Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Happy birthday, Abby!

A year ago, I said she was as spunky as ever.

That hasn't changed a bit. Now she's the spunkiest seven-year-old I know, and I'm still just as glad as ever that she's mine.

As we tucked her in this evening, she stated with a smile on her face, "This is the best birthday I've ever had!"

She's had some pretty awesome birthdays in her seven years. That's a pretty big compliment for this particular day. But it really was the best ever, when you think about it.

She had her traditional birthday breakfast date with Daddy (complete with smiley face pancakes, of course).

We went out for cake pops.

We had made-to-order heart shaped sandwiches for lunch.

And after ballet, we met a few of her favorite people for dinner at her favorite pizza place.

She loves her presents. But this birthday wasn't about the presents, somehow. She enjoyed being celebrated, and being loved, and we enjoyed making it happen.

At seven, she's beautiful, inside and out. She's grown up this year, and it's getting harder to ignore the really big girl she's becoming. She looks and acts older. The behavioral gap between herself and her brothers is widening, and it's sometimes difficult to watch. She still loves to play like a little kid with the 5-and-under crowd, but she also loves to curl up with a good book for hours at a time, and do sewing projects with her Nana and help Mommy in the kitchen. She loves to learn and create and make something out of nothing. She loves the joy of a finished project, and is getting better about tolerating the sometimes difficult process of learning a new skill in order to achieve something.

And that, in particular, is what sets my seven-year-old apart from the six-year-old she was. She's finally learning patience--with herself and with others. We've waited years to see this fruit manifest in her life, and it's a joyful thing to watch bloom. It's not perfect, by far. But she's so much more willing now to try again, or start over, or even ask for help. These are really mature ways to handle the things that we struggle with, and I love the opportunity to remind her of that, and to be reminded myself. There is still so much she and I have to learn from each other, and I fear the years are moving by much too quickly for us to get it all in.

She's softening, somehow. Her heart for hurting people and people in need and even the people she lives with is growing and changing, and the beauty is there, too. She wants to do for people, and provide for them, and share things that may make them happy. After overhearing us discuss some of Levi's hospital bills, she disappeared to her room and came back with $10 that she had earned caring for the neighbors' dog. "You can have this to help pay for Levi's medicine," she explained. I kept it, because her heart was in it. When she gives, she gives sacrificially, and to refuse her gift is to deny her the opportunity to use that part of her heart that wants to help others or bring them joy. She is always making little gifts for her dad and me, or drawing pictures of their favorite animals for her brothers to color, or watching after Levi to make sure he's doing okay in whatever he's doing. She cares deeply, more deeply than she has in the past, and I'm learning to navigate these new waters of emotion that come with having a heart like that.

But the pendulum swings both ways with a heart that cares deeply. She has the potential to show great kindness, but also to cause great pain. She knows what words will hurt her brothers, and she's having to learn to keep those tools guarded. She is learning the fallacy of "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Words carve deep scars, and those she uses and those used toward her are more powerful now than they once were. She is learning the truth of "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks," and is beginning to understand how her character is revealed in her speech. Her growing understanding of the power and strength of language makes it easier to apologize to her now, but I've noticed forgiveness doesn't come as quickly as it once did. There was a time when she could forgive and move on, as most kids do. But now she wants to know why she's been wronged, and how it will be different in the future. Her brothers are still quick to forgive her, but she is (sadly) learning the delicate art of holding a grudge that we adults seem to be so skilled at. I don't like this part of growing up.

She still loves learning most of all, and is never far from a book. She wants to know everything about everything, and her conversations are dominated with new information she's learned or read somewhere. She wants to do science experiments and make things. She soaks up knowledge like a sponge, and it is glorious to watch her process all the new information and new literature she's finding in the world around her. We finally made it back to the library recently, and while her brothers were browsing for animal books, she seemed a little lost. "Where are all the chapter books for big kids?" she wanted to know. I pointed to the wall of books she would love, with shelves spanning more than 20 feet in length and nine feet high. "These are all for me?" she asked, amazed. I love that attitude. (Yes, Abby, those books are all for you. The world's your oyster.)

Happy seventh birthday to our sweet, spunky Sunshine!

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