Nine years ago today, as I was in the early stages of labor, we anxiously awaited your arrival.
Nine years. That sounds like such a long time. But when I can close my eyes, I see it like it is happening right now.
Then I open them and there you stand - nearly to my shoulders with your freshly straightened hair (you begged me to straighten your hair for school today because all your friends are dying to see what it looks like straightened and figured your birthday would be the perfect day to do so) - looking nothing like that perfect little baby I met on June 3, 2004.
You are a beautiful young lady.
While we're enjoying the benefits of becoming a 'tween, we're also learning that growing up can be hard. Friends had told me that there was a big difference between 2nd and 3rd grade. My assumption was that the difference would have to do with academics.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
You're still pulling straight A's, have been on the honor roll every card marking, and were chosen to participate in the UCS School Board meeting several months ago (which I'm told only the brightest and best are chosen for that honor.) Good job, baby!
But approximately a year ago, our lives sustained some significant changes:
- Our church underwent some huge staff transitions (as a Pastor's Kid, that was a major shift for you because our staff has always been "family." Some of your "family" moved out of state while other members of the "family" moved to new chapters in their lives meaning that friendships would have to be more intentional).
- We built and moved to a new home.
- You spent a week away from us at camp for the first time.
- We enrolled you in a new school
Along the road, we encountered some bumps that we had to navigate. You've had to grieve the loss of easy friendships and learn how to manage those outside of the confines you'd been used to. You've had to learn how to manage fear of the unknown and the anxiety that sometimes accompanies said fear.
And you've had to learn that oftentimes, other peoples' lives look a lot different than ours. You've struggled with feeling left out and naive - different. You've had to come home from school and ask us what certain things meant and why you didn't know about those things. You're learning that the world outside of these four walls isn't alway a nice place and sometimes little girls can be mean and hurtful.
With strong "encouragement" from your father, I've had to learn how to not overreact when you tell me something you've heard at school. ("That boy said WHAT word?!?!"). I've had to be educated on the finer points of keeping my big mouth shut, especially after reading that very unkind text message on your iPod from that one girl at school ("Give me her phone number. I'm calling her mother. What kind of woman raises a daughter to behave like this????!!!!!") Responses like those I've parenthetically notated make you not want to confide in me.
I'm realizing that I can't just swoop in and fix everything. A call to a parent or the teacher may help temporarily change someone else's behavior but it isn't going to help you learn what you need to do in said situations.
We're all learning how to navigate this together. And sometimes we trip. And sometimes we fall. But then we all get back up and start the journey again - together.
Just when I think I've made a huge mistake by "allowing" you to grow up and releasing you to the wolves and I am seconds away from building a bunker in the basement and homeschooling you so that we never have to interact with another human being again, I see how happy you are with all of your friends at your first big Sleepover Party.
Nice girls. Happy girls. Kind girls. Generous girls. Being raised by nice, happy, kind, generous mothers. My faith in our gender is restored. :)
And I realize that hiding you away from everything that is wrong with the world isn't going to help you. It's going to harm you because you won't have learned the appropriate tools to navigate the inevitably difficult situations of life.
I am so proud of you, Kayla. I hope you know that. And not because you get good grades or because you follow the rules, but because you love people, you feel life at a very deep level and you truly want to believe the best about every person and situation you encounter.
I've said it once. I've said it a million times. I want to be like you when I grow up. :)
With more love than you could ever imagine,