Dear Emma Vance,
It’s bedtime, but the sun is still shining, and I know the argument that’s coming: But it’s still DAYTIME out! (And I hate that I kinda’ agree with you.)
But I’m wrong.
Instead, you lean over and whisper in my ear, “Can you snuggle just me tonight?”
My heart is a little melted, so I bribe Cricket into putting herself to bed so that I can sneak one last night with you, my four-year-old.
We climb into your bed, pulling your new Merri-Mac sweatshirt blanket over us, rustling and rearranging pillows until they’re just right. The light is dimming by now, thankfully, and your room is getting dark. The walls look blue and everything is fading to grays. I’m on my belly and my arms folded under my head, my face toward yours. You’re on your belly, too, with your head on your pillow, mimicking my posture. Your big, brown eyes are slowly taking in the room around us; I am taking in you — your messy hair, half damp from tonight’s bath; your rosy cheeks, red from the summer sun and still just a little chubby (She’s not quite a big girl yet, I tell myself for the thousandth time today); your little pink lips, as sweet as the say you were born. I want to tell you that you are perfect, that you are mine, that I love you more than my own life…but as I search for the right words, you chime in:
“I’m not sleepy.”
You never are until you’re out, I laugh to myself. So we roll over and turn on your “good air machine” (essential oil diffuser) and star projector. The scent of thieves oil and lavender surrounds us as we stare up at the ceiling. You laugh and giggle and point out the different stars. Slowly you wiggle your way over to me, resting your head on my belly. As the sun finally sets, we’re surrounded by darkness. We’ve talked about all manner of things — about Tripp (the boy in your class you love), about Daddy, about when I was a baby and then when you were a baby. We’ve talked until it’s well past your bedtime, and as I’m about to make you roll over and go to sleep, you point up at the image of the moon slowly making it’s way across your bedroom.
“Is that where God is? In that spot on the moon?”
I want to eat you up, sweet girl. I chuckle a bit and then we talk more — this time about heaven, about Jesus, about Olive, about how much we miss YiaYia, about one day when I’m a grandma (and about your theory that one day we’ll all be old and the world will be “Grandma World”). Eventually your breathing slows and you’re suspiciously quiet. I lay my hand on your chest, and your heart is nearly beating out of it. I slowly slip out from underneath you, exhausted but happy. I lean down and loop my fingers through your hair to pull it away from your neck before covering you up again. Tomorrow is FIVE, I sigh to myself.
Emma Vance, you are my bright and precious child. There is nothing I would change about you; everything you are, I love. You have the biggest heart of anyone I know, and you wear it on your sleeve. In fact, you hold it in your hands and out for everyone you meet. You are a good friend to people. You don’t care who they are, what they look like, or what everyone around you says. You seek out the lonely and invite them into your world, which is so inspiring to watch. You stop mothers on the street to tell them how adorable their babies are; you hug any animal that will tolerate you; you engage with kids different than yourself with care and genuineness; you love on the lonely with an instinct I could only dream of having. You can’t stand injustice, which at this age looks like children who are unkind or uninclusive. Most of the time you are smiling and outgoing and positive, and you are so. much. fun.
Your teachers adored you this year in Pre-K. Your imagination, independence and zeal for life was evident in the classroom, and I drank in every moment I got to share in that experience. You are so intelligent and determined. You learned every sight work given to you and can even read all of the first series of Bob Books. You are desperate to be able to read real words and books and are constantly pointing out letters and words in public. You love to write (although M and N stump you a bit still), and your imagination leads me to believe that you will compose great stories one day. You are undoubtedly ready for kindergarten, but I am still sad at the thought of you moving up to big girl school. This will be a hard and exciting fall for sure.
Emma Vance, I always tell you that your heart is so big it can barely fit in your chest. You are extremely empathetic, and your nurturing instinct is intense. You talk about getting married one day (to Tripp) constantly, and pretend to have a baby in your belly even more than you pretend to talk to animals. ;) You make friends wherever you go, and I’m never worried that you will ever struggle socially. Your imagination takes you to far-off places, and you are always drawing princesses, mermaids and unicorns. You are a creative, inside and out. You even make up your own songs and are constantly asking for “no-voice music” so that you can make up your own lyrics.
I call you “Little Fish” because you are most at home in the water. In fact, the other day we were at the gym pool, and you were eyeing the two-story waterslide (like you always do). You asked me (for the millionth time) how old you have to be to go down it, and then didn’t accept my made-up answer of 12. ;) Instead, you asked a lifeguard, who told you that you just had to pass your swim test by making it from one end of the pool to the other without resting or touching the side. You didn’t even hesitate to march up to the lifeguard cabana to demand a testing. (The guards all looked at you, then assured me that you could take the test again at a later date once you inevitably failed it.) You jumped in the water and just started paddling along, turning over onto your back to kick-kick-kick. You had this grin on your face the whole time, like you were laughing at proving them wrong and singing, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” AND YOU DID IT! I couldn’t believe it! You ran faster than you ever had to get your wristband, and when they asked you your age and you replied, “Four!” all their jaws dropped. Now you spend every moment going up and down that slide, happy as a clam. It’s no wonder that you say you want to be “a swim teacher” when you grow up…and and artist and mommy.
Speaking of waterslides — girl, you have a need for adventure! You want to run and jump and play and swim until you pass out. You have a curious mind, and nothing seems impossible to you. You are always asking, “What’s next?” and, as a mom, I’m just trying to keep up with you! You played soccer this spring (we took the fall off from activities because YiaYia was sick) and loved it. You want to soak in all the things life has to offer you, so you’re always asking to do all sorts of actives, from cooking to ballet to gymnastics to horseback riding. You are obsessed with camp, and this first Mother-Daughter weekend we spent at Merri-Mac this year proved that you were what I knew all along — a true camp girl from the start. You love joking and playing dress-up, and Halloween is your favorite time of year (and we talk about your next costume no matter the season). You beg for pool parties and camp-outs and to go to Disney. Your desire for adventure is unmatched.
On the eve of your fifth birthday, I quietly listened in while you spoke to your Creator. You asked earnestly, “Dear God, Help me to be the best girl in the world.” I’m not sure who smiled bigger — me or God. I’m here to tell you honestly, little one, that you already are the best girl in the world. And I will keep telling you that every day of your life to make sure you always believe it from the tips of your toes to the tiny freckle on the side of your nose (which, by the way, is adorable).
Sweet child, your thirst for life is insatiable and endearing. You want to drink up every drop of life this world has to offer and then run gloriously into the next, and I want to share a cup with you and help you prepare for the race set before you. In this field of roses around us, you truly are the wild flower — captivating beyond belief, bursting with beauty and sunlight, bold and free. I love you.
Happy birthday, dear heart.
Mommy (and Daddy and Cricket)