Saturday, April 19, 2014

Happy 8th Birthday, Elaina!

April 19th, 2014

Dear Elaina,

I have the hardest time starting these annual birthday letters.  When I wrote the very first one in 2007 it started as simple way for me to commemorate the first year of life, sort of a reminder of how far you had come in just 12 months.  I’m not sure I ever intended for it to become an annual tradition at the beginning, but now I’ll admit they have become one of my very favorite parts of the year.  It’s bittersweet, of course.  I love looking back at all you have done and how much you have grown since the last letter I wrote to you, but it breaks me to realize that over the course of only eight letters you have changed so completely from this tiny little human dependent on me and your dad for everything to this independent girl with a mind and destiny all her own.  It’s everthing I could have wished and hoped for of course, but it doesn’t dull the pain any to realize once again how quickly these years are flying.

It took me a long time to think about what I wanted to say to you in this birthday letter; I've been working on it for almost a week.  What sticks out about the last 365 days with you?  What have you accomplished, what amazing things have you done, what funny things have you said?  There are too many moments to count.  Sadly, I'll admit, there are too many moments to remember the details of them all, and my blogging and picture taking - two tricks I often rely on to aid my failing memory - have both been lacking over the last year and a half.  What is it that defines the last trip around the sun with you at my side?  

This I am certain of:  you continue to be a bright light in my life, my little ray of sunshine.  You keep us on our toes as always and are as unpredictable as ever when it comes to what might come out of your mouth.  You are energetic and creative and sassy.  You love style, fashion, glitz and glamor, and you are borderline obsessed with all things Frozen (I'm finishing this letter as the movie plays in the background, your freshly primped and pampered friends fighting off sleep at your Coronation Day spa slumber party).  "Let It Go" is your jam and you belt it out with all the feeling your tall, lean body can muster (which is a lot).  I could watch and listen to you sing that song all day long.

Thinking back on this last year with you, it suddenly became very clear to me what I wanted to say to you to commemorate this birthday just this afternoon.  In recent months you've expressed on more than few occasions - usually in moments when you are either in trouble or feeling ignored in some way - that you are trying to change.  The first time you said this to me I sort of brushed it off.  The second time I knew about this declaration was from a conversation you had with Papa.  I chalked it up again to a little Drama Queen moment (yes, there continues to be no shortage of those with you), but it didn't sit quite right with me.  What is it that she's trying to change?  Why is she trying to change and what is prompting this desire?  These were the thoughts that ran through my head the entire drive back home from El Paso.  The third time you said this to me directly, just about a month ago.  You were upset after I reprimanded you for lying to me about brushing your teeth before bed (note:  don't lie to your parents, but if you're going to lie pick something worth getting in trouble for.  Consider that a life lesson I won't tell you in person).  During the "debriefing session" to make sure you understood why I was so upset our conversation took a turn that I did not see coming.  Through sobs, your tear soaked faced turned to face me and with the voice of pure heartbreak you said, "I'm trying so hard to change.  I want to be different but it's just so hard!  I just feel like people want me to be a different person".  I couldn't understand it still even after hearing it for the third time, and I got kind of mad.  Not mad at you, believe me; my heart in that moment was filled with nothing but love and compassion for you.  It was that last sentence that woke the fierce momma bear in me.  

Elaina, I told you then and I'm going to say in again now.  Any person - ANY PERSON - that expects you to change is not worthy of your friendship.  They are not deserving of knowing the passion and energy that you exude with every breath.  They are not worth your time, or your love, or your kindness, or your generosity.  Those people are not your friends; they are soul suckers and spirit killers and leaches on all the goodness that you embody.  The idea that you would try to conform to someone else's standards for what you should be makes me so angry I could scream because you, my little Lainie Bug, are one of the most incredible people I have ever had the honor and privilege of knowing and loving.  Anybody that doesn't recognize that is blind.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  I'm not sure I've ever fully shared this with anyone other than maybe your dad, but I think it's important for you to know this.  I had a vision for what my life would be like as a wife and mother.  I always pictured myself being married with two kids, a girl and a boy.  When I closed my eyes and pictured what my life would look like as an adult that's always the vision that came into my head.  The girl was older by a couple of years.  So, naturally, when we found out I was pregnant with a little girl, McKenna, I was pleased that my vision was coming to life.  Just after McKenna's first birthday I found out I was pregnant again.  Thrilled to be adding to our family, one step closer to my life long vision for what life would hold, I was certain you would be a boy.  That my pregnancy with you was much different from my pregnancy with McKenna only served as further proof that I was pregnant with the last piece to my dream life, a little boy.  You had to be a boy because I thought that's what would make my life complete.

Oh my God, was I so wrong.

I thought I knew what I wanted but what I needed was you, and I didn't fully realize that until you were mine.  Sweet, sassy, funny, dramatic, emotional, energetic, independent, artistic, loud, girly, spirited YOU.  You complete me in ways that I didn't know I needed completed.  You fill a place in my heart that I didn't realize was empty.  You give me exactly what I need in every moment - a funny face when I need to laugh, a generous and heartfelt "thank you" when I need to feel appreciated, a hug when I need to feel loved, a helping hand when I need to feel supported.  Elaina, I can not begin to explain how much I love you for exactly who you are.  You are everything I couldn't begin to dream of because something as perfect as you surely wasn't possible.  You are so much better than anything I could have envisioned when I closed my eyes and tried to peek into what my future would hold.  Your spirit is beautiful and to try to be anything other that what you are would be a loss for all who know and love you and those you will someday encounter.

I don't tell you this enough, but you are fascinating.  You are smart.  You are capable of so much more than I give you credit for.  You are going to move mountains someday, of this I am sure.  I smile every time Cari calls to tell me that "we have another Elaina on our hands" when Ella does something slightly naughty (but equally amusing) because another Elaina is exactly what we need more of in this world.

Elaina Rae, I wonder every day how it is possible that I am deserving of all the wonderful things in my life, and you - along with your Dad and sister - are at the very top of that list.  As your mom,  I vow to work harder with every passing day to make you realize how valuable you are to me and to everyone around you.  I will try to discipline you in a way that makes you realize I'm trying to teach you how to be a better version of who you already are, not a different version of what I think you should be.  I will make every effort to make you understand how much I appreciate you for exactly who you are so that you never consider it a possibility to change in order to make someone else happy.  Take a page from your anthem and Let It Go:

"It's funny how some distance,

makes everything seem small.
And the fears that once controlled me, can't get to me at all
It's time to see what I can do,
to test the limits and break through.
No right, no wrong, no rules for me.
I'm free!"
I love you so much, my silly girl.  You are an incredible human being and one of the greatest things that have ever come into my life.  Thank you for being the life force responsible for bringing light into my life and joy into my heart every single day.

All my love,


Anonymous said...

Oh my Lainey bug, I LOVE you to the moon and back. You are my favorite middle girl (you know what I mean don't you) I mean, after all, you created that phrase!

Thank you for letting Gramma help at your slumber party. I enjoyed every minute of it even though your friends told me I needed some dance lessons!

Wishing you many more exciting birthdays, love you always, Gramma P.

Tru Stories said...

I'm just going to Copy and Paste 60% of this letter for Coco in a couple weeks.
We ADORE you in this house, Lana. Mostly, because we are big believers in this world needing more Generals, Lanas, Cocos and more. You keeps us on our toes. For example, I'll never tru-ly relax during a summer afternoon swim, with you sharing the pool.


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