Dear Daughter who turns 8 this week, I have very little original material to add to the canon of cliched things parents say when their kids turn another year.We hyperventilate How did this happen? and reminisce I swear we just brought her home from the hospital! Those are part of the theatrics of parenting. The powers of the human growth hormone are still amazing to us, apparently. As is the fact that you are no longer capable of being burrito-wrapped and carried in a bucket seat all day.
But we feel those things, sincerely. We feel them in the depths of our being. They often mask even deeper feelings of great gratitude that one more candle has been added to your cake, and tinges of grief that you are growing into a more refined version of who you are--and in turn, growing farther away from us. You are still close in proximity but your being is further removed from our control. Your reflexes sometimes surprise us, your questions sometimes alarm us, but your smile still completely disarms us.
The other day, you handed me a page you had torn out of your wordsearch book. It was an ad for a vinegar diet. The? You gave it to me like it was a recipe card for a smoothie that I might try, and then you kept asking me about it and asking me about it and finally you said, "I know. You think I'm saying you're fat." Which, okay. I must have mentioned buying a diet soda recently and it triggered you to offer me this poor man's brochure for Jenny Craig. And you've probably absorbed lots of messaging around dieting and fat-shame from random tween room tours on YouTube. But I'm marking this as one of those odd milestones wherein we had a good reckoning. You brought up something not intending to hurt me but you could sense that this was one of those complicated life moments of loaded intentions and outcomes. And I shared that this had hurt my feelings and that no one in our family needed to go on a diet. Especially not a vinegar one. Please never a vinegar one.
This is the beauty of your growth. You've emerged from the puppetry of being 1, 2, 3, when you echo our words, when your head turns and your mouth opens and your eyes close with the rhythms of your puppeteers. You are free-standing now, on a stage removed, with directions and an unwritten script. And we are so disgustingly proud of you.
You are a thoughtful, conscientious, wonderfully inventive beauty of a girlchild. You are still wildly affectionate with an enthusiasm that we cannot harness. You do very well in school. Your bedroom walls are papered thick with pictures of horses. You still coach your dolls and stuffed animals in hushed tones and I imagine you are teaching them a progressive anti-bullying curriculum. You overhear me talking on the phone and chastise me for what you perceive as gossip. You amaze me. I love you and I like you.
But most importantly, you know Christ's love for you, and I pray that He continues to take hold of your heart. I pray that you make Him your best friend and become even bolder for Him. You live your life in exclamation marks now. I pray that you will become eight times eight times eight times eight times even more exclamatory about Jesus, for whom you are still one of His best ideas yet.