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