I think there must be a mistake because there is no way you are seven. Three? Sure. Five? I can see that. But seven? No. Just no. But alas, tis true. I can see seven in you every day, although there are some days where I see seventeen in you and that makes me want to shake my fist at the sky.
What a year this has been. The biggest change for you was that you left your beloved Room 109 after three years and moved on to a new room with a new teacher and new friends. You were ready, oh-so-ready for first grade, but I think a little apprehensive as well. The first week of school you cried every night that your tummy hurt and you couldn’t sleep. I deduced it was nerves and your body’s way of working out the stress. And then, just like that, it stopped and you were fine.
First grade has been amazing for you. You’re learning new things in new ways with new teachers and kids surrounding you. No more being the big kid, you’re back to being the first-year kid in a three-year class, which isn’t something you remember so well. But the addition of the older kids means you have peers that challenge you and push you to work harder. Your reading is off the charts and your math isn’t far behind. You read the entire Little House series on your own this year, as well as countless other books that are well above your grade level. And you can’t get enough of them, which makes the bookworm in me so very happy.
But it’s not just books. You played baseball with the boys this year and showed them a thing or two at the plate. You had an awesome soccer season and honed your skills at camp even further. You school the boys in your basketball league and have scored in every game so far. Your tennis game is on point and we can’t pull you out of the pool once you’re in it. You love piano lessons and have even picked up a few songs that Jack is playing two years ahead of you. And you started chess club this year, which you also seem to really enjoy. If you were applying to Harvard right now, you’d be a shoo-in with your well-rounded portfolio.
When you’re not flitting off to one activity or another (a rarity in our house), you’re obsessed with your Skylanders and Disney Infinity video games. But you’ll sit still and quiet for hours with your iPad playing Minecraft. You’re as equally obsessed as your siblings, all of you playing in each others’ worlds and discussing where to find things and showing off what you’re created. I have to admit, I have no idea what you’re talking about when you excitedly tell about the game, but I nod and smile because you’re just so enthusiastic.
This was also the year we finally forced you to go without training wheels on your bike. One Sunday afternoon we took them off (while you screamed and complained) and within fifteen minutes, you were riding loops around the soccer field and playground in the neighborhood. You were so proud of yourself and we were equally as proud of you. Learning to ride a bike, like other things in your life, meant you needed a little encouragement. Just like when we dragged you kicking and screaming (literally) onto the Space Mountain roller coaster at Disney, you ended up loving it and telling us how it was your favorite thing ever.
Knowing this about you makes life both simultaneously more difficult and easier. More difficult because convincing you to do something is painful, but easier because once we do it, you’re off and loving it without a second thought.
Being our middle child, I always worry about you a little more. I try to make sure everything is fair, that everyone gets the same treatment. But oh, do you make us work for it now. Our cuddly little snuggler now has to be corralled into hugs, cajoled into kisses, begged to sit next to us on the couch. But when we finally convince you to join us in a show of affection, you throw yourself into it wholeheartedly.
You’ve already asked me if you can go to sleep away camp this year. Nice try, but no. Of all our kids, you are definitely the independent one. The one who could care less if we’re there or not. I truly believe if I let you, you would walk yourself to school and book your own plane tickets for solo vacations. But that’s who you are — you do what you want and you really don’t care what other people think. I really hope this carries through to the teen-age years, but we’ll see.
Leaving one classroom and joining another meant you added to your social circle. I say added instead of swapped because you are just as happy having playdates with your new friends as you are having sleepovers with the old. Your teachers say you’re kind and caring, playing and getting along with everyone. I see that at home, too. You’re just as happy playing Minecraft with Jack as you are coloring Fashion Plates or playing Frozen with Maeve. You’re happy to keep the peace, although I’ve seen flashes of brilliance when it comes to manipulating your siblings. You and Jack play mostly nicely, but there’s still a fair amount of physicality, which sometimes you bring on yourself. You and Maeve are usually the best of friends, playing in your rooms with your American Girls or some other nonsense. But your favorite game of the last year, which you’re legitimately good at, is Bananagrams. Kind of like Scrabble, it’s a word game and you excel at it.
This was the year where I felt like you really grew up. I saw a picture of you at three years old this week and I did a double-take because it didn’t even look like you. Chubby cheeks, bangs, mischievous grin. Your legs now go for miles and I often joke I’m not sure how you even stand upright on them. Your face has lost all traces of baby-fat and your bangs are all grown out. You can even pull your own hair back in a ponytail now, a feat you mastered after repeated attempts one afternoon. You have definite opinions about your clothes — you always have — but for now we’re not battling it out. You still prefer dresses and skirts to jeans and T-shirts, and this season you were rocking a pleated leather skirt. Girl’s got style.
Some things never change, though. Practically from birth you’ve loved to make us laugh with your wry observations and dry humor. You love to tell us stories of all kinds, sometimes silly, sometimes serious. That’s the thing with you — you keep us on our toes. We didn’t know if you would be too cool to meet Elsa and Anna at Disney, but you were practically levitating when it was your turn. The look on your face was priceless. And that’s why I love this age — little girl enough to love princesses and big girl enough to have a rational conversation.
The one time of day when you don’t want to push us away, when you actually seek us out is still bedtime. We read together and when we turn off the lights, Daddy or I sit on the edge of your bed and chat for a few minutes. That’s the time when you really tell us what’s on your mind, when I hear about perceived slights or wrongs, when you reveal what you did at school, who you played with on the playground. After you’re asleep, I check on you before I go to bed and that’s when I pause and see the baby you were. Your face slack in sleep, cuddling your pink fuzzy blanket, you look just like the baby you once were. In the half-dark, I smooth the hair away from your face and pull the blanket up around you. I remember the sleepless nights with you, the nursing and the rocking and the shushing and the bouncing. I remember the first smiles and the first steps and the first words. I see it all in your sleeping face and I smile. Because you’re still that baby, still a little girl, no matter how much you want to believe otherwise.
This is going to be an amazing year and I can’t wait to experience it with you. I know our time with you is precious — soon, too soon, you’ll disdain our advice and keep us at arm’s length. So for now, as much as we can and as much as you let us, we snuggle you close and try to point you in the right direction. I can’t wait to see what seven brings you, Em. I know will be amazing and full of flair. Because I expect nothing less from you.