Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Happy 11th Birthday, Elaina!

April 19th, 2017

Dear Elaina,

Where do I even begin?  These birthday letters get harder and harder to write with each passing year. It's a tradition that I love and I'm so glad that you'll have them to look back on, but man.  Trying to sum up one year of your life in text and pictures is almost impossible.  You are so much more than what I can put into words.


It's no secret that you have always been what we may refer to at times as a complex, high maintenance child.  When you were younger, that usually meant that we were struggling with your highly spirited personality.  I'm sure I've told you this before, but I am certain that one of the reasons you were put on this Earth was to prove to your Dad and me that we had no idea what we were doing as parents.  Just when we thought we had this gig figured out you would throw a curve ball our way, leaving us staring at each other in confusion and disbelief scrambling to figure out how to survive whatever new trick you'd unveiled.  You keep us on our toes, always re-evaluating what we're doing and introducing us to new challenges.


As you've gotten older, those new challenges have morphed from violent screams of protest, disrobing in your sleep, and hair pulling/eating to even more complicated matters of the heart and mind. Only those that know you very well know that behind your confident, outgoing, exuberant exterior lies a contemplative, pensive girl with many complex thoughts and emotions. You are a worrier and sometimes a little anxious.  I'll be honest - these are things I never saw coming with you. But they are real and true, and those things that weigh heavy on your heart and mind can easily consume you.  I try very hard not to tell you it's not a big deal or that you need to just get over it because even when it seems kind of trivial to me (e.g., PARCC testing) I know how important it is to you.  I know for you, it's not as easy as just moving on from something that you find daunting or stressful or out of your control. You and I spend a lot of time talking about those things that we can control and those things that we let control us.  And yes, I often put on my work hat and talk about the size of the problem and our reactions to those problems, that having a reaction that is too big often makes the problem even worse.  You give me the finest of eye rolls when I start asking "How big is this problem?" and I've become quick to return that eye roll now that you've started reversing the roles in asking me that same question when I'm maybe letting a small situation get the best of me.


It's okay to worry and ponder the "what-ifs" in life as long as you don't get stuck there.  The last thing I want for you is for your anxiety or apprehension to keep you from experiencing amazing things. You know what you love, and you definitely know what you don't care for.  I tell you time and time again that even if something scares you to just try it.  Just take a deep breath, close your eyes, and leap.  I don't care if this pertains to trying a bite of fish (yes, I know, I'm a huge hypocrite on this one but I'm your mom and I can dispense life advice without always taking my own; it's a perk that comes with the territory) or something much more monumental and potentially life altering.  The world is so big. There are so many amazing opportunities and moments waiting to be discovered as long as you're brave enough to search for them.  Don't let anything stop you from going after something you love. Evaluate those obstacles that stand in your way, devise a plan for getting around them, and push forward.  Achieve your goal.  Chase that high that comes with doing something you previously couldn't imagine as a possibility.  Surprise yourself with your own strength and courage.  I know it's in you.


I know it's in you because I've watched it unfold time and time and time again.  Lain, can I take a moment to completely gush over how amazing you were in this year's musical?  Literally, I'm tearing up right now just thinking about it.  Like last year with Miss Hannigan, you set a personal goal to get the part of Wendy in your school's production of Peter Pan.  You tackled that role with persistence and dedication, faced adversity in those last few weeks, and prepared like a champion.  I was so nervous for you.  So, so nervous.  I've never had a daughter with such a big role, and I could barely contain myself.  I tried so hard to be calm the morning of the performance, but bubbling immediately under the surface was a volcano of emotion just waiting to erupt.  When that backdrop went up for the first time (and the second . . . and the third . . .) and I saw you sitting on that stage, I can't even begin to express the release I experienced. It was like I had been holding my breath for hours and finally, seeing you up there under the lights, I could breathe again.  And then when you opened your mouth and belted out those first few lines? Oh, my incredible girl.  There is nothing I could have done to keep the tears from falling down my face.  Yes, I'm a crier.  That is not new information.  But these tears, that emotion, was like nothing I had ever experienced before.  To see your hard work come to fruition, to hear the positive reactions from others that applauded your efforts, to know that you absolutely crushed it on that stage, to watch you so humbly accept praise and recognition from a job well done . . . well, I'm not sure I've ever been prouder of you.

Like last year, you've shown some hesitation in becoming another year older.  You're so right:  life is moving very quickly.  People warned me of this when I became a mom, but I think the word "fast" is a total understatement.  It feels like I blink and another year has passed.  This phenomenon is a little terrifying, but it serves as a reminder time and time again that we all need to take the time to just stop and enjoy each small moment for what it is.  You are really good at putting me back in that mindset, reminding me to put away the stuff that isn't all that important and shift my focus to what, ten years from now, will really matter.  Eating together.  Playing a game.  Snuggling on the couch.  Having a conversation without being sidetracked by external distractions.  Spontaneous hugs as you walk through the room.   You are my reminder that growing up is kinda tough sometimes, and no matter how old we are we find the most joy and comfort in life's smallest moments.

There's so much excitement in getting older though.  There are new opportunities waiting for you at every turn. There's an entire world yet to be discovered.  So many new friends to meet, so many cities to discover, so much fashion to enjoy, so many mascara types to sample, so many songs to dance to! Embrace each day and all the adventure that it holds.  Focus on what's amazing with each new sunrise and turn those less desirable moments into learning experiences.  Spread love and joy and happiness and positivity where ever you go with your smile, laugh, humor, and energy.  Ignore the negativity others may throw your way and know with absolute certainty that you are so much more than whatever mean and hurtful words they may use to bring you down.  Never measure your worth by the opinions of others, especially those who aren't able to live their lives with the authentic joy that you so often exhibit. 

You, my fancy girl, are such a treasure.  You will never know how much I appreciate who you are now, the smart, kind, beautiful young lady you are becoming, and the amazing woman I know you will someday be. Promise me you will always chase your dreams.  They are within your reach now and always.  
"Keep your face turned toward the sunshine and you will never see the shadows."

Happy birthday, my baby.  My love for you knows no limits.


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