Saturday, December 15, 2012

You Are 10

10. I can't believe it. In 5 more days you will be 10 years old. Wow.

I should be waiting til your actual birthday to write this post, as I've tried to do in the past. But what the hey. It seems like I and others in the family have already been considering you as a 10 year old for some time now. So it's only fitting that I'm a bit early with this post as well.

Yes, in years past whenever anyone has asked me your age, even as we get into December and the weeks and days leading up to said birthday, I've always been pretty good about saying your actual age. Sure, I may say, for instance, that you're 8, about to be 9 in so many days - but I acknowledge your actual age first, always. But this year? It seems like I've been mentioning your coming age first and foremost ever since you turned 9 1/2. "How old is she?" - "She'll be 10 in December" or "Almost 10." Now I find myself looking forward, I guess. Not keeping you grounded in the age you are, but pushing ahead to the age you're going to be.

Not that I want to push ahead at all! Absolutely not. I love you so much at every age you've been and only want your pending changes and milestones to come at the reasonable, natural clip at which they're meant to come. Nothing slower, nothing faster. Just "be" who you are, when you are, and enjoy.

And, oh, I do know you are enjoying yourself! And I also know you're changing. 10 years old - what an interesting age, to say the least. It's the age, according to both Daddy and I, when continuous life begins. Meaning he and I both only remember snippets of our lives before age 10, but from 10 on forward, we pretty much have a good running story of how our lives have been. Perhaps the same will be true for you.

For now, though, you are 10. Dancing on the thin, slick brim between carefree childhood, falling back playfully into the warm bath of innocent fun, or warily slipping off too soon into the unknown abyss of teenaged angst and drama. I see these 2 diverse worlds so dramatically in you, too. In many ways you are still such a little girl. So very full of childish wonder and imagination. People have asked, for instance, if you still believe in Santa Claus. Boy, do you ever! It honestly seems like you believe more wholeheartedly this year than any previous year. You even had me mail off a letter to the big guy in red just a few weeks ago - a step you've never asked for in the past. And, of course, we'll be paying our annual visit to Santa on your birthday, at your continued request.

I know Daddy and I are mostly to "blame" for your fervent continued faith and belief in all things magical and mystical - and that's, quite honestly, completely alright with us. Preferred, even! Intended. For not only do you believe in Santa, but the Easter Bunny and the "magic pumpkin" who visits you every Halloween as well. Wow! Your very own self-carving, note-writing pumpkin who appears at our home every Halloween season just in time for the pumpkin festival. Pretty cool! So cool, in fact, that Halloween is right up there at the top of the list, along with Christmas and Easter, of your most favorite holidays. I don't blame you. I kinda dig on Halloween too, just so I can see your excited response to your pumpkiny visitors. And to think, Daddy simply thought it would be easier, some years back, if he could just carve a pumpkin for you rather than make a big production out of setting up a family carving time to do it together. Funny how cherished family traditions can sometimes start from the silliest, "time saving" things.

Speaking of family traditions... now, this year, you've gone ahead and crafted your own popsicle stick version of the Elf on the Shelf. Your Elf hides in a different location each night, just like the "real" Elf on the Shelf. And, even though we've never had the real Elf, you sure do know your elfin rules! You must NOT ever touch it, for one thing. Also, an elf won't travel unless it has a name. Huh - how interesting! And you also know that, every night, she travels back to the North Pole to visit Santa to report on your behavior, then comes back again to another spot in our house to check in on you. For some reason, though, you got it in your brain that there'd be a prize to be had after successfully finding your elf after 5 consecutive days. Hmmmm.... I wasn't so sure about that. We told you that seemed unlikely and, sure enough, 5 days came and went without a prize. Oh well. She's still been a lot of fun to look for, and she sure has come up with a bunch of funny landing places each time she returns to the house. Looks like Miss Snowflakes is definitely a new beloved family friend and will be back to visit us for some Christmases to come.

More childlike ways you hold on to - you are still very much a cuddler. That's right - becoming a 10 year old has not yet ruined you for your willingness to love on your Daddy and I, and to show us that love often with cuddles, hugs, and kisses. Many times I'll come home from work in the evening to find you cuddled into Daddy's arms as the two of you enjoy another episode of "Phineas and Ferb." And in the mornings, you often will still, wordlessly, sneak closer and closer to me on the couch, physically taking my arms and wrapping them around your body. "Hold me with 2 hands!" you used to tell us all the time - when you were a toddler. Now, this is still what you want. Even if you aren't as vocal about it, you still demand this of us in your own way.

And as I put you to bed the other night, opening up the chapter book that Daddy and I alternately read to you each night, I wondered aloud for how much longer would you want he and I to read to you at bedtime. Without much pause, you decidedly answered that we'd have to read to you every night until you got married, which is when you'd leave the house. "Or," upon further consideration, "until I go to college, actually. But whenever I come home to visit for vacations, you'd still read to me then." Okay, Sweetie. If that's what you want. I don't know, though. I'm interested to see how long you will truly want for this nighttime ritual as time goes on.

On a more unpleasant note... your continuing childlike ways can still often lead to whines and tears. If you're frustrated about something, or don't understand something, or something simply doesn't go the way you envisioned, you often just want it to go away, and you plead for that with sad tears in your eyes. For instance, I inadvertently gave you what I thought was a simple math problem to figure out yesterday during our DI meeting. I'd asked your teammates how many cookie orders they got for their fundraiser, and they each willingly offered up how many dozen cookies that translated into (1 order = 2 dozen cookies.) So I asked you, who had a whopping 19 orders!, how many dozen cookies you had gotten. You did not know right off the bat and, in fact, used division to come up with your final answer. Your teammate, and best friend, tried to show you that you needed to use multiplication instead, and he and I both wanted to help you understand why. I even wondered aloud how a little girl who claims to love math so much could not understand the reason why multiplication leads to the correct answer here. But you just wanted to be done with the whole thing, tearfully saying that this had nothing to do with DI and couldn't we just move on.

And so we did. But I've seen this in you before. More and more you don't seem to like to be challenged. You don't like not understanding, not knowing the answer. For a kid who's always been so interested in and accepting of the mysteries and the curiosities of the world, this is certainly a change in you. Not altogether bad. Just a change. You want more. You want to understand, as others around you already seem to do, and it angers and frustrates you when you don't - or even when it takes you a bit longer than for others. I know that feeling, Sweetie, and I agree. It's not a good one. But at least, ultimately, it does challenge you to reach for those answers. Some day I know you will again feel more comfortable with the stretch, with the reach, with the investigation, and less self conscious about the initial not knowing. It's okay to not know, Sweetie. And it's okay to question. You, more than anyone else I know, have always been comfortable with this process in the past. You're such a smart kid! You'll get there again, and soon. I promise.

Yes, you are a smarty, that's for sure! Beyond the basic "school stuff" - you've always read at least a few grade levels above your actual year, and you scored darn near perfect on last year's NECAP test, especially on the math section. You also brought home your first report card of the year last week - straight A's! Well done! - you are just plain smart, creative, thoughtful and yes, still very curious. You request to watch various documentaries and Nova ScienceNow episodes, and have especially liked the ones about physics and how our universe "works." As Daddy and I sit there, saying our heads hurt from all the trying to understand, you say, "Oh, yeah. I get it. It makes sense to me... and it's so cool!" For your current daily reading selection for school, you've chosen Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I warned that you may find the language challenging, but you wanted to try. You're more than half way through now, claiming that you both understand and love it! You and your best friend both are total knowledge geeks, both always having great days at school and proclaiming that "school rocks!" You both are excited for the coming school vacation, of course, but sad as well. "Excited for Christmas, but sad because we like school and will miss it." And speaking of Christmas, you've requested gifts of not only science kits, but also "physics" games ("physics rocks!") and math stuff. And I found some pretty cool things, I gotta tell ya! I can't wait for Christmas morning to see how you like all your gifts. Yes, you are a kid who has always liked to learn and who has already crammed a lot of information into that little head of yours - both intellectually and emotionally.

Caring. Giving. Thoughtful. Putting others before you, always. This is you, Sweetie, and a very mature you at that! And even though we are what many would call a "financially uncomfortable" household, you really don't want for anything, much. You love the toys you have, and enjoy crafting your own new ones from supplies in your craft collection. I love the board game you made, for example, called "The Opposite Game," where you travel the board moving opposite of the number you select (if you select a 4, you move 6 spaces, since 10-4=6) and the winner is the one who doesn't reach the end first. What toys and games you actually do want, you've put on your Christmas list rather than wish for it for your birthday, which is 5 days sooner. "I can wait until Christmas," you say, "because then the gifts will be free since Santa makes them, and Daddy and you don't have to buy them." Not that you don't want birthday gifts, of course. But you're not really asking for anything specific on that day. In fact, you never really ask for anything even throughout the year. We can walk past a toy section in a store, and you never turn off the main aisle. You look in toy catalogs and make a plan to save your money for what you want. You are not greedy. Daddy told me how he was asking your opinion the other night regarding one more thing he can get me for Christmas. You had pointed out to him that, well, he was getting me that one thing, and you were getting me this thing, and - oh - there's that other thing too. That's enough, isn't it? Three things is good. Even though you were talking about me, I know you'd think the same for yourself too. Three things is good. You would be happily contented with that.

I love how you show so much care and concern for others when they are sad or hurt. To see others sad or hurt hurts your own heart. You only wish for everyone to always be happy. Why can't they be? But if they're not? You're the first on the scene to help them get the care they need and to turn the situation around. You are a caretaker and a happy-maker extraordinaire!

So. 10. You're nearly there, as unbelievable as that may seem. Double digits. A whole decade! Coming closer to the end of childhood... journeying closer, ever closer, to worlds unknown. Do I wonder how you'll fair against peers who may travel at a quicker pace than you? Sure. Do I already see glimpses of teenage drama even now? Of course! But am I fearful that the young person before me doesn't already have inside her, and around her, what it takes to develop the strong, capable, independent, determined and self confident human being you already definitely are? Absolutely not!

If nothing else, Sweetie, you have always been and continue to be a very self-aware person who is not afraid to dance as if no one is watching. Sure, you may struggle with this over the next several years. Maybe you already do, in some ways. But you know, deep down, who you are and where you're headed - others be damned!

Keep on going, Sweetie. Take your time where you wish, veer off the main trail for awhile when other vistas look a bit more interesting - but always keep pushing ahead, moving forward at your own personal pace. You'll find exactly what you're looking for - often change what you're looking for - and no doubt have a lot of fun along the way.

And, for as long as you want us - and even when you don't - Daddy and I will be right there with you, pushing you, pulling you, assisting your journey in any way we can. Even when that means sometimes encouraging you to take a bit of the hike all by yourself.

You can do it, Sweetie. We know you can.