Tuesday, September 13, 2016

To Amaliya, on your 4th birthday


What a year you've had, my girl. A year of growth, transition, and huge upheavals. When you turned 3 you were my only baby, mature beyond your years, physically restrained and emotionally reserved, the quietest kid in your class. Now? Now you scale all the playground equipment. You make friends with strangers everywhere you go. You sing and dance your way through every situation. And you are a big sister now, a role that suits you more perfectly than I could have imagined.

Your 3rd year was overshadowed a bit by the impending arrival of your sister. I felt bad when it took me away from you - when I was too sick to take you places, too big to run around the park with you, and unable to do much of anything for a few weeks when Asha was born. We did make the most of our time together, though. We had Sunday morning dates at Barnes and Noble, where we hit up Starbucks and then read books for an hour. Every other Friday, we skipped the daycare breakfast and went to Denny's where I watched agog as you polished off an entire Gram Slam breakfast. There were frozen yogurt dates and the occasional trip to the library. You've always been my sidekick, my companion, willing to go with the flow and accompany me on any whim or errand. You're not the kid that throws tantrums in public, melts down in the checkout line, complains about having to do things. Whether its standing in line at the bank or hitting up 3 grocery stores in an afternoon, you enthusiastically kept me company - always with a smile and a song. I appreciated your easygoing nature and maturity so much this year. Because of you, we were able to make the most of our last months together as mama and only daughter.

You found out about the new baby back in August, and dealt with it in your characteristic fashion:  by asking a million questions. You studied the stages of fetal development in a magazine. You asked a million more questions, and you fell in love.  You were so, so excited for your baby sister Moon Cheese (you chose the name) to be born. You covered my belly in kisses, asked me every day if we can keep her, and promised to protect her and change all the diapers. You suddenly had a baby in YOUR belly named Pela, who is a boy and apparently very mean.  For a while there you were bodyslamming your teacher and friends at daycare and blaming it on Pela's kicking!

You've had some anxiety about your transition from toddler to big kid, as all kids do. You've struggled to express yourself; you've raged, you've melted down, and you've taken out a lot of it on me. I don't mind - in fact, I welcome it.  I am privileged to be your safe place, the one to whom you can express the sadness and anger and confusion that overwhelms you sometimes while you learn to deal with the frustrations of life. 

You are so much like your dad: analytical, observant, talkative, cerebral. You are like me, too, in your pragmatic nature, your love of the spotlight, and your stubborn temper. I've come down hard on you in the past year, and then paused to realize that you were only reflecting my own behaviors back on me. That's the terrible and wonderful thing about parenting. It's not all wonderment and misty eyes and reliving the freedom of youth.  It's also a lot of watching the unsavory parts of yourself manifested in an innocent little person, and realizing that if you want to stop them from self-destructing one day, you need to first fix what's broken in yourself.

The hard moments, the growing moments, fade to the background when I think of all the good you've brought to our family this year. You are silly and bouncy, you love to roughhouse, to chase and be chased.   You love to use your imagination, but if I get too far into the fantasy, you are quick to remind me that "it's just pretend, mama."  You're always questioning why I do thing the way I do, and suggesting ways to make my life more efficient.  What's impressive about that is that, many times, you're absolutely correct!

You are starting to sound out words.  You can count to one hundred and ten. You draw pictures that actually look like what you intend.  You are utterly obsessed with Daniel Tiger and have all the songs memorized.
You enjoy art projects and helping me in the kitchen. You're happy to help me with anything, in fact, and are always fetching me things and offering your assistance. You still love your Music Together classes, and you are enthusiastically delving into ballet.  I'm so happy to see you finally finding confidence in your physical body.  You who never crawled, who has always been so cautious, unwilling to move and try new things, now you splash freely in the pool and tear up the sidewalk on your balance bike.  You are interested in all things related to the human body - we have books on skeletons and germs and babies that you've asked me to read you dozens of times.  

You challenge me and make me proud every day, Amaliya.  I've done my best as your mom, but I always want to do better by you: be more patient, more gentle, more empathetic, more generous with my time. You deserve all of that and more, and yet, even when I fall short, I know that you and I will be okay. We've been figuring this mama-and-daughter thing out together from the beginning, guiding and correcting each other. Even though the twists and turns of the past year have changed our dynamic, the bond between a mom and her first daughter is unique and unwavering. 

You are exquisite, baby girl. I can't wait to see how you shine this year.

Mama <3 br="">