Today you are seven. I know this not because seven short years ago you were ceremoniously cut from my never-to-be-flat-again stomache, but because you have reminded Daddy and I about your birthday about 157 times in the past 2 days.
We had your birthday party last weekend and hosted the family as well as five girls from your class for arts and crafts, cupcakes, confetti eggs and playing. You had the best time just being with your friends and those that love you and announced to me later that this was the Best! Birthday! Party! Ever! You are very welcome.
You’ve gone to a few birthday parties this year and I always schlep my camera along to snap some shots. These same girls are at almost all the parties you attend and it always strikes me that when I take a group picture of you and your friends that with very little effort I can see you in the same group picture 13 years from now as a Party Pic in college. I can see that girl in your face. And I can see that beer can in your hand. Put it down.
This was the year that some of your natural talents have started to rise to the surface. For the past few years we’ve let you sample and play with some afterschool activities to see what you liked and what you were good at. There were many that fell by the wayside…tennis and golf to name a few. (Although I have a feeling golf will show back up again when Benjamin starts playing…just a hunch.) This year it became very clear – you are a dancer.
It’s not so much that you have innate musicality – because rhythm does not come easily to you – but you have natural grace, love to perform and genuinely “feel” the music. You often times belt out the song you are dancing to while you dance – and it is so charming to watch you perform. And, man, you love the costumes. I’m glad you found this for yourself and I’m glad it makes you happy. I hope it continues to feed your creative soul and challenges you to push yourself – you will be all the better for both.
Challenges seemed to be a central theme for you this year. In the beginning, reading was a challenge. It didn’t come easily and was frustrating you. But then we discovered Daisy Meadows’ Fairy books and it was like a little lightbulb went off in your head. Now, you read voraciously, comprehend what you read and love to write stories as well. You worked hard to own this new, important skill and I’m so glad it’s become such a big part of you.
The next challenge came when life handed you your first true loss in the form of the death of your Grandpa Gene. We struggled with how to tell you and what to do, but ultimately I decided to be straight and kind with you. You were sad for you and sad for Daddy, but the questions you asked were insightful, thoughtful and loving. I’ve never seen a six-year old at a funeral before, but you handled it with the grace of a grownup. Seeing a lifecycle like this through your eyes was uplifting and brought a sense of peace to many. Everything through your eyes was new and interesting – bringing tradition and ceremony back to earth and heart. You continue to keep Grandpa Gene in your “special blessings” list each night and I know he has been watching over you this past year with a big smile on his face.
But for the better part of the year you were your own hardest challenge. I began to recognize the tell-tale signs that something wasn’t quite right in that pretty, bright head of yours. Your teacher, who is wonderful and your strong advocate, agreed. I saw a girl who couldn’t let go of a stream of thoughts in her head and struggled with switching conversation content quickly. I began to see issues with managing friendships. And you and I struggled with our own relationship a time or two as we both wrestled with your frustrations.
Finally, Daddy and I took you for an evaluation for ADD last week. As of today, we don’t have the results, but we are better for having had the discussion. You are still unaware of any real issues or terminology, but you know we went to check to see if you had a “race car brain”. I’m betting it’s more Formula One than Ford.
Whatever the results what Daddy and I want for you as you enter your seventh year is to give some control of you back to you. We don’t know how to do that, but we’re working on it. And at some point we’ll work on it together.
Swimmy, this summer you leave for sleep-away camp for the first time. This is going to wreck Daddy. Okay, I’ll admit I get a little sad thinking about it, too, but I know that even though it may be hard at first, you are going to eat it up. I can’t wait to see what August brings for you – a new world of sorts – one filled with new friendships, new experiences, new doors to faith and the knowledge that you can do things independently of us.
I think this is the last year of you as a little girl. By the time I write again for your eighth year, so much will have changed. I know this next year will be filled with wonder, laughter, tears, hard work and good work. A lot of this we’ll do together – some you’ll do yourself. Just know Daddy and I are so proud of who you are and who you are becoming. But you’ll always be our little Swimmy.