Happy birthday baby girl!
I probably say this every year, but I can’t believe you are already 6 years old. It didn’t quite hit me until the other day when you had to use 2 hands to show me how old you were turning. Two hands! And there’s no longer a spot in your baby book for your birthday celebrations. I guess this means you’re not really a baby anymore. I’m going to need a few more years to accept that. And just so you know, I will probably always call you my baby girl. That’s just something you’re going to have to accept.
As in the years past, you have been planning this birthday for an entire year and I hope it was everything you dreamed it would be. Daddy and I do our best to make sure you are not spoiled (too badly anyway) but while you’re young I think it’s okay to feel like the world is centered around you on your birthday. Just for a little bit. You are still just as into unicorns as you ever were, and had requested another unicorn surprise party, but when I said no you chose a camping theme. We had tents, a campfire and rubber snakes, but I was not surprised in the least when you and your friends all came downstairs in your princess dresses and wanted to perform for all the parents. You crack me up when you think you are rewarding someone (usually your brother) by telling them you’re going to let them help you open one of your presents or blow out your candles. The ultimate Harper snub is when you say you’re not going to invite someone to your party, but mostly you invite everyone you meet.
This has been quite a year for all of us. But then, every year since you were born has been quite a year.
The biggest event was starting kindergarten. No more mother’s day out for babies, you are now in big kid school Monday through Friday. It wasn’t until the first week or so when you were asking for us to “cancel a couple days” that we realized nothing in your life before now has ever been Monday through Friday. Even Mommy and Daddy’s jobs are not regular days or hours, so it took a while for you to adjust.
All summer, and even before that, you had been anxious about starting school. One of the main reasons you didn’t want to start kindergarten was because they have a principal and because you were afraid people would laugh at you for this reason or that. So we spent all summer trying to keep you occupied while we talked up how fun school will be. When we went to meet the teacher you decided it did sound fun and suddenly you were ready… and then we weren’t.
On your first day you were ecstatic. You had your unicorn dress and pigtails, excited to make new friends, ready to take on the world. When we dropped you off you were ready for us to leave and I had to bolt out of there holding back tears. Daddy and I moped around missing you all day and I don’t remember the last time I cried so much. For us, we were losing a part of you. On a weekday, you now spend more waking hours with your teacher than with us. We knew we had to let go, we just weren’t ready. But we weren’t ever going to be ready. We’ve all settled into the routine by now but we’re still not ready. It’s hard to accept that the rest of your days at home with us will be largely spent in school and extracurricular activities. I just wanted to keep my baby a baby a little longer.
As much as I would have loved to homeschool you, in our situation, the reasons to send you to public school far outweigh the benefits of keeping you home. You are a smart little girl with a big personality. You have the ability and the potential to do so much in this world, but first you need to learn how to navigate it. I have argued many times that school is probably only 1/2 curriculum and 1/2 socialization. The rest of the world is often that way too. Day in, day out you will have to interact with people who don’t look, think or act like you. Sometimes the interactions will be good, sometimes not so much. But it is often how you navigate society, how you interact with people, that can determine your success.
As much as I want to lock you away and protect you from the cruel world, it is imperative that you learn to interact with other people now, while we are here to help guide you and while it is not so detrimental when things go wrong. The training wheels may have just come off your bike, but the training wheels of life are needed now more than ever. You have already dealt with classmates who have differing opinions (most recently of each other’s singing abilities) and I hope that one day this will help you get along with others who have differing views. It is always okay to disagree, but it is how you disagree that matters. Problem-solving doesn’t always involve just addition and subtraction, it can also be how to balance more than one friend when someone gets jealous. Or how to deal with your friend who has all the invisible unicorns and won’t let you have any. You have also had to decide whether or not to believe everything you are told. Is pink really the worst color? Are unicorns real or not? Should you really be a pop star when you grow up? But as far as the boys being mean because they like you, I don’t get it either.
Before school started, you told me you hoped to learn how to do a cartwheel in kindergarten. That, we’re still working on. My goal was for you to be able to read a book to me. You were already so close, but you didn’t have the confidence to try. I knew the moment you were able to read something to me, your confidence would soar. And it did! In the first month of school when you brought home your “take home reader” and read me the entire book all by yourself, I don’t know who was prouder. Now, you insist I communicate with you by spelling. I have to be careful what I write down and Daddy and I can no longer speak in code. But I guess now that you’re 6, it’s time to let you be in on a few of our secrets.
A few months later, you are thriving in school just like I knew you would. You are reading, and writing and putting bullies in their place. Kindergarten seems to be teaching you everything you ever needed to learn and then some.
But as for those cartwheels we still have a ways to go. When school started, we finally agreed to put you in gymnastics and you have loved every second. Except now you focus on your handstands and cartwheels only when coach Josh tells you to. Otherwise, gymnastics is for playing. I don’t think I ever learned to do a cartwheel so I can’t say much, but it is funny to see my fearless girl suddenly being very cautious. Maybe one day you will go to the Olympics, but for
One place you did excel this year was in swim team. You were not the fastest by any means, but you were good enough to qualify for some of the invitational meets. So there were plenty of lessons to learn in those few months. For instance, sometimes you don’t win. Actually, most times you don’t win but you should always give it your best anyway. Be proud when you do well, but always be humble. Cheer for your friends and be a friend to everyone. Do your part; others are counting on you. Listen to your parents and don’t sneak off. Always wear sunblock and drink lots of water.
Every day I pray for God to keep you happy, healthy and safe. That pretty much encompasses every fear I have for you, but there is so much more that I pray for your future.
For one, I hope that the love between you and your brother remains strong throughout your lives. You two already annoy each other to no end, but adore each other more than I could have ever hoped you would. Love and support him forever, and let him do the same for you.
Also, don’t get so frustrated, but don’t give up. Even as a toddler you would get so angry when you couldn’t figure something out that you never were going to get it until you calmed down. You are still that way. Reading, bike riding, car seat buckles, tape… You either go into a fury, or you drop it and refuse to try again. You’re not going to get much of anything on the first try. But you are a smart, talented girl and when you do actually stay calm and focused, you can do anything you set your mind to.
I pray that I am raising you to love others. To be the one that seeks out the shy, the outcast, the unloved. You are a sweet girl who is brave and confident and loved by everyone you meet. I hope that I can help you see that not everyone is like you, but because of who you are and how you are, you can be the one to show them the love that everyone so desperately needs.
I also pray that He helps me be the mom that you need. I know I won’t always be the mom you want, and I will often fail as a mother, and as a person. But I hope that He helps me to meet the needs that only a mommy can fulfill. We won’t always be friends, but I pray that our relationship only grows stronger with time.
I hope I am raising you to be a godly woman. As much as I want to meet all your needs and be everything to you, I am only human. My prayer is that you will look to God for guidance, for strength, for knowledge, for peace, for everything. With the Lord as your shepherd, you shall not want.
One day all too soon you will no longer be the little girl who insists on the wrong, made up lyrics to songs, and wants to perform for anyone who will stop to watch you dance. You will have made up your mind about what you believe about unicorns and Santa, and your room will be filled with fewer princess dresses and Barbie shoes, and more electronics and make up. Before long, you won’t want me to sing you to sleep anymore and you won’t end up in the middle of our bed by morning. One day soon, I’ll be the one dragging you out of bed every morning. There are a lot of difficult times and conversations to come, but I will always savor every moment with you no matter what stage you are in. No matter how big you get, no matter how many hands you have to use to show me your age, you will always be my baby girl. The one who made me a mom. The one who changed my world for the better. I can’t wait to see what you do with the rest of it.
Happy birthday sweet girl! I love you more than you will ever know.