Thursday, May 21, 2015

Happy 5th Birthday, Alice!!

Dear Alice,

You are 5. You are amazing.

Alice: Day 1 and Day 1825.
I remember the first night I put you to sleep in the crib in your own room, instead of the bassinet next to my bed. I was so happy, so proud, so relieved, and then I cried and cried in my own bed, knowing that it was just one in a long line of many milestones that would bring you more independence and separate you further and further from me.

You grew in my body until the weight ached in my belly, and then we were physically separated for good. And then my arms ached from rocking you to sleep, and holding you while you nursed, and then you no longer needed nourishment from my body, or help falling asleep. My back ached from carrying you before your legs were long and strong enough to walk everywhere on your own, until you could walk and then run everywhere you wanted to be. And now you are too big to fold into my arms the way I used to do. Your legs are so long, they dangle alongside me when I do pick you up. And now my heart aches to watch you speeding away from me on your bike, long legs akimbo as you fly down the slope of the sidewalk toward your own adventures.

I have always celebrated and mourned your milestones. You do everything on your own time and so we have always felt ready for each accomplishment, you and I both, and they are exciting to behold. I feel the pride of a parent and vicariously, your joy when you learn to do something for yourself; walk, use the toilet, put on your own clothes, make your own sandwich, write a letter/your name/a word, ride your bike... But I know that every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end, and soon there will be a last time for the baby rituals left behind, whether I realize it's happening or not.

You have always been independent, wanting to try things and do for yourself, and you've always seemed so grown-up to me. But there is something about five, I think. You are on the verge of breaking into a full-fledged independent childhood, and I can't wait to see how you will blossom and thrive then.

You have an insatiable appetite for books and stories, and thus, what I believe to be a fairly precocious vocabulary. Since before you were even three, you've had a penchant for Beatrix Potter, and now these last few days, you can't get enough Harry Potter. We're almost finished with the first book and we're reading about Harry Potter trying to get past the various enchantments protecting the Sorcerer's Stone. Last night, we had to stop reading after Harry, Hermione, and Ron finished their game of wizard chess. When I closed the book, you rolled over and said "But I want to find out what the next enchantment is!"

You started writing your name early and now you bind your own construction paper books and want to write stories to accompany your illustrations. You are so close to reading, too, and I just can't imagine the worlds that will open to you when you can read and write and sound out the words you want to consume and communicate. I'm trying to walk the line between encouraging your interests in writing and reading without pushing you too hard to master the skills. I know it will come exactly when you are ready, just like everything you do.

You have a dark side, a bit of the macabre. When you were almost two and half, waiting for Ivy to be born, we watched The Nightmare Before Christmas nearly every day. You love The Neverending Story. You used to love walking down to our local hardware store and you always liked to see the seasonal displays. You especially loved the Christmas decorations, but when you were smaller, would get upset that the scary Halloween decorations were displayed alongside. You were afraid of the Halloween decorations, but wanted to see them, and wanted to see the Christmas decorations. So we called the Halloween decor "scary friends," and then you were cool with it. For a while, a few months ago, you wanted me to show you pictures of human skeletons while we were reading bedtime stories - the educational, scientific models, of course.

You are the most practical child I have ever met. When you first started imaginary play, you liked to pretend to drive a car. You would tell me that you were going to Disneyland, but instead of riding rides and eating treats, the whole scenario revolved around parking in the parking structure, getting the stroller out of the car, and getting a map. You are still so practical, we call you "Practical Pig." The other day at the library, you were playing with another whimsical four-year-old who wanted to play ring-around-the-rosie with the statues out front. You told her, very matter of factly, that they couldn't really play because they were statues. Then she said the bear statue was stinky, and you told her it wasn't stinky because it was just made of metal. She didn't quite know what to make of you.

You are an amazing problem solver. You are incredibly motivated and creative, but only when there is an obstacle to something you want. When it's something I want, you are virtually incapable of finding any solutions to the problem. Your practicality comes in handy here...

Your practicality does not inhibit your creative imagination. I love to see what your little mind spits out. Right now, you play a game where you get inside our empty TV cabinet and call it your "secret hamaya," which means secret treasure house. You also pretend it's your car, and that you are en route to "science school." You like to take walks or ride your bike all the way down to the way other end of our street, where there's a little court and a forest, and say you are going to "science school." You love to cook in your play kitchen, and cook with play dough. You make up the most amazing concoctions and flavor combinations, inspired in large part by your penchant for watching cooking shows with Julia Child and Jacques Pepin.

You are super into learning and practicing computer coding, particularly the modules with Anna and Elsa. You call yourself "Honey Lemon," after the character in Big Hero 6, and say that you are a "science girl" like her. You know that she does chemistry, and you want to, also. You are turning into quite a little naturalist, with all the wildlife in our yard. You take care to save the bees floating in your water table, and you collect every caterpillar you see.

You love to chat with anyone you meet, especially the other kids at the park. I am always surprised at how, when you introduce yourself, so many kids just give you a blank stare and run away. Your dad is always amazed at how outgoing and at ease you are; when he was your age, he would refuse to play at the park if there were any other children there. You particularly love playing with older girls, and so far, they are enamored with you and very kind.

For the first time, I am really starting to see flashes of your grown up face. It always amazes me to look back at your baby photos to see your little face and think, of course, and yet still not be able to know how that will turn into the girl and tween and teen and woman you will become.

I can't wait to see what your fifth year holds for you, and how you will grow. You will become a big sister again, you will go to kindergarten, you will make new friends and have new experiences, and new adventures that will and will not include me. We asked you yesterday what you hoped would happen in your fifth year and you told us that you wanted to learn to ride a training wheel bike. Well, you did one better and learned to ride a pedal bike without training wheels by 8:30am. So I can't wait to see what's next for the rest of the 364 days.

Happy Birthday, Honey Lemon. The nickname could not suit you better, my sweet, tart, vibrant, smart, creative, darling child. I love you big, big much.
Birth through five. Five years of mama-made birthday dresses.






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