You are nine years old today. Nine.
I didn’t do a birthday post for you last year, sweet girl. I’m pretty sure that is mostly because we were away on vacation on your actual birthday, having the most marvelous of Dude Ranch experiences. But if I’m being totally and completely honest, it might also have been because I just forgot a little bit.
I do that sometimes with you … I forget. I forget that you are still so young, because you act so responsibly. I forget that you still need so much, because you are so self-reliant. I forget that sometimes answering your child’s question opens a door to conversations we may not be ready to have, because your logical linear thinking gets you several steps ahead of the game before I realize we’ve gone down the rabbit hole. I worry about forgetting these things, but I am wracked with guilt over the possibility that sometimes I may forget that you are your very own you, because you are so very much like me.
And you are like me, dear one. Holy moly, so very much so. First daughter of a first daughter. Eldest sibling responsible for setting a good example for the younger ones. A success in school, an information junkie, a child capable of having the most adult of conversations. You are hard on yourself. You are embarrassed by anything less than perfection. You worry. Your mannerisms echo mine, you parent your brother and sister as I parent, you readily adopt my thoughts and my opinions and my viewpoints. You beam when your grandparents or your aunts say, “You are so much like your mother.”
And that scares me a little. Because I have many, many flaws. And although I hide the ones I can and try to explain and apologize to you for the ones I can’t, I know you see them anyway. You see them. I’m afraid you will copy them. And I don’t want my flaws to become yours.
What I try to remember is that although you are like me, in body and mind and spirit in so many ways, you are also different, and so, so much better. You, already, have bested the flaws I still fight. You show patience far beyond what I am able to muster. You are confident in a way I don’t recall ever being. Like me, you are naturally shy, but you bow up to that shyness and forcibly shove it aside in a way I didn’t learn to do until I was well into my twenties. You are fair and impartial. You call ’em the way you see ’em and you don’t cut anybody any slack when they wrong you or the ones you love (I’m proud of you for that), but you forgive those you love for their transgressions (I’m proud of you for that, too).
You were a challenging baby, but you are such an easy kid. You are respectful. You mind. You help. You follow the rules. You do your chores. You get good grades. You love being with your family and you love spending time with your friends and you seem to appreciate a decent amount of solo time, too. You are a deep thinker. You are clever and funny and kindly (but never cruelly) sarcastic. You see and hear everything. You want to be in the middle of it all—you insist upon being in the know. You love to read and swim and sing and dance. You are a fantastic big sister, and Owen and Amelia both absolutely adore you.
I love you, but I also really and truly just LIKE you so very much. I like being around you. I think you are an incredibly cool kid on the road to being an amazingly impressive woman. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m terrified of you becoming a teenager. I don’t want to lose you, and I know I will … at least for a little while. The other day we were in the grocery store, just you and me, and we were laughing and teasing and giggling and talking. I grabbed your hand and you let me (you usually don’t). I said jokingly, but really oh-so-seriously, “Please don’t get all witchy in a few years—promise me you’ll stay as awesome as you are right now, because I just like you SO much!” And you promised and you smiled and you held my hand, but you rolled your eyes a little. You don’t know what’s coming, what lies ahead, what we must go through as you grow up. I do. I know. And it’s coming all too quickly.
You made me a mother, which was something I always wanted to be, body and soul, so very much, for as far back as I can remember. You were, and always will be, my first. The first everything. Because of that, you get my best and my worst, my wonder and my weakness. Mothering the first child is, by necessity I suppose, trial and error—I fly by the seat of my pants with you. I know I make mistakes, but I hope you know I revel in all you do. You opened a door in my heart to a love I never imagined—one that still overwhelms me with its strength and steadfastness.
Happy Birthday to my perfect girl. My first daughter. My eldest child. My me. My you. I am so awfully, all-consumingly proud of you.