Happy 7th birthday! As Madeline is fond of writing in kids’ birthday cards these days, seven is such a big number. Indeed it is. Where did our Baby Rae run off to?
My sweet Rachel, you are growing into such a lovely, little lady. You just ran into my bedroom with a tower of books stacked in your arms and are repositioning pillows on my bed as I type your birthday letter (a few days late, mind you, such is life these days).
“Whew! That was hard work,” you say, heaving the books onto the bed.
You’re preparing to engage in a few of your very favorite activities: Reading, savoring silence, and cuddling beside me. I love our quiet time together. It’s a rare gift these days since we’re always so busy and because I often find my only quiet time to involve me attempting to cajole Thomas to be still for at least 30 minutes. But when we are able carve out a corner of calm together, it is always special.
You’re very good at slowing down, being still, and finding contentment in just being rather than doing. I love that (as well as many other things!) about you!
I love your sensitive soul – how your eyes fill with tears when you think someone else has been wounded – even if that someone else is a cartoon character. There’s a scene in Despicable Me 2 in which Gru has a flashback where a girl he planned to give a flower to spurns him, and upon watching it you had to blink away the tears.
“It makes me sad, too,” I told you.
But you became embarrassed and refused to admit the scene had stirred so much empathy in you. You do that quite often. I’ll notice that you’re on the brink of crying, reach out to comfort you, and you’ll brush me aside. “My eyes are just watering,” you’ll insist. Yes, sometimes you want to keep your big feelings to yourself, and I need to learn to respect that and give you your space.
However, other times you’re an effusion of emotion. When you’re happy, you’re gleeful, although just because you aren’t always all grins doesn’t mean you’re not happy. Recently, you remarked, “People think I’m not happy because I don’t smile all of the time, but that’s not true.”
Your Daddy nodded. “I’m the same way.”
But there’s no mistaking it when you think something is funny. When you laugh, you burst into infectious giggles and we can’t help but join in. You also happen to have a great sense of humor and regularly make me laugh with your jokes and witty and spot-on observations about life.
When you’re angry, you share your mama’s passion, and people better watch out and just leave you alone. You’re so full of fervency and feeling. You’re going to experience life in Technicolor because of that.
Of course, I fear you’ll also experience heartaches more deeply than others (um, like someone else I know), but I’ll understand because I am the same way. Don’t you worry. But let’s not think about all that right now. Currently and quite fortunately, the worst pain you generally experience is hurt feelings (you are sensitive, so you do sometimes sweat the small stuff as they say) and an ache or two when Thomas unleashes his inner Todzilla, or you and one of your sisters engage in a girl fight. (Your extroverted siblings need to learn to respect your reserved nature, and you, my dear, need to learn to cut them some slack when they don’t.)
Now let’s talk about your current interests. Turquoise or aqua (you go back and forth) are your favorite colors. You’ve been asking to take gymnastics, so we finally agreed and I am so proud of how hard you work at class. Even though it’s a beginner’s class, all the other girls can do cartwheels, etc. and have clearly been at it for longer than you, but that doesn’t keep you from going out there and giving your best. You and I are a lot of like in many ways, but I know I sadly would have wanted to quit if I saw that others could do more than I could. That’s probably why I never learned to do a cartwheel. But not you. You’re having fun and seem to have embraced the challenge. You don’t compare yourself to others in the class. You’re only focused on your own skill development. That makes me so very proud.
You are a real bookworm and won the “Top Reader” award for the first grade this past spring. You’re still reading beside me, in fact. When you go MIA, I can usually find you curled up in a bed somewhere with a book. You’re an early bird and seem to have trouble sleeping in even when you’re up past your bedtime (I can relate!).
You love animals and frequently give Layla [our dog] belly rubs. You want to be a vet when you grow up. You have an ear for music and have taught yourself a few songs on the piano. We hope to get you enrolled in piano lessons soon. Your face is dusted with freckles, and I always tell you a face without freckles is like a sky without stars, and you smile ever so shyly.
You like to draw, but you’re always anxious that your work isn’t good enough. Think of gymnastics and how you just focus on what you’re working on and do your best. Keep drawing. Art is very subjective any way, and I love your doodles of cats and flowers.
You’re in the process of constructing an elaborate fairy house beneath our Japanese Maple. The dwelling already boasts a swing, a slide, a bed laden with flower petals, and a long table adorned with a bowl (half a pecan shell from our pecan tree) filled with peas (tiny green seeds you foraged from the yard).
You love horses and you just told me that you wished Daddy wasn’t a doctor [who sees injuries from horseback riding frequently] so he would let you ride more often. You do have a horse camp coming up in July, and you can’t wait.
You’re a carnivore and love to eat Daddy’s ribs. You also love shrimp. You’re not as in to traditional cake, so we made a big batch of blondies for your family birthday and then snowmen Oreo and pudding cakes for your birthday party with friends (you tasted the cake and said it was the best ever, but aesthetically Daddy and I felt like it would make a good Pinterest fail. Whatever. Cake is for eating.)
You’re very in to Frozen (along with every other little girl) right now, and one of my favorite things to watch is to see you sing (and act out!) “In Summer.” You make an adorable Olaf. You wanted a Frozen birthday party with your friends. We typically do small scale, family parties around here but when I tried to encourage you to do this, your eyes filled with tears. “I want a friend party,” you said.
I agreed but said we would demand that no presents be bought (after a big purge this spring, the last thing we needed is 15 or so more toys to infiltrate our home). “That’s fine!” you quickly agreed. “I just want to see my friends.”
It was so lovely to watch how your friends adore you and how you’re so sweet to them all. You’re quiet, but not too quiet, and your face was beaming the entire party. Friends were constantly showering you with hugs and calling your name. “Rachel! Rachel!”
One friend didn’t know any of the other girls, and you went out of your way to make sure she was included. At one point, I rushed back into the kitchen because one of our guests needed something else, and you came in and said, “Mommy, I know this is a lot of work for you.”
Oh, Rachel, what 7-year-old has the presence of mind to notice that her mom is working hard during her own birthday party? You’re the same child who writes me the most beautiful “just because” notes and really seems to appreciate when I do the same for you. I think I’ve found my “words of affirmation” bosom buddy.
Like me, you also seem to need more affirmation – in whatever form – than the average person, and anything remotely negative seems to weigh on you.
Well, let me tell you this, and then it’s your job to believe it: I love you just the way you are! You are a kind, funny, sweet, beautiful, clever, determined, sensitive, lovely, young lady, and I love being with you and watching you grow. Don’t let anyone – especially your own self – convince you of anything otherwise. Like your first grade teacher told me this year, God has great plans for you.
Happy, happy birthday, my beautiful Rae-Rae! I am so honored to be your mom!
Mommy (you recently decided you were going to start calling me Mom, but you have forgotten and keep calling out, “Mommy.” I’m glad. ;-))