I’ve been writing birthday letters to you and your sisters every year, and you’d think these sentimental snippets would get easier as you grew and started doing more interesting stuff than just babbling, toddling about, and excreting, but it’s tough to sum up what you mean to me as you grow older, bigger in size and personality, funnier, and wilier and even more energetic than before (never thought that would be possible). Words fail me, but I’m still going to try and write a meaningful birthday letter to my oldest daughter – my big girl.
You had your last soccer game this past weekend, and your coach said he’d love to have you on his team again not only because you’ve got a lot of hustle and never stop treading the field but because you just have so much fun playing the game. “She never stops running – or smiling. It’s great,” he said.
That’s you, Madeline both on the soccer field and on the playing field of life: A high octane, joy emitting machine. Happiness and energy personified.
I remember when you were younger and I was once bemoaning our lengthy bedtime routine together, the ridiculous amount of steps and coaxing it took to settle you down each night, your resistance to sleep (and pooping and other things, too), and how you sometimes crowned yourself the Queen Boss of Everything, and Gaba reminded me to focus on the positive sides of your strong, demonstrative, and indefatigable personality. Yes, you were and remain a high-energy, spirited child. Yes, you were then and sometimes are now tenacious and maddeningly defiant. Yes, you can be a control freak (I have no idea idea, ahem, where you got that trait from). And while these personality quirks sometimes result in more negotiations than peace talks with North Korea, constant ping-ponging talk (back and forth, back and forth), coercing, and exasperated sighs from Mom and Dad and Rae, too, they are also the marks of a leader, of someone who isn’t afraid to be herself, stand up for herself, others, or her values as well as someone who possesses both self-assurance and guile.
Six years into your life, I’m seeing a fine, young, and strong woman emerge – a ferociously independent girl who has no qualms about being her pirate self even when most of her girly peers are more into pink princess puffery than adventurous, sea-faring buccaneers.
Then there’s your preternatural empathy, especially for your little sisters. Once I overheard you tell a friend that you wouldn’t be able to play with her anymore if she didn’t include Rae. I was so proud of you for looking out for someone smaller than you. More recently, Mary Elizabeth was asleep in your arms and all that restless energy you have ceased to bubble over and you sat perfectly still holding your sister close. You told me to leave and close the door and to let you rock her. Then you picked up one of her dimpled hands and said, “You know what like the most about babies? Their small hands.” And you watched your sister sleep, holding her close.
It’s a shame you tell your daddy and me that you’re never going to get married or to have any kids (you say you want to live with us for forever) because you sure would make a great mom someday. :-)
Right now you’re set on becoming a paleontologist and artist and maybe a dentist, too. You love the color blue, math, Narnia, the Magic Treehouse books, being outside, playing with friends, sleepovers at the grandparents’, dinosaurs, pirates, and the locket Daddy and I just gave you your birthday (that’s all you wanted for your birthday).
My big girl, you’re brimming with joie de vivre, and you never stop wanting to see and do more.
Honestly, you run circles around the rest of us and sometimes life with you feels like a never-ending relay race, but it also feels like an adventure, and I wouldn’t change a thing about you. I love how your voice is booming and your words are effusive. I love your silliness, your expressiveness.
I love your imagination and the pictures you create with just a handful of crayons and a piece of paper. I love the way you run everywhere. I love your energy, your empathy, how you can reason (or die trying) your way out of practically anything (you share your daddy’s logic), your attention to detail (again, like your daddy), your insatiable appetite for life (and chocolate and watermelon, Yofuria, and steak, too).
I love the baby you were six years ago when you were placed in my arms and I cried and cried in awe of wonderful, miraculous you, and I love the little lady emerging who holds my hand and gives it a squeeze just before you skip away, silky, thick hair trailing behind you, smiling as you, like the sun, throw a warm glow on everything in your path.
Happy, happy birthday, Madeline! I’m so proud of you, and I love you very, very much.
Mommy (Rae and M.E. call me mama sometimes, but you’ve always called me mommy)
*Pirate party details forthcoming providing life doesn’t get too crazy this week.