Monday, July 14, 2014

Happy Birthday, McKenna!

July 14, 2014

Dear McKenna,

If I was asked to pick a decade of my life in which I have experienced the most personal transformation, there is no doubt that this past decade with you would be the one I chose.  Looking back at pictures of you over the past ten years obviously reveals how much you have changed, from a sleepy newborn with a head full of black hair to a stunningly sweet ten year old - still with enviable locks - with a heart of gold.  I've changed too, and most of that is a direct result of you.  You made me a mother.  You were the one that made me realize the depths of love have no limit, that they only continue to swell and expand with each new day and every new experience shared.  You were the one to make me appreciate the sacrifices my own parents made for me in a way that I never before understood.  You were the one to reminded me that life's simplest moments are some of the most important and that at the end of the day I am happiest when surrounded by the little family that your dad and I have created together.  You, my sweet girl, have in so many ways taught me more in the last ten years than I could have hope to teach you. 

 

I look at you now and am often shocked at what I see.  I can still see flashes of the little baby that I rocked to sleep every night.  There are moments when you turn and I'm reminded of you as a toddler playing at the park.  Those moments are becoming fewer and farther in between though, replaced now with the face of a young lady.  The wisdom of experience.  The laugh of understanding at subtleties once misunderstood, of jokes now told instead of just heard.  I am stunned when I stop to dwell on the fact that you are going into fifth grade.  My God, fifth grade?!  I cried watching you walk into the Intermediate School on the first day of school last year.  I don't know where it came from.  I was ready for emotion when I dropped you off on your first day of kindergarten, but tears on the first day of fourth grade was unexpected.  I think I was just suddenly overcome, watching you confidently and independently walking away from my car into a new building, that the times when you need me by your side are slowly fading.  This is what I want for you, but man does it still sting.


Still, even though you don't need me at your side, I know that for know you still want me there.  You are ten years old but still snuggle up next to me or your Dad at every opportunity.  You slide in next to me for hugs multiple times a day, in private or in public.  You reach for my hand as a way to stay connected more than for safety.  You look to me to make sure that I'm watching and give a little smile when we make eye contact.  I know you probably don't think this is the case, but you should know that I am always watching for you and over you.  I'm always turning to find you in the crowd, to see what you are doing and to know that you are okay.  My eyes will always be searching for you where we are in life.  You are not afraid to show or seek affection, and I love that you are still so open with your love.  Your heart is the biggest of anyone I've ever known.  For has hard as you love, it is impossible for anyone not to love you right back.  




In this past year, I've seen a part of you open up that I haven't seen before.  I don't know if it's age or opportunity, but you have taken on challenges this year with the perfect balance of nerves and confidence.  You've done another year of cheer leading, tried out for the school play, taken on solo performances at your music concert, ran for and won a spot as a student council representative, signed up for band, and performed at your school's talent show.  I can tell you how proud of you I am in all of those instances and so many more, but I don't have the words to convey the intensity of my pride in those moments.  As you and Elaina are getting older I think you're becoming more and more aware of how I tend to be a crier - in those moments when the tears are falling you should know that the tears are coming from a well deep within my heart and carry with them an overwhelming sense of love and joy at your bravery and talent.  One of my many hopes for you is that someday you become a mother and experience something similar with your own child; I think it's only then that you will have a complete appreciation for what I feel for you.

 

You look just like your dad (although there is some debate in this statement), but oh are you your Mother's Daughter.  I'm not going to claim that I know you better than you know yourself, but it's sort of true at least for now.  I know when you're overwhelmed and I know when you're hurt and I know when you're stressed because your reactions in those types of situations?  They are exactly like mine.  We've had many conversations about this; your dad and Gramma have confirmed it as true.  I know that often what appears to be the trigger to an emotional collapse is often just a decoy for something much deeper.  I know that you are a peace keeper and will go to great lengths to keep others happy, often at the expense of your own happiness.  I know that when your heart is hurting you want little more than to just be held, to be comforted in the arms of you mom or your dad, to be told over and over again to breathe and that things are going to be okay.  I understand you because I've been there.  No girl your age wants to hear "you're just like your mother," but I hate to be the one to break it to you.  In so many, many ways it's true.


Just a couple of days ago you and I had a heart-to-heart about the very serious topic of learning how to do a cartwheel.  You have been working on that task on and off for years and for whatever reason just couldn't master the task.  In that very honest conversation I think I boiled it down to two main elements, and you were pretty quick to agree with me.  First, I don't think you were giving it your very best effort. I'm not going to call you lazy, but you certainly have a knack for doing just what you need to do to get a job done.  You asked me why Elaina learned to do a cartwheel so easily but yet you couldn't.  When I honestly answered that she worked a lot harder at it until she got it perfect you did not disagree.  The second element is one that I think played an even bigger part, and it didn't really dawn on me until after our second trip to Great America last month.  I said to you, "I think that sometimes it's hard for you to do things because you're kind of scared".  Again, even though you are coming into an age where you like to argue any point I make with increasing (and infuriating) frequency, you absorbed this comment and agreed.


If I was given the opportunity to make a wish for you each year as you blow out your candles, my wish this year is that you learn to live without fear.  Okay, maybe that's a little drastic.  A little bit of fear isn't a bad thing so let me revise.  My wish for you is that you never let fear stop you from achieving something wonderful.  We talked that day about how it's okay to be scared or nervous but how often in life we have to ask ourselves, "Which is stronger - my fear or my desire to experience this?".  I explained to you, in terms of the cartwheel in this instance, that being afraid of falling or getting hurt might be the one thing actually holding you back from accomplishing that goal.  I tried to get you to understand that although fear can keep us safe, it can always limit our experiences.  I know this because I let fear rule me more than I should.  Right now Papa is flying to Costa Rica on a mission trip for ten days.  He asked me to go and although logistics and finances certainly played a part in my decision, I will fully admit that fear is what ultimately made me (rather quickly) say no.  I can play the "what if" game with the best of them - what if I get seriously hurt there?  What if one of the girls is hurt and I can't get home to them?  What if they miss me?  What if I don't like the food?  What if there's no safe drinking water?  What if I can't do the physical labor that's required on this type of trip?  What if I'm asked to minister to groups people who don't speak English? In the end, although these questions are legitimate, fear of the unfamiliar and unknown has kept me from an experience that could likely change my life forever in some of the most amazing ways.  Sure other opportunities will present themselves, but will I let the fear win out again?  It's my hope for you - whether it's pushing your nerves aside to ride Raging Bull with your dad or trying out for a team or organization that you want to be a part of or going away to a college that you love or (gulp) moving thousands of miles away to pursue a dream - that you will learn when to let the fear speak to you and when to tell it to shut up.  There's a balance to everything in life, and part of that balance sometimes means taking a deep breath, holding on tight, and enjoying every crazy fast twist and turn toward adventure.  Sure it's scary but most of the time at the end?  You can't wait to do it again.

Oh, and how insanely awesome was it when the very next day you landed perfectly executed cartwheels like it was your job? 



McKenna Grace, you are simply one of the most loving creatures that has ever walked into my life.  Your laugh is contagious, your spirit is pure light.  Your kindness is authentic and effortless, your love unselfish and abundant.   I never get tired of getting compliments about you, but I don't need to hear them to know them to be true.  You are an angel on this Earth and you radiate nothing but goodness.  Being your mom is simply one of the greatest joys and blessings one could ever ask for.  You have always been and will always be everything I have ever dreamed of as a daughter.  Thank you for being so patient with me over the last ten years.  I can't wait to see what you will teach me in this next decade together. 

Happy birthday, my love.

Mom




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love this post! Happy Birthday to our sweet McKenna!
I am so proud of you Amanda, love reading the birthday posts each year, but they do bring tears to my eyes.
Love, Gramma Poke / Mom

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