Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Punkin Turns Five

April 19th, 2011

Dear Elaina,

Five years ago today I woke up from a restful night’s sleep to still stormy skies following a long chain of thunderstorms. On the day you were born, Daddy and I arrived at the hospital at an ungodly early hour and settled into our assigned hospital room where we filled the time waiting for the big moment of your arrival by watching morning news shows filled with late breaking news about the birth of two babies born to high profile celebrities the day before. On that morning, while your dad tried to get some rest – being the night owl that he is, he had stayed up all night while I snoozed the night away - I frequently turned my attention to witness what was happening outside the window of our room, watching as the darkness gradually transformed into beautiful blue skies filled with puffy white clouds. For obvious reasons, I was not able to go outside to enjoy the amazing spring weather that blanketed our part of the world that day, but even from my spot in the hospital bed I knew that the sunshine and warmth that others soaked up that day was without a doubt a metaphor for the type of person this little life inside of me would someday become. And as you turn five years old today, I can confidently say that you have proved my theory to be true.

In this past year, there is an image of you that I will carry with me forever as a true representation of who you are at this stage in your life. Anytime you hear music – either on a television show, the radio, church, or even a school concert – you have to dance. It’s not so much that you want to dance; you are literally compelled to move your body to the rhythm of the music. Sometimes I think your body starts to move before you’re even conscious of it, and you dance with a freedom that is so refreshing to witness. You leave all inhibitions behind as you move to the music. Of course, you leave inhibitions behind in most everything you do, so I suppose that really should come as no surprise. There are many times that I think to myself when watching you that if only the rest of the world could be as free as you are in those moments. What it must feel like to be so light of burden, stress, anxiety, and frustration; to focus only on the lightness that you experience when dancing must be so exhilarating. It’s no wonder you react the way you do to the sound of music!

Along those same lines, you continue to remind me on a daily basis that you are a born performer. One can often find you bedazzled in various forms of jewelry, you already have a knack for picking celebrities as love interests, lip gloss is a go-to accessory, and you are quick to ask, “Do I look beautiful?” at the most opportune moments. I think the fact that you orchestrated most of your own princess themed party this year – right down to the Cinderella outfit and coordinating hair bow – speaks volumes. You love the spotlight and play up the shy act only when it benefits your theatrical tendencies. It’s not unusual to find you making up a song with your own creative lyrics and original tune, usually accompanied with those fanciful dance moves. And of course no dance performance is complete without grand, sweeping, exaggerated movements as part of the grand finale. You know how to play to the crowd and are very perceptive to which of your words, gestures, or expressions garner the most laughs from your rapt audience. On consecutive weeks you have asked if I wanted you to get out the video camera during our viewing of Dancing With The Stars. And no discussion about your dynamic personality would be complete without mention of your impressive diva like mood swings. You’ve put a whole new spin on the concept of zero to sixty.

In another ongoing theme to your life, you continue to demonstrate a need to prove your independence at every opportunity. Unlike when you were a baby – where your need to do it yourself was, I think, driven by the desire to be like your older sister in a measure of equality– you now try to exert your ability to do things on your own to prove to us how capable you are. I see this so many times in the kitchen of all places. You love to assemble items on your own, to make your own sandwich, to open containers, to retrieve dishes. The look on your face when you accomplish a previously unmastered task is priceless. You are so proud of yourself in those moments, usually accompanying a look that is a mixture of pride and astonishment with a gleeful exclamation of “I did it, Mommy!”. You become agitated, almost panicked, when I don’t let you do something that you want to do on your own. I think you fear that I either don’t trust you or that I don’t believe you can do it yourself. Trust me when I tell you that I know you are more than capable. You have proven time and time again that I should not underestimate your abilities when faced with a challenge.

That being said, with the arrival of your fifth birthday comes the inevitable discussion of the start of your years of formal education. So far there’s not much talk from you about beginning kindergarten in the fall. I wouldn’t say that you’re overly excited about starting school, but I don’t think you’re dreading it either. I think you find the idea of participating in the same routines as McKenna intriguing, but the whole structured learning thing? At this point I think you could take it or leave it. Assuming you won’t read these letters until much later in life, I feel comfortable today airing my underlying concerns for your school years. I sometimes not so secretly worry about how you’ll respond to the academic demands placed on you. You’ve shown in the first five years of your life that you have a personality comprised of equal parts stubbornness and retaliation when pushed in a direction you’re not quite ready to embark on, and although this has at times served you appropriately I worry that this will not bode well for you within the walls of the classroom. From what I’ve observed so far, I would say that learning doesn’t always come easily or naturally for you and that sometimes scares me, especially when I think of how you will inevitably at some point be compared to an older sister where the exact opposite is true. Recently your dad made the observation that you can be hard on yourself when you don’t achieve your desired outcome. I guess I hadn’t really noticed that before he made the observation, but now I see time and time again how right he was. You’re not afraid to try new things, but you definitely don’t cut yourself any slack when a new endeavor is difficult no matter how many positive affirmations and upbeat pep talks we send your way. I guess my underlying fear centers around the fact that the last thing I want for you is to go through your school years feeling frustration. I’ve seen how taxing that can be on a young mind, and it’s the last thing I would wish for you as you embark on this new journey. I will say that you’ve come a long way in taking directions even in just the last year, so maybe my worrying is for naught.

I said the other day that I wonder if those quirks that are so essentially you, those character traits that we find so charming, will be perceived in the same way by your teacher when she is simultaneously faced with the personalities of 20 additional same aged peers. I hope that whoever is lucky enough to spend seven hours a day, 180 days a year with you realizes how blessed they are to not only teach you but also learn from you as we have thus far.

Surprisingly, when I think about you walking through those double doors on your first day of school, I don’t worry about others treating you unfairly or taking advantage of you like I did when McKenna was ready for kindergarten. You have shown in your lifetime that you can hold your own. You do not tolerate injustice in any way, shape, or form. You are accepting of everyone and fiercely loyal those you love the most, but you are also keenly aware of when it’s time to step away from the chaos to center yourself. You are happiest when surrounded by people yet you are more than content to participate in solitary activities. I know that you will stick up for yourself and for those who might not have the strength or abilities to do the same for themselves. I’ve always said that your booming voice will be a powerful tool in your arsenal someday, and I predict that “someday” will be sooner rather than later. What I am most excited to watch as you start kindergarten in the fall is how you truly come into your own. You are so ready to meet your own friends – not just the children of friends of mine or daddy’s and not friends of McKenna’s – but children your age who you forge bonds with all on your own. You are so desperate for your own unique relationships, and I cannot wait to watch them develop over the next year.

You are, my sweet Elaina, a source of light that is impossible to contain. Your enthusiasm for even the most mundane events is unbridled. You laugh often, hug fiercely, and love unconditionally. The joy you bring to my life is more than I would have ever thought possible; I find myself watching you from the outskirts many times simply in awe of your spirit. You make me laugh like no other, and reliving stories about your crazy antics is one of my favorite things to do. Luckily for me, there are a large collection of people in your life who enjoy being on the receiving end of a good Lainey story.

I am so incredibly honored to be your mommy, Elaina. Tears fell down my face last night a I tucked you in for the last time as a four year old, sad because I know that you’re so very quickly moving farther and farther away from being a baby. But behind those tears of sadness are tears of pride and joy as I watch you grow into the little girl who brings so much happiness to those around her. I love you so much, Elaina, more than you will probably ever know. You are in every way like that bright ray of sunshine parting the clouds on even the darkest days.

Happy birthday to you, my precious baby girl.




Tru Stories said...

Oh, I LOBE Birthday posts!!
Happy Birthday, Lana!
You make every trip to the mall, the pool, the softball diamond... that much more entertaining. We are excited to spend some summer time with you.
Love- Tink's mom

Cath said...

Oh you had me tearing up by the end, Happy Birthday Punkin!

Parker said...

Happy Birthday to Punkin!! I hope she has a great day and gets showered with all the Justin Bieber t-shirts a girl could want!! Great post, Mrs.!!

Anonymous said...

Birthday Posts always make me tear...but I loved every word of it. Punkin, you are so blessed having Mommy and Daddy always by your side.

I love you Lainey Bug!
Gramma Poke

Doc said...

Happy birthday Punkin!!! You are growing up so very fast!!o

Munchkin said...

Happy Birthday Punkin, sorry I wasn't invited to your party on Saturday and I'm also sorry a lot of angry midgets apparently crashed your party!

The MC said...

Happy Birthday, Punkin (and General)!!!!

The Page Turner said...

Happy Birthday Punkin. You are so beautiful and full of life. From Tink's Grammy

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Laine Jane!! I hope you had an amazing day!
Love Erik and Cari

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Punkin! Hope the day was filled with love!
JD in GC

Munchkin said...

oh and happy birthday General.... do you feel duped every year because your birthday is shamelessly overshadowed by your daughter's?

Tru Stories said...

Happy Birthday, General!
I remembered/forgot... because I was overwhelmed by how very much more, your wife loves your daughter, than you.
Thanks for keeping all our parties, real. I ALMOST don't mind your armpit, anymore.

Big Boca Bob said...

Happy Birthday, Punkin! Seeing as you're not quite old enough and it's really the only way I know how to celebrate, I shall take a shot of tequila in your honor. Here's to the big 5! Bottoms up!

Anonymous said...

Happy 5th Birthday, Elaina! A whole hand! Your mommy's birthday post was beautiful. Hope you were able to blow out some candles with Daddy.


you can call me al said...

Happy Birthday, Punkin! We hope you are still celebrating!

Happy Birthday, General!

Flag Girl said...

Happy Birthday Punkin!!!

Tina said...

Happy 5th Birthday, Elaina! What a great post.

Happy Birthday, General!

(total side note - your classes only have 20 kids in them? What a dream!)


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