Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Letter From Your Mother on the Occasion of Your Seventh Birthday

Dear Eleri,

You are certainly definite about things.  You always have been--I don't know why we think you're not.  We're always asking, are you suuuurrre?  Are you suuuurre?  But guess what?  You're sure.

You recently decided to cut your hair short.  For several days I asked if you were certain.  Finally you said to me, I am cutting my hair short.  Here are my reasons:  It will be easier to comb.  It will be cooler in the summer.  And it will grow back in the winter, like sheeps' fur.  Like wool.

I mean.  There's no arguing with that.  I guess the thing is:  I am not sure.  You know your mind but sometimes you get blurry around the edges for me.  Like how I think of you as little, but if I really look, I will see that you have grown tall and lean.  That your legs are long and you just might be gaining on Clio is the height department.  (People often think you guys are twins.  Isn't that funny?  We think it's the glasses.  And the exact-same-colored hair.)  But apart from that, you are opposites.  I'm sure I've written of it here.  You eat dessert first while Clio saves the best for last.  She's up with the sun and you drag yourself out of bed at the last possible moment.

(fast forward to December!)

I could go on forever with the opposites.  You have a major sweet tooth and Clio prefers savory.  In piano, you are musical while Clio is technical.  When you started at your new school this fall, Clio joined every club under the sun and you whittled back to the minimum.  (We let you quit dance, but not piano.)  I think you knew yourself well enough to know that everything you had would go to the transition.  To all of that NEW stuff.  This is what amazes you about me, about the sureness:  at seven, you have tremendous self knowledge, and like your father, you are true to you.  Your goal is not to please others.  This is a gift I hope you keep.

Things get muddled when I write your letter in two halves.  It's like these overlapping snapshots, like a double exposure (now that's a reference you will likely have to look up!)  This summer was hard and I got way behind.  So now I am writing my memory of your seventh birthday more than the moment itself.

For your birthday party this year we went to the paint your own pottery place again, an independent one in Northeast, where they also make all the mugs for the Renaissance festival.   You painted tiles, flat tiles that can be used for trivets.  We have continued our tradition of letting you design your cake, and this year it was yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting and your name spelled out across them.   For your Biggest Gift you for an American Girl Just Like Me Doll, and we went to the store together to pick out blue glasses, like yours.  You were pretty awed by the store (even though you went there with your Dolly and Me camp and bought a dalmatian puppy with your own money.)  This is something I love about you: big feelings.

Of course, that works both ways and there are challenging feelings, too.  You get VERY frustrated and you are still grinding your teeth.  (It drives daddy crazy.  I had to look it up to reassure him that you won't wreck your teeth.)  Piano frustrates you.  Having to change gears too quickly frustrates you.  Bedtime frustrates you, and being bored, and ending screen time.  You LOVE your screen time.  All your grandparents have ipads now and are more liberal letting you play then we are.  You are really good at Temple Run and you love playing Minecraft.  You continue to prefer being home and inside than anywhere else.  You spend hours in your own world.  When you do want to connect, I love that you are still like a little girl.  You still willingly hold my hand and kiss me on the lips.  You still snuggle and sit in my lap (in fact, you constantly wriggle into my lap when I am at the computer).  You are also learning to navigate being a bigger kid.  You finally decided that you wanted your own room, and we surprised you with makeovers after a week at Grandma's this summer.  When you came home, the first thing you did was write a sign: Eleri's Room: Keep Out.  I reminded you that you might want some access to Clio's room (which was, in fact, your room too, for a long time), and you changed the sign.  Now it reads, Eleri's Room: Welcome!  And it still hangs there.

I've been thinking about writing another one of these letters, about your transition to Lake Country, but I suppose it makes more sense to bring it up here.  You were not happy about leaving Bright Water.  (It was a lot to ask, we know.)  You cried the first day when I dropped you off.  But when I picked you up three hours later, you were a different child.  You were your delighted self.  A while ago, the difference between your two schools came up in conversation, and I asked you which school you preferred.  "Lake Country," you said (to my relief).  I asked you why, and I thought you would say because of Art.  Or Gym.  Or the Land School.  all of those "extras" that we are all enjoying.  But you said, "because I get to make my own work plan."  This is partly the power of Montessori, but mostly, I think this is all you: my independent girl.

I have a hard time finding the pace of these letters once I have lost the original thread.  These are moments when I feel terrible, shortchanging you, but one thing I am trying to learn myself is a little perspective.  Then I pat myself on the back and instead of thinking, Oh, I'm so late with Eleri's letter!  I think, isn't it wonderful that I am leaving my girls this record of their childhood?  And I hope that's what you take from it: my love and awe of you.

Know what else?  Next year, I'm writing your letter first.

Love you so much, my Elly-Belly.


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