She has always been expressive and outspoken, but this year she has honed those skills even more. She can be pretty convincing when she wants something. She does her research, states her claims and maps out why we should consider her argument. She already talks about when she can be on the debate team one day, when she goes to high school. She learned how to write a persuasive essay in second or third grade and never looked back. Today for her birthday we made our third trip to a barn to gather information before we brought home two baby chicks. Pip and Poppy have now evicted us out of our downstairs bathroom and have made themselves at home under the new heating lamp set-up just for them. Before we agreed to any of this, she had to find a place for them to go once they got bigger. She thoroughly studied all possible issues and answered any questions we had with a reasonable solution.
I am truly in awe of my daughter. She is bright, talented, sweet and kind. This time in her life is filled with the challenge of balancing getting older, being more independent while also being young enough to play with her brother, giggle like crazy, and still whine sometimes. Every single one of us is navigating this new, weird normal we are in. It is impossible not to feel overwhelmed or upset by it from time to time. I'm sorry any of us have to experience living through this, but I am especially sad for all of our children who need other children. I see a light turned on in my two when we do something social with their friends. We are doing everything we can to keep them healthy and safe right now, but we can't neglect how healthy it is to have them social as well. In the last few weeks, Covid and all, we have been giving our daughter a bit more independence with one of her friends. They ride their bikes to go have lunch in the park together, or even buy a snack on their own. They take small backpacks, with some money and hand sanitizer with them. As cautious as I was the first time I let her go, I knew she was also ready. Showing her that we trust her and allowing her to have an outing like this, has been really great for her and for us. She knows the rules about bike safety and she is with her friend so they both feel safer together.
When I used to think about having a daughter one day, I promised myself that I would make sure to build up her confidence when she became a teenager. The one thing about my own coming of age period is that I came out of it shakier than how I went it to it. I seemed to have lost a lot of self esteem by the time I got to my twenties. I didn't speak up to men when I should have and as a result I ended up feeling less of myself. I committed to this daughter that I hoped to have one day, that I would remind her often of her self worth. I would teach her to respect herself, and shout, scream and cry from the top of a building when anyone mistreats her. So here we are now, on the cusp of the teenage years and I am paying attention. This week as if right on cue, she came to me upset after comparing herself to the size of her friends. She is not a tall girl, she can thank me for that, and she is smaller than most of her friends. She is beginning to go through some changes physically, but not at the same speed of her friends and she is aware of that. She looks younger than she is, so she is often mistaken for being in fourth or fifth grade, which can hurt when trying to be perceived as more mature these days.
As I think about how her identity is changing now, I can't help but to reflect on how she has changed mine. Twelve years ago, my husband drove me down to the hospital through the streets of LA, it felt like the longest, most uncomfortable car ride I ever took. I knew we were heading for something scary, monumental and wonderful that Sunday afternoon, but I didn't realize that the next time I would enter the world again, I would be an entirely different person.
From the moment I held you, I loved you in a way I hadn't felt love before. I became a mother that day and when I laid eyes on you the first time, I didn't know your gender, or your name, but I marveled at this tiny human that I grew. I am so grateful that baby turned into the wonder that you are. You continue to change and grow in the most beautiful ways and I promise to let you know how wonderful you are, even if it might embarrass you now and again. Happy twelfth birthday!!