It’s your ninth birthday — the first we’ve ever spent apart. The first of many, I suppose. I guess I just didn’t think that it would happen this early. I felt like we’d have years to slip into a pattern of birthdays like this: You’d go from giggling slumber parties here at the house to dinners out with your high school friends. We’d have the daytime; your girl friends would have the nights. And that would be okay. A few years later, you’d go off to college, only popping back home for your annual present-and-obnoxious-singing. Then you’d get a boyfriend…a husband…a family. And your birthdays would be, well, yours.
But instead of boiling the lobster in the pot, we’ve gone and ripped out the stitches early. (I’d say rip the Band-aid off, but I’ve never been one for that particular metaphor.) My only peace is knowing that you are exactly where you want to be — at camp, in the wild, with friends. In fact, you’ve been counting down to your ninth birthday for two years because of where you’d be today. (There was no camp for your eighth, and you were so sorely disappointed!) For months you’ve talked about what it would be like — the type of cake you’d choose (cookie), everyone singing to you, how special you’d feel…which demonstrates one of my favorite things about you:
You are equal-parts adventurer and homebody. You are both a a daydreamer and a doer. You are wild and silly, reserved and thoughtful. E.V., you are a million different things day to day, and I love every bit of you the same. I love watching you be daring and outgoing. I love being with you when you are cozy and quiet. I love that you are both the happiest bookworm and eager to show off your own “novels.” (I swear, if you don’t end up and author and illustrator, I’ll be a sore loser in a lifelong bet.) I love that you tackle obstacle courses and river rafting and refuse to wear shoes when you ride your bike. I love that you want to sleep in and take long baths and talk deeply at bedtime. I love all the crazy, quiet, wonderful things that make you YOU.
And so does Cricket.
I know that you love her, but Cricket is definitely your pestering little sister these days. I try not to interfere too much. I often remind you how much influence you have over her: She would literally go to the ends of the earth for you; she worships the ground you walk on; she also wants your approval more than anything in life. Your dad always reminds the two of you to be each other’s biggest fans — which you are…deep down, haha!
I think this bump in the sisterly road has to do with your trying out the next stage of life: TWEENDOM. This year you started leaning hard into the things that make a teenager a TEENAGER in your mind — curiosity in boys, makeup, and hard eye-rolls at Cricket. I think ultimately you just want freedom (which, my dear, is the true hallmark of being a teenager). I can see you standing with one foot in childhood and one foot in teenagehood, and you’re constantly looking back and forth to compare the two.
Thankfully that one foot is still firmly planted in childhood, which I see when you and I chat about those teenage dreams: You want to talk about boys, but deny that you have crushes. You want to play with makeup, but don’t want anyone to see you. You want to shop for clothes that express your style, but choose grubby, old athletic clothes to actually wear. You wonder what middle school and high school will be like. (In your own words, “there will be cool girls, mean girls and nerds” and you “hope you’re a cool girl.”)
Dear girl, please don’t hurry through childhood too quickly — you only get one. (But also, I am so excited to know you in your teenage years. I know you are going to be so fun — a definite cool girl in the making!)
I want to remember this last year and who you were during it well: Your love for graphic novels. (Woo hoo Raina Tegelmeyer!) Your obsession with The Baby Sitters Club and The Boxcar Children. Your fascination with video games and YouTubers. (I, too, have come to enjoy Mariah Elizabeth’s crafting, haha!) Your love-hate relationship with lacrosse…and French…and growing up. I want to remember that you still need Teddy to sleep. That I still find drawings of characters piled up on your desk. That you hide little trinkets in your nightstand in hopes that Cricket won’t find them. That goldfish and bananas are still your favorite food (after chicken nuggets, of course).
E.V., I have loved you at every stage of life, this one perhaps most of all. In it, I have gotten to enjoy you as a little girl for a little while longer, all while dreaming and scheming with you about what the next stage holds for you. I cannot wait to find out more and more who God made you to be. I cannot wait to get to know nine year old E.V. I know this year holds so much joy and growth for you!
Happy birthday, Emma Vance. You are so truly beautiful inside and out. I love you. We love you. (And I can’t wait to celebrate next week when you’re H O M E from camp!)
Mommy (and Daddy and Cricket and Birdie)