July 14th, 2010
Yesterday afternoon you walked into my bedroom outfitted in a dress I wore several years ago to a high school dance sporting Cinderella heels and a glittering tiara as accessories. Your legs appeared a mile long with definition of muscle replacing adorable thigh rolls, no traces of dimpled knuckles, your baby face now more angular than rounded. Suddenly I was struck with the thought, "She looks so grown up". I told you as much, Daddy confirmed my thoughts, and then I announced I was going to invent a machine that would stop time so that I could freeze the passing minutes, hours, days, and years thereby successfully keeping you five years old forever. You were not very excited about that idea and insisted that you must turn six. Needless to say, I was unable to create such a machine overnight which means time keeps marching on, and now today you are six years old. And like every year before, I am once again left wondering how that is even possible.
This has been a big year for you. You started kindergarten in the fall and you absolutely loved every single second of it. This came as no surprise to me, and it made dropping you off every day that much easier knowing that no matter what was on the agenda within the walls of your classroom that day you would enjoy it to the fullest. You proved to be an excellent student. It still amazes me when I watch you grab a book you've never read before and then, with the exception of a few words here and there, you sit and read it to yourself from start to finish. The only downside to this is that I now realize you like to casually look over my shoulder while I'm emailing or blogging. I'm not sure I'm quite ready for you to comprehend the text that I put out through those outlets. Maybe it's time to make the blog slightly less accessible; I'm not prepared to pay therapy bills for all the stories I've shared with the masses just yet.
There have been many other firsts for you since your last birthday, important milestones which I still can not comprehend you are old enough to achieve. You can recite your name, address, and phone number. Your penmanship has improved dramatically. Singing along to childhood classics has been replaced by learning lyrics and jamming to Top 40 hits. At Christmas you lost your first tooth with the second falling out less than a month later. Just one week ago you added some permanent bling by getting your ears pierced. All of these things do little in the way of helping me remain in denial that you are growing up yet I can't help but share in your contagious excitement every time.
You are still, as always, my snuggly girl. Constantly throughout the day you seek physical contact with others, especially adults that you love and trust. Even though you are almost too big to fit in my lap, you still crawl into a chair with me at every opportunity. I can hardly lift you anymore, but still you will ask me to carry you to bed or give you a piggyback ride. If we are laying down together you will always reach out for me, putting your body close to mine or manipulating my positioning to that I have one arm draped around you. I don't indulge in these moments as much as I should. One of these days very soon we won't fit together in the same chair and you will be too heavy for me to hold in my arms, and I know that I will miss those moments too. I need to remember to soak up that time with you while I can and you still let me.
The older you get the more alike our personalities. This is a phenomenon which your Gramma reminds me of frequently, although it's not like I need her reassurance to see something as clear as the nose on my face. Just recently you've begun fighting back tears at pivotal emotional moments in children's movies. A well known crier during movie viewings myself, it's a sad sight when both you and I work hard to swallow down that big lump in our throats as we wipe away tears. With the exhaustion that comes with being in school, it became quickly apparent that you and I also handle lack of sleep similarly. That being, we can hold it together for only so long and then BOOM! We both have a very long fuse (although I'll be the first to admit that with age my fuse has gotten drastically shorter especially when it comes to issues on the home front, and for that I apologize), and we carry burdens longer than we probably should. When we've finally reached our breaking point it usually manifests itself in heavy sobs and the people around us are left trying to unravel our emotional state as they try to pinpoint where the actual source of sorrow or frustration originates. I can tell already that you work your tail off during the day doing what is asked and expected of you by others, and sometimes that translates into showing the ones who love you the most a less appealing, sometimes slightly sassy side of you. I know that technique well, having perfected it during my high school years. You and I are tied the heartstrings, as Papa used to say to me. For better or worse, you and I are one in the same.
Lately, usually after you and Elaina are in bed for the night, I have felt so frustrated with myself. For as many times as I say I hate watching how fast you're growing, I get angry at myself when I wonder if I'm actually doing everything I can to soak up this time with you while it's here. Life is crazy sometimes which you'll learn far earlier than you should. There are always things that need to be done: dishes to wash, laundry to fold, floors to vacuum, meals to be made, calls to return, places to go, appointments to keep, people to see. I know that I spend far too much time engaged in those activities and not even close to enough time setting those things aside so that I can just make time to be with you. There are not many things in my life that I regret, but I feel like someday all those moments of "Not nows" and "Maybe laters" might come back to haunt me. I suppose pouring my heart out about this to you in a birthday letter isn't the most appropriate venue, but it's been weighing on my heart lately. I feel like maybe you're feeling left out or ignored, and that breaks my heart if it's true. You're going to be busy in this next year accomplishing even more amazing feats and while you're doing that, I'm going to promise to do a better job of being totally, completely present for you. You deserve that.
Someday when you are older you will read this letter I wrote to you on your sixth birthday. Knowing that, there are so many things I want you to know about who you are at this age, but I'm at a loss for how to accurately do this. Words can not do justice to how amazing you are, McKenna. You are tenderhearted the likes of which I have never seen. You are sweet, and goofy, and silly, and smart. You bring joy to so many and are loved by everyone who has been lucky enough to have you in their life. You love with your whole heart in return and are accepting of everyone. You are kind and patient. You love to talk and ask questions even if you already know the answers. You have a beautiful face and even more beautiful soul.
You are my heart, my sunshine, my happiness. And I love you more than you can even imagine.
Happy 6th birthday, my sweet girl.