Dear Nora Rose,
Today you are seven (7!). At times, I’m not sure how we’ve made it here except that it has to be on a wing and a prayer.
I remember after you were born, how you were so drowsy, worn out from your brash entrance into the world, and I spent that first month, exhausted, trying to get you to nurse – tickling your feet, getting you naked, putting wet cloths on your back, but you were resolved to sleep. I cried postpartum tears and prayed to every god there is that you would wake up and eat. I remember dramatically thinking of Emily Elizabeth and her little red dog, Clifford, and the prayer she uttered that he would grow and then of course, grow he did.
And then finally, you woke up and seemingly never went back to sleep. Thus began that first long, sleepless year when, holding you, I would pace back and forth for hours in our attic bedroom raggedly singing “Here Comes the Sun” over and over and over. My arms ached and when dad tried to take a turn, you would scream persistently until I held you again. We bought white noise machines and blackout curtains. Special padding for your crib. We tried cosleeping and you in the same room, separate bed. I posted frantic messages on online mothering forums at three in the morning. Could it be teeth? Reflux? Ears? Gas? Tongue tie? That first year was a test, Nora Rose and I have to be honest with you, we’re all pretty lucky we made it.
Then, as we started to come out of the fog, an amazing thing happened: I could begin to see your personality come out. I was given a clarity about so many things that were frustrating in the past. All that screaming gave way to talking. And you no longer needed me to pace, holding you, because you were now able to walk. I’m not saying it was suddenly rainbows and unicorns, but I could begin to see how we might actually make it.
Though those first two years were a trial by fire, there was never any question about the type of person you would be. From the beginning you were fiery, determined, persevering. When strangers cooed over you, you snarled. When siblings got in your way, you shoved them over. You had an affinity for the strange – you were intrigued by feathers, dirt and bones. I called you my “odd duck.” There was no doubt you were your own person.
The truth is Nora Rose, you are probably the hardest kid for me to parent. You make me uncomfortable and you challenge me. You are an extrovert where I am an introvert. When at the park or the pool or out for a hike, you will seek out the nearest stranger and immediately introduce yourself where I will politely avert my eyes and give a wide berth. We have the hardest time teaching you to be cautious around others because in your eyes, they are all future comrades.
And you love to argue. Oh man, you get yourself in trouble with this one because you will not give up. You will take on anyone at anytime. Conflict doesn’t scare you – in fact, sometimes I think you argue for the fun of it; you love a protest. No, the sun is not bright, the grass is not green, and birds don’t fly. Of course it often turns out, maddeningly, that you’re right – maybe it’s a cloudy day, the grass has turned yellow and the bird is a hummingbird that actually hovers.
If I’m being honest, I would have to say that being with you for any length of time is intense and profound. There are some people who are easy and predictable. But hanging out with you is like running with the bulls or skydiving – it’s exhilarating and wild and consuming and sometimes totally exhausting. You take on life in a way that I’ve rarely seen before – you wring out every ounce of interest and then move on to 27 other ideas you’ve been germinating since you started the first project. Everywhere you go reflects your passionate nature – your bedroom is a maelstrom of bits of paper, dress up clothes, colored pencils, lids from containers – all these things are of the utmost importance and I’ve almost given up on cleaning it. It’s the room of a scientist.
For a long time, I held fast to the belief that children were given parents to help guide them through life, letting them go bit by bit as they grew older. But you shook that entire concept for me. Of course I am here to help keep you safe and to guide you in many ways, but really, I am the student. Your preschool teacher told me once that most children come into the world and slowly take on a sense of who they are as they grow up. But she said you – you came fully formed. You knew who you were from the second you burst into this world. You have a strong sense of morality and you will always fight for what you feel is right. But you are so sweet too – you say the best things and make the most amazing observations. You were the first person to really call me a writer with no hint of judgment or sarcasm. In a way you’ve helped me claim myself through your own fervor. You’ve blown open my world in so many ways
What else is there to say? Seven feels so big, so different from six. I’m excited – and nervous about what is to come. It occurs to me that I write this more for me than for you because you will continue to be who you are to your core: smart, funny, creative, strong, soft. You are afraid of so little and are intrigued by so much…your world is opening up more and more all the time. But no matter where you go or who you meet, I hope you always know that I am your touchpoint, your rock. I show up in the vocabulary you use; my face is in the locket around your neck. I will always love you.
Happy birthday dear girl.