Tuesday, September 24, 2013

To Sydney, On Your 8th Birthday

My sweet girl,

You are eight years old today.  This morning you corrected me when I told you that I couldn't believe you were eight; you said "I'm not quite eight yet, Mom, because I was born at night."  Fair enough.  But you are intellectually generous and so you paused and looked at me and said, "Well, I guess for all intents and purposes, I am eight."  And then we laughed, together, as we often do when you use big words and fancy phrases.

You have grown so much this year.  You're taller and leaner, so strong and physical; you play soccer at recess every day (though you're growing frustrated because none of your female classmates will play with you), and you're in your last season of U-8.  You're mad at me for not moving you up to U-10 this season.  This summer, you flew to Florida by yourself and went to surf camp with Ethan, and you were catching waves by the second day.  You went to horseback riding camp and were such a natural that they assigned you to your own horse, Buttercup, and made you camper of the week.  You are athletic and brave and constantly in motion.  I'm sorry I fuss at you so much for all the couch gymnastics.

You've grown to love mysteries, especially the Encyclopedia Brown series.  You're a voracious reader.  You and your friend Josie have decided that you want to open a "spa and relaxation center" on the Mississippi River, so when you get together you practice by setting up a massage and guided imagery studio in her bedroom. You like to sing and often conduct entire conversations with me in libretto. Your patience with Evan has grown immensely, and in turn he's began to allow you to nurture him a bit; the rest of that energy is spent on your hamster (Milkshake) and your baby dolls.  I hope you always love your baby dolls.

But your biggest change this year has been internal.  Over the last year, you've developed a calm assuredness, a self-possession that is markedly different from the in-your-face confidence you've always exhibited.  You speak to adults, now, not just in response to their questions or comments, but spontaneously--you ask them questions, you offer details about yourself and your life, you express your thoughts and opinions.  It's hard to explain how extraordinary this is to witness; it's like the unfolding of your true self, the person who is discerning and inquisitive and thoughtful, who is truly interested in always going deeper, who loves people immensely and isn't afraid to demonstrate it.

I've written stuff before about your generosity and the intense love you have for the people in your life, but it always takes me by surprise.  One of your old teachers from Abeona House is moving to Houston, and when I told you this you cried and cried and cried.  Later that day, you came to me and asked if we could go to the craft store to get supplies for a "special project" you wanted to make.  And so you spent the days leading up to Ms. Aliza's going-away party painting and decorating a small wooden box, which you brought to the party, instructing guests to write love notes on the small pieces of glittery cardstock you'd prepared, and you had them sign the inside with a special marker.  What an beautiful gift you made for your teacher, despite your own sadness.  You are the most beautiful gift I could ever imagine.

You've developed a rich inner life; sometimes you prefer to be alone, to work on art projects or read or play with your stuffed animals or do "science" experiments (I've learned that it's better if I don't ask).  I was worried about this for a minute, as you've always liked a lot of one-on-one attention, but I understand now that this goes hand-in-hand with your self-assuredness.  It's the enrichment of that inner life that's enabled you to connect more deeply with others.  It's also served you well in your academic pursuits.  At a recent conference, your teacher told us that you asked to create a "quiet space" for yourself in class, so that you can focus more fully on your work.  Just amazing.

Sydney, you are powerful, courageous, brilliant, creative, hilarious, and empathic.  You are fully engaged with the world--head, heart, and hands--and the people around you can feel that.  Thank you for choosing me, for being my sweet girl, for loving me and teaching me how to be a better person.  I love watching you grow up.

All my love, always--