping-pong ball during a heated match between two unskilled, yet overly zealous players. It’s here, then there, then violently bouncing off the ceiling, then rolling under the table, then being catapulted directly into the eye socket of an unsuspecting observer. It’s impossible to know what’s going to provoke an emotional outburst and when, so we sometimes just cover our faces, hunker down, and hope we’re not caught in the crossfire.
Recently, on a day when you were experiencing pretty aggressive waves of emotion, you said to me, “I don’t even know why, but I just feel like crying.” To which I said, “I understand, and you go for it!” For years, you’ve teased me about how easily my emotions spill into tears, but in recent months you’ve begun to understand that hormones have a way of making a girl cry about everything and nothing all at once. And sometimes they make her eat half a box of crackers, a few pickle slices, a leftover pork chop, and several packets of fruit snacks in a single sitting. That’s just the way it works. Science!
Watching you grow (not just physically) is a wonder to me. You’ve become so sure of yourself in some ways, while seeming rather apprehensive in others. In certain situations you are assertive and bold, while being almost painfully timid and passive at other times. You have strong opinions about what you like and what you don’t, but are constantly changing your mind. What was your favorite thing yesterday can be hated today, and things you recently despised can suddenly become your new obsession. You are a beautiful contradiction to me: one I don’t fully understand, but I am happy and honored to be along for the ride.
You have the biggest heart and more empathy than I’ve ever seen contained within one human being. This was apparent when you were a toddler and would cover me with a blanket when I was feeling sick and bring whatever snacks were within your reach on the lower shelves of the fridge. When you first went to preschool you came home crying, not because you’d been hurt or bullied, but because another child had fallen off the slide and hurt their leg. When watching Beethoven (of the St. Bernard variety) for the first time, you sobbed uncontrollably as the main character was separated from his little dog friend.
At the age of 5 or 6, we watched a documentary about elderly people living in long term care facilities and you cried when they talked about being lonely. You looked at me with tear filled eyes and asked if we could start visiting the people in our local care center, so we did. In 5th grade, you wanted to find a family in need at Christmas time and anonymously deliver presents to them. You organized the whole thing! Randy, Tommy, and I left the boxes on their porch, knocked on the door, and hid in the bushes as you sat in the van with your cousins and Megan, watching from a short distance away. A young child — a total stranger to us — opened the door, saw the boxes sitting there and immediately shouted with excitement, “Someone gave us lightsabers!” For months after that, you’d randomly say “someone gave us lightsabers” with a smile as you recalled the child’s pure joy.
While I love you wholly, I have to admit that these are my favorite parts of you. You consistently teach me how to love bigger, do more for others, and deeply appreciate the experience of witnessing joy in others. Throughout the ups, downs, and ping-ponging of pre-teen life, the goodness of your heart never fails to shine through.
The years of life you are now entering were some of my most difficult ones. I never quite felt like I fit in. I wanted to be cooler. I wanted to be chosen more (in friendships, in life, or even just in P.E. class). I never felt beautiful or content with my appearance. I wished I could be someone else at times. As I see you struggle with similar things, I feel a certain heaviness and my mama heart worries. I’ve been where you are. I recognize so much of myself in you, and I know you better than any person in the world. As you outgrow cuddling and holding hands, and you begin to realize how uncool I truly am, please don’t let your heart wander too far from mine.
I will always be here, ready and willing to chat about boys, friends, school, Harry Styles’ latest styles, or literally anything else your sweet little heart desires. And, of course, I’ll have snacks ready.
All my love,
Mom (or Mama when you’re feeling sweet and Mommy when you want something)