Monday, July 9, 2012

A Letter from your Mother on the Occasion of your Sixth Birthday

Dear Clio,

We have been playing this little game lately, you and I.  You tell me you have a birthday coming up, I ask how old you will be, and when you say "six" it is my job to fall of my chair in shock.  Six!  Impossible!  Aren't you turning five?  No?  Then you must be just about four.  Right?  No?

You love this.  Love it disproportionately, actually, and the funny thing is, despite all those tropes about time flying and how it all goes so fast, you are, indisputably, ready for six, and I think we are too.


I think, the bigger you get, the harder these letters get.  When you were little, writing them was a way of creating or preserving memories when you would not have so many of your own.  As you grow, you will remember more, and I think my job is more and more about sharing just this one unique perspective, the mom's-eye view of Clio.  Sorting out what I want you to know about how I see you at just-six is not an easy task, like choosing which of your drawings to put in the box that you will inherit when you are grown.  But all I can do is share what seems important today.  In no particular order, some things I want you to know:

Your creativity knows no bounds.  In your mind, a bunch of toilet paper tubes are far too valuable to be recycled or tossed out.  In your hands, they are kittens, mountains, self-portraits.  An old spool of green ribbon had about 100 uses and counting.  I have started taking books of crafts out of the library and you want to do them all, will do them all, without supervision if that is what it takes.

You are a generous teacher, showing Eleri how to do your projects, reading books to a group of younger children.  Sharing is rarely a problem.

You are a collector.  You love boxes and containers of all kinds, and filling them up.  Cardboard boxes covered in stickers and glitter pom poms, filled with Littlest Pet Shop.  Small bowls filled with shells.  Stacking containers with plastic fruit.  You taped together two cups to collect seeds and pits and things that grow.  The cup contraption is called "Mr. Seeds" and you are intent on feeding him regularly.

You are a gardener.   This is your thing, yours and Daddy's.  Nothing excites you quite like the micro lettuces you have grown in the raised bed, the blossoms that herald the arrival of squash, the tiny yellow tomatoes you eat off the vine.  When anyone comes over, you want to bring them out to harvest raspberries and check for the tiny alpine strawberries that taste so sweet.

You are a voracious reader and a lover of stories.  After your discovery of a certain wizard, each morning began with one demand: "Read Harry Potter."  On your actual birthday, when you got to decide how to spend your day, half of it was devoted to reading, as your dad read you many chapters over the course of 2 or 3 hours.  If the house is quiet and we haven't seen you in a while, your nose is in a book somewhere,  breathing in the adventures of Ivy and Bean or Junie B Jones, or plowing through the recent haul from the library.  You keep your children's dictionary in my car for the not infrequent occasion that you would like to look up a big word (yesterday it was "awkward").  You love movies, too, and demand stories told in the car.

You are a natural athlete.  You are tall and swift and lean.  You run fast enough that it is common to hear people say we should put you in track, fast enough that I might sometimes call you my little Olympian.  You can swim to the bottom of the pool and from one side to the other, and I think you might be happiest in the water.  Slippery fish.

You question everything.  It is exhausting.  But I applaud you and will encourage you to continue.  Seriously: ask as many questions as you need answered.  Fight for what you want.  Think about why you want it.  Also--this is key-- know when to let it go.

You love me to the ends of the earth.  I don't always feel like I deserve it.  Truly, I am bringing out all the cliches now, but you make me want to be a better mom.  It is difficult, motherhood.  If you choose this path someday, you'll see.  If I read back through these annual letters, I know I will see themes, these things that make you who you are, that have been in you since birth.  That is what it is: it won't change.  (If I have learned anything, it is that people don't change.) So I hope I can encourage pride in the good things and acceptance of the things you don't love about yourself.  It's no use to pretend: we all have them.  By the time you read these letter, you will probably have a list forming somewhere in your mind.  The things you wish were different.  At six, I see a tiny bit of it already, the way you try on other traits, talk baby talk with certain friends, try to repeat the funny things that your sister does even when you don't totally get the joke.  So I tell you today, I don't love you in spite of those things and celebrate you for the most wonderful things you are and do.  I love you for all of it.  All of you.  Even if some day you make me crazy. And if you ever feel like you are forgetting that other list, the list of all the terrific things you are, I hope you will come back to these letters and see what I see.

I love you to the ends of the earth, and back again.



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