Sunday, July 14, 2013

Nine Years Old

July 14th, 2013

Dear McKenna,

Do you remember a few years back when we were sitting on the living room floor, me attempting to cradle your five year old body like I used to when you were a newborn and you giggling at my pointless efforts to fold your arms and legs to fit within the confines of my too short arm span?  That day I asked you to promise me that you wouldn't grow up anymore, that you would just stay that age forever.  You, in your wisdom, gently reminded me that was an impossible request.  Still, it won't stop me from asking again:  can you please just stay this age forever?

Let me start this annual letter to you by telling you how incredibly proud I am of you every single day because I know I don't tell you nearly as much as you should hear it.  You are such an amazing child.   Whether it's a report from your teachers, another family member, a family friend, or even just a stranger in the community there is rarely a day that goes by that I am not given the joy of hearing someone else tell me what I have always known about you - that you are sweet, and kind, and generous, and caring, and loving, and smart, and compassionate.  You possess every single admirable personality trait that I hoped and prayed my children might display toward others.  I think I've told you this before, but you really make it look like your dad and I know what we're doing.  Really, though, I feel like we can take little of the credit for the amazing individual that you are now and always have been.  These are qualities that you do not need to be reminded to use - these traits are innately you, what defines you even more than the beautiful, enviable wavy brown locks covering your head. These things are who you are and what I know you will always be.  If you could somehow teach everyone in this world how to live their lives and treat others the way you display every single day, it blows my mind to think of the peace that we would all live in.  You embody an amazing amount of goodness in that little nine year old body of yours. 

You embarked on a new adventure in this last year when you joined your first cheerleading squad.  I know I am your mother and therefore extremely biased, but I have never in my life seen a more beautiful cheerleader in the history of pom poms and high kicks.  You relished in those long practices with friends, learning new cheers and kicks like it was your job.  You took this new role very seriously, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I had tears in my eyes on more than one occasion watching you out there doing your thing.  Your grandparents and dad can vouch for me when I tell you I was rapidly approaching a full blown anxiety attack as you took the floor at your very first cheer competition.  To watch you work so hard for so many weeks and then walk out to a high school gymnasium filled to the rafters with complete strangers, I had to fight back an overwhelming urge to run out there and yank you off that mat to eliminate any possibility that you might be embarrassed or afraid.  I should have known better though.  You walked out with your squad - shoulders back, head held high, your gorgeous smile lighting up your face - and nailed it.  My heart nearly burst with joy at your triumph in that moment.  Again, in my admittedly biased opinion, you worked harder than anyone else out there; carry that work ethic with you in everything you do and you will always be able to walk into any room knowing you will master whatever challenge awaits you. 

I don't know what it is, but it doesn't take long for people to figure out that you are a natural born caregiver.  Is it your kind face?  Your gentle touch?  Your willingness to give drive-by hugs and marathon snuggle sessions at every opportunity?  Your patience and soft voice?  I'm sure it's a steady combination of all of the above, and as a result I can tell you now that should you be interested, you will have no shortage of babysitting jobs at your disposal in a few years.  Two of your youngest cousins in the last month have added "Nenna" to their vocabulary, using it to request your presence often.  Ella especially is borderline obsessed with you.  It's a pretty big deal when she shuns even your Papa to be with you.  It's speaks to your maturity and the trust adults in your life have in you to seek you out to help take care of their little ones, a role that you take on without complaint.  I often think back to when you were little and how I leaned on Rachel to help me keep an eye on you at family functions, and I now see you taking on a similar role with your younger cousins.  Let me tell you this about that similarity - you are in good company and on the right path in life taking her lead.  As you are lucky to have Rachel to look up to, your littlest cousins are so lucky to have you to lead and guide them.

I'm going to admit something to you that will probably seem strange to you:  I sometimes wish you were my big sister.  Now obviously I know this is completely impossible, but I guess what I mean when I say this is that I wish I had the privilege of having someone just like you to share my life with:  secrets, and memories, and laughs, and adventures, and friends, and clothes, and sorrow, and frustrations, and a life story. I love my brother fiercely, even more so as we get older, but I see something so incredible in the relationship you share with Elaina and it makes me long for that too.  I know now that there is something fundamentally different about the relationship between a brother and a sister and two sisters.  I think it's normal to be envious of what you and Elaina share for anyone that spends a good deal of time with the two of you.  You are many things, but an amazing big sister has always been at the top of the list of things I would say about you.  I wish many things for the two of you, but in the number one spot is that you always love each other like you do right now in this moment of time in your lives.  The two of you are a perfect pair, each one's strengths matching what the other might lack.  As lucky as Dad and I are to have you as a daughter, Elaina is equally lucky to have you not only as a sister but as a best friend too.  I know you guys might not buy into that idea yet, but it's so obvious that you are each other very best friend.  Thank you for being your sister's best playmate and loyal confidante, her most willing audience and the one to laugh first, loudest, and longest at her latest erratic of behavior.  She is the luckiest little sister in the world.

As grown up as you so often seem, there are so many moments when I still realize how innocent you are.  I love that about you - that you are trusting and somewhat naive about things that I'm sure other kids your age know much about.  Although this adds to your sweet nature, I also worry that it will be something that brings you pain, and naturally as your mom I want to do whatever I can to keep hurt out of your heart whenever possible.  I know looking forward another year or two there are going to be issues that we have to tackle together, you as our first born blazing the trail for your dad and me in this learning curve of parenthood.  We've already started discussions about the monster that is puberty and everything that accompanies it.  You seem surprisingly interested in learning more especially given your very awkward reaction to our initial conversation as I had you locked in a moving vehicle alone one day last spring.  Catching you in unguarded moments with your friends gives me insight in realizing that you are probably more knowledgeable and worldly than I give you credit for, and I'm torn on whether that sits well with me or not.  I know full well that we are about to enter the landmine of life together as mother and daughter.  As I always made you promise me, assure me one more time that you will never, ever hesitate to keep the lines of communication open between us, okay?  If you promise me this one thing I promise to work so much harder on being available to you in both mind and body - present fully when you need me to be to answer your questions, share in your happiness, calm your fears, reassure you when you've lost confidence in yourself, and just hold you in my arms until you have cried out all those tears I know you've been holding back for far too long.

Oh, McKenna.  I love you so much that in this moment, as I sit back and rewind stored pictures of your life in my mind, tears of happiness run down my face and my heart feels like it might burst.  I could not ask for a more perfect little girl to have come into our lives nine years ago today.   You are growing up and because of that you are forcing me to continue growing too.  In the craziness of life, I know I lose sight of the trees through the forest.  It's too often that it's not until I'm able to sit back and quietly, secretly watch you from afar that I am hit with a force to the chest that reminds me what a beautiful creature you are.  You radiate a light from within that is unmatched in my eyes.  You love to sing and you have the best laugh - both are sounds that create perfect harmony in my heart.  I look at you and wonder what I did right in this world to receive such a gift of you for a daughter. 

Nine years old.  I know I will blink and I'll be writing another birthday letter to you, wondering how it's possible that another 365 days have passed so quickly.  Time passing, you growing up, triumphs and tribulations experienced individually and shared between us - they are all inevitable, as inevitable as the fact that my love for you will continue to grow just as quickly as the days pass.  You are a treasure, my sweet girl, and I hold you in my heart today on your special day as I have all the days before and all the days to come until the end of time.

Happy birthday, McKenna.  I love you so very much.



Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness....I can never wait to read your annual letter to your daughters but then, it leaves me in tears...I am so proud of MY little girl, you are such a good loving, so kind, so encouraging. Do you even know how proud I am? Can you see the ripple effect that we are blessed with?
Amanda, my dear daughter continue to do exactly what you are doing....yes, we mess up sometimes but the love we have and the love we give out will come back 10 fold. McKenna and Elaina are two of the luckiest girls in the world. I love all of you with all of my heart.
Happy Birthday my dear McKenna. Gramma Poke

Munchkin said...

Happy Birthday McKenna!!

Tina said...

Love the pictures, love the words, love you, McKenna! Happy Birthday!

Page Turner said...

Gramma Poke - They make me cry too. Mrs. you have done a great job and are blessed with a very special daughter. Two of them! Happy Birthday McKenna!


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