The sun rises on your side of the house, shining and bright as early as imaginable. Every little ray of light floods into your room at dawn, bold and optimistic. And it makes me think of you.
Emma Vance, you are everything of the sun — a figurative light in our world. You are our optimist, and your proverbial glass is never half empty. Recently you went rock climbing and made it barley ten feet off the ground (perhaps a third of the way up), and when you’re turn was over, you bounded off the wall and declared as they unharnessed you, “I almost made it to the top!” Almost, girlfriend. Almost. And before that, you ran up to me with a grin and declared, “I got hit in the face with a tetherball! AND MY TOOTH CAME OUT!!!” (Never has anyone been so thrilled to be injured in a sport.) You see potential good in everyone and everything. You encourage others as enthusiastically as you believe in yourself. And when you feel sad or angry or upset, you have your cloudy moment, but usually a long hug or a kind word can bring you back quickly; you are building resilience every day.
I love your sense of empathy for others. You are a loyal friend, eager to go along with whatever others want to do because it’s not the activity that excites you, it’s the connection. We adore this about you. You value people above all else, and those around you are luckier for knowing you. Your teachers rave about you, about how smart and clever and kind you are. (We agree!) You are always finding new friends at school, and I love hearing your reports each day about your classmates. You constantly talk about The Horse-Es (a club comprised of you and Evelyn and Emerson…and occasionally the little sisters when you’re feeling generous). Everyday you have some new idea about what your club could or can or will do. I find shopping lists with things like goldfish and glitter pens and popsicle sticks left on the kitchen counter for me to find — “supplies for your next club meeting,” of course. And I can’t blame you — they are your people, and I hope will be so for the rest of your life.
Over the past year, sweet girl, we’ve watched you grow up more quickly than ever before, become more of a big kid and less of a little one. When I look at your face, I can see the start of what you’ll look like one day, fully grown. Your chubby cheeks are all but gone; your perfect baby smile has been replaced with gaping holes and growing teeth; freckles have begun to pop up in the sweetest places across your face. Your hair is constantly and perfectly unkempt and your knees are scraped up and bruised. There are moments, photographs and slow glances, where your hair falls just so and your expression and posture is just so, and I feel like I’m looking at a teenager already. To say that I am eager for time to slow down doesn’t even begin to describe the panic I feel at times.
This year you’ve moved toward being a tween in many rights — slowly trading in Disney Junior for “Sydney to the Max” and “Stuck in the Middle.” You’re less concerned with what’s cute and more concerned with what’s cool. Although your imagination still runs wild, the magic of princesses has faded and been replaced with sequins + Jojo Siwa. You have little notebooks hidden everywhere, full of sketches and lists and ideas. Last night you wrote down your “seventh birthday wisdom” (and I quote): “Nateture is fun! You can help nateture!
You have a song in your heart and on your lips constantly, and one of my favorite things is to find pages of lyrics scattered around the house. This year you started taking guitar to help give life to your words, and although you hate that it’s not an instant skill, you love playing “Smoke on the Water” on repeat. In fact, anything artsy is your focus, although you enjoy all the activities you try: soccer, yoga, music, dance… You started off this year determined to be a ballerina, but found along the way that you desire less structure and more creativity and have requested to try Drama and Voice next semester instead.
You’ve really begun to share your opinions on the things that represent you this year — particularly your clothes and decor. You have developed a fashion sense of your own, and your dad and I refer to it as “The Punky Brewster:” It’s colorful and fun and quirky, just like you. Right now your favorite outfit is a brightly colored shirt, short overalls covered in multi-colored hearts, and funky hand-me-down hightop sneakers. You hate sharing clothes with Cricket (who’s your exact size) and already fight over who’s turn it is to wear what. You also get frustrated with having her in your room (she’s a typical little sister, starry-eyed about her slightly-annoyed big sister), and I’m constantly having to remind you to be patient with her wanting to hang out there.
You’ve been begging for me to update your room for a while now, and truthfully I’ve been dragging my feet because your original instructions to me were “to make it rock and roll with black and white.” Too bad, sister. I’m not about to throw everything out the door and start from scratch like that! But a few months ago you changed your mind and chose a “nature” theme instead, and, whew, that I could handle. So we’ve been working a bit together to add and adjust your current look to be more “you.” (Although you have your mind set on a giant tree mural, which *spoiler alert* probably won’t happen.) I love that you own your room as your space, cleaning it and arranging things in your perfect way. You have tiny bedroom vignettes set up everywhere for your stuffed animals and squishies, and you insist that each one has its own style. I find you in there often, tucking in your toys with care, and I love you for it.
Each year your birthday is a benchmark— a reminder to look back and ask, How far have we come? What’s changed? What’s new? What’s gone forever? — and this year more than ever before, I feel like we’ve entered a new phase of life with you. You aren’t a little one anymore, and even calling you a big girl doesn’t seem to fit well either. You’re a true kid, racing toward adolescence without so much of a glance back at the bygone baby and toddler I loved holding so dear. I miss rocking your tiny body to sleep each night, but I am so excited to be in this stage of life with you right now, a stage full of thoughtful and intelligent questions and bold exploration and growth.
Emma Vance, God knew you were meant to be born in the summertime, because it is bursting with everything you are: fun-filled sunny days that linger; late nights spent running wild with friends; sun-kissed, rosy cheeks that make your eyes squint when you smile; sugary-sweet, top-heavy ice cream cones that melt in your hand; that carefree, weightless feeling of swimming completely submerged under water. I love this season for the same reason I love you — because you both bring me joy and remind me of the goodness in this world.
E.V., you made me a mom, and every year I am so thankful for that. I am thankful for you. Happy birthday, my seven year old. I am so proud of you.
Mom (and Daddy and Cricket)
Annual birthday tradition — bed full of balloons!
(We used to put them in their bed so that they woke up from nap time to them, but nowadays I just sneak into their room during the day to decorate and then call the birthday girl in…and so far it’s continued to be a sorta’ surprise.)
This morning we also told E.V. one of her birthday gifts was KidzBop tickets…
…and that her friends, the #SisterSquad, are coming, too.
Then Cricket decided to art direct: “E.V., read this book; Mommy take that picture!”
P.S. When we asked E.V. what she wanted to do for her birthday, she said, “Go to Subway.” Sooo…okay? Done!
“GIVE ME ALL THE PROCESSED FOOOOOD!”