It’s your birthday! And what an unexpected one at that — especially since for the past year we thought you’d be celebrating turning eight at Merri-Mac (oh, how you looked forward to having a special cake with just your cabin today!). But since camp is cancelled for this year, I’m just happy to be soaking you in today, happy to be able to “surprise” (haha) you with balloons in your bed, happy to hug you on your special day…and happy to dream with you of having your very own cabin cake next summer. ;)
This year has been about GROWTH for you, Emma Vance. It’s like one day I woke up and had a thirteen year old living in my house, and I have no idea where she came from. (And I love her!) This new wannabe-teenager asked a computer for her birthday, begs for Fruitloops for breakfast, constantly wants to FaceTime her friends, and stays up late reading graphic novels in bed. When I look back at pictures from just last summer, it feels like the toothless, long-haired, grinning chipmunk smiling back at me is just a memory. It’s obvious that this year has brought about more changes than usual: You insisted on chopping your hair for the first time (and I only cried a little); your two front teeth have finally come in—just in time for your side teeth to vacate leaving you with the cutest “bunny” smile; you decided to be a YouTube gamer when you grow up and suddenly now you’re *into* video games; you learned to ride your bike (YAY!) and now cruise around our streets like a would-be BMXer; and I’m starting to feel like I can actually talk to you with transparency and honesty. You have matured in leaps and bounds—it’s undeniable that you’re growing up!
I think that this year, with Covid-19 and quarantine to contend with, kids had to grow up a little bit more than normal, which I’m sad about for your generation. However, Emma Vance, you are resilient and upbeat, and you took each change and challenge on this year with grace. You managed online schooling (yeesh, that was rough as a parent, FYI!) with ease (and with some bribery, haha) and for that I am so grateful. (Honestly, you make being a mom easy.)
Quarantine was (is?) a very trying time, filled with the stress of the unknown and with constant change, and although it wasn’t my favorite time as a parent, something so wonderful came out of it all — the return of kids’ freedom. When I was growing up, we’d wander the neighborhood all day until the streetlights came on, but over the past few years, it felt like that reality was so far gone that you and Cricket would never experience it. However, sometime about mid-May, two months into isolation, it was as if all the parents in the neighborhood got fed up at the same time and said, “GO! Just go outside. Now. And don’t come back until it’s dark. No, I don’t care where you go as long as you stay in the neighborhood and out of people’s houses. Now GO!” And the kids did. Including you!
Up until this point in life, I’ve been by your side pretty much non-stop; I was wary letting you even play in the driveway alone. However, I’ve learned over the past few months what good it does for kids to be on their own just a smidge. It grows your confidence (and mine), lets you experience decision-making, and fosters trust between us. Honestly, there have been days over the past season when you’ve left after breakfast and haven’t come home until dinner, and I love that you are forming a life of your own — even if it is within the limits of our neighborhood.
Thankfully, in this small neighborhood, we have about a dozen elementary-aged girls who run together, and the parents fondly call you guys “The Girl Gang.” It’s like the summer I remember as a kid — a pack of wild, disheveled kids roaming the streets, knocking on doors to see “who can play,” using whatever junk is available to make up an activity or game for the day. There’s a divide between the younger and older girls, and unfortunately you’re kinda’ stuck in the middle of the two of them, which has been interesting. There have been days when you mysteriously “don’t feel like going out,” and we’ve had to talk a lot about what to do when kids are mean to you or leave you out. It breaks my heart, but I also know that dealing with changing social dynamics is just another part of growing up. And you will learn. You will learn who you are, and who they are, and who’s worth your tears and who’s not. You are strong and independent — and you have true friends who love you (in school, in our family, and in our Sister Squad).
Speaking of those who love you, Evelyn and Emerson are your ride-or-dies for sure, and the only person I know who craves your friendship more is (of course) Cricket. Gah. I didn’t have a sister growing up, so I. Don’t. Get. It. Even at this young age there’s this big sister/little sister dynamic going on that is rough. She loves you so intensely, it hurts. And you…tolerate her. Sigh. I’m always telling you to just give her a little attention so that she stops annoying you on her own, haha. But, of course, you’d rather kick her out of your room or complain about her wearing “your” clothes (which aren’t really yours, since you both wear the same size). We started reading the Beezus and Ramona books this year, and you’re constantly “amen-ing” all the times Ramona drives Beezus crazy, haha! But deep down I know that you love Cricket, that you’d stick up for her out in the ‘hood if someone picked on her, and that at the end of the day, she is (begrudgingly) your best friend. I mean, she may not be your ride-or-die of choice YET, but we’re getting there. ;)
E.V., you are so special. I want to just soak you in, every ounce. I want to remember every bit of you, just as you are today — your laugh, your warm, sun-drenched skin, your messy hair and crooked smile. You are so precious to me, so you and I, we sneak away together as much as possible. In your own undemanding way, you crave one-on-one time, attention. So does Cricket, but she’s loud and boisterous and unapologetic about her wishes. You, on the other hand my sweet girl, are more thoughtful, careful with asking things of others. You are empathetic to others’ needs and often prioritize them over your own, but I know you, and you come alive in those moments where you don’t have to compete for space. And I love that about you. I love that you are considerate and flexible and generous. And I know your friends love that (and so much more) about you, too.
Emma Vance, I hope that this coming year is filled to the brim with all the things that make you happy and make you come alive — with friends and horses and video games and chapter books and bike rides and late night sleepovers and camp. I love you and the person you are becoming; just don’t grow up too fast, okay?
I love you!
Mommy, Daddy, Cricket and Birdie