When I was a kid - my mother and I were obsessed with musical theatre. Not only did we see every show available in our limited corner of the world in Eastern Washington state - but we rented videos of the classics. Victor/Victoria. Westside Story. Thoroughly Modern Millie. Oklahoma. Fiddler on the Roof. We'd sit together on the big black vinyl couch in our family room and watch these movies over and over - until I had the songs memorized. My mom always got teary eyed when Tevye belted out 'Sunrise, Sunset' in Fiddler. It was like clockwork - her nose would get red, her eyes watery, and then she'd wipe away the tears with a smile. I never understood why, and in my pre-adolescent mind could never figure out why a song about sunrises and sunsets would make her weepy.
Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don't remember growing older
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he get to be so tall?
Wasn't it yesterday
When they were small?
I look at Anna and wonder - when did my little girl stop looking like a child and start looking like a teenager? How are we nearly half-way through our time with her - before she cuts those apron strings and heads out into the big bad world? How is time going so fast? I want to stop the clock - to slow things down - to spend unlimited time doing all of those things I want to do with her that we never seem to find the time for - like cooking and baking, making beaded necklaces, picking wildflowers, having Barbie fashion shows. All too often when she asks me to do one of these things - I'm too busy to stop or in too much of a hurry to allow her to help.
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze
I know that all too soon, the requests to braid Barbie's hair, to play with paper dolls, and to dress American Girls will come to a halt. It's already happened with her night-time stories ... she prefers to snuggle into her bed and read her chapter books alone than to read picture books with her brothers. I no longer turn out the lights after kissing her goodnight - now she reads to the agreed upon stopping point, puts her book down, turns out her light, and settles herself in. By herself. And while it is totally amazing to see her mind at work as she devours classic books that I love (like Anne of Green Gables), it also makes my heart hurt.
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears
I constantly worry that I'm failing her - that I'm not doing enough, or loving enough, or being enough for her. Our days are so full - and with the added stress of parenting without Deonne on a day-to-day basis, I have very limited time to spend with her. I'm frazzled, to say the least, and not handling this separation well. At all. And I want nothing more than to sit down with her and talk and hear about her day, answer her questions, make cookies, and braid doll hair - unfortunately our reality is me constantly brushing her off - telling her 'not now' - and not giving her the time she desires. What is that teaching her?
What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?
I just hope and pray that she knows in her heart of hearts how much she is loved. How much I adore her, and thank God for her presence in my life each and every day. A good friend of mine recently noted on her daughter's birthday just how much she's learned since she became a mother - how much her child had taught her about life and love. I learn from my daughter every day. Every day she challenges and teaches me, stretches me to my limits, and loves me unconditionally. For that I am eternally grateful.
It's been a very long road, these short eight years, with lots of bumps and a few bruises (figuratively) along the way. We've struggled and pushed, loved and prodded, and finally come to understand what makes this girl tick. Over the summer, we went through the battery of tests and examinations to figure out what makes Our Anna 'Anna.' And following the heels of those testing results, we've implemented a few changes. Since those changes were put into place, I've learned more about my daughter in the past two months than I have in the past two years. I've seen more of her personality, heard more of her ideas, seen more of her strengths and weaknesses - and really truly understood the girl she is becoming.
She is wildly imaginative, and insanely creative. We always knew this - but now we understand the depth. Her thoughts are more focused now, and clear, and when she's imagining a story - she actually gets to the finish line; reaches a conclusion. When she recalls something that happened at school, or a funny thing she read or saw - she makes a point - gets to the punchline. (Often times the joke is second grade humor - and not funny to us in the least - but at least there's a punchline.) And she's able to express herself in written form. When she's mad or angry or hurt or upset - she writes it down. When she's happy or has a secret thought to keep - she keeps track of it in her journal. (Sometimes it's funny/sad to see the things she's written - like the note she wrote to her nanny yesterday when she was mad at her for making her do her homework... oh the unfairness of it...)
She is completely tenderhearted. It might sound a bit harsh to admit - but I had started to wonder about her ability to feel compassion. Prior to working through her recent diagnosis, Anna was sort of numb. She'd say or do something that would hurt anothers feelings - but have no remorse. We'd correct and instruct her to apologize - and she would - with total indifference. Of course she still does or says things that hurt others feelings - she's human like the rest of us - but now, when she realizes it - she is very sorry, visibly upset, and will do her best to right the wrong.
In fact, she shows signs of being over-compassionate at times - very concerned about the world around her - worried about war and strife in countries far away - worried about the economy here at home - concerned about when our house will sell so she can be with her daddy. (Which we've come to learn is part of the 'gifted' part of her diagnosis - being overly sensitive about others around her.)
And, as I've written about numerous times, this girl is wicked smart. Sharp as a tack. Not only able to quickly understand and solve math problems and to read way beyond her age level - but able to put larger and more complex issues together. The things she says, the discussions we have - hey surprise and shock the hell out of me. On a daily basis. I didn't expect to have deep political discussions with my eight-year old daughter.
Yet, despite her ability to process these very involved ideas - she is still very much a little girl. She still loves to play pretend - and will play 'scenes' with her Barbies, figurines, and American Girl dolls for hours upon hours. And I love that. I desperately want to keep her the little girl she is - and not rush to get to the teenage years. Some of her friends are starting to outgrow Barbies and dolls - and prefer to pretend play 'rock star.' I'm happy to see her play that as well - but am so thankful that I hear the strains of Disney music coming from her CD player vs. Taylor Swift or Katy Perry.
She still loves and adores her little brothers - even though she won't often admit that, and has clearly drawn the line in the sand about what is hers and what is theirs. Her 'big' birthday gift this year was a desk and chair for her bedroom - which spurred Deonne and I painting over the Peter Rabbit mural that has been on her wall since her room was her nursery, as well as new bedding (made by yours truly) with a French theme, and artwork/accessories that reflect her adoration of all things French. (Yes, we have a true Francophile - thanks to two years of French lessons...) So now that she has her 'big girl' room, she has also limited access for her brothers. And I can't say I blame her. It's time for her to have her own space - and not have her little brothers underfoot or getting into her 'stuff.' And as much as she says they 'irritate' and 'annoy' her - at the end of the day, she is very watchful of her younger siblings, and loves them with all her heart. (In the photo below she's walking James to his classroom on his very first day of kindergarten.)
So on your eighth birthday my sweet Giovanna, know that you are a love. I wish and hope and pray that you will one day understand just how much you are loved. Just how important you are to me, to your daddy, your brothers, and everyone whose life you touch. You are a fun kid to be around, and the sound of your laughter and giggles is music to my ears.
Happy Happy Birthday my love!