My daughter celebrated her 8th birthday over two months ago and this one felt just a bit harder for me than the one before. At age 7, she still had seemed that shy, quiet child who wanted me to walk her to her classroom each morning and follow behind me like a shadow everywhere else. The transformation between age 7 and age 8 was something I had not fully been prepared for. It seems that overnight she has discovered the joyous fun in reading graphic novels, the scientific discoveries of slime and geodes and the finer points of picking just the right outfit and tinted lip balm. She is still shy with adults, but she is loud everywhere else. She sings and dances with abandon and often performs with a silly, wanton joy. Yet, she becomes embarrassed to the point of tears if she hears me telling anyone, anything about her. It's as if she is our secret firefly, you can catch her sparking brightly but briefly, if you know where to look.
Age 8 has brought eye rolling and a new streak of defiance to our negotiations. She argues, I believe, just for the sport of it. She pans refusal for almost everything I suggest she try. She doesn't like what I pick for her to wear and hotly contests any adjustments I insist she make to outfits she assembles. She can be aggressively stubborn. At age 8, she has tapped into a new sense of drama. A recent visit to the doctor for her annual flu shot treated her father and I to an almost Oscar-worthy performance where we might have assumed she was about to have her arm amputated without anesthesia. Each injury, no matter how slight, now seems to be accompanied by copious tears and irrational claims that, "you don't care when I get hurt."
Despite the challenges, age 8 has given us the opportunity to see her reach out and seize opportunities to do things she really enjoys. She has found her voice, found new levels of confidence. Without much prodding, she will play piano now for friends and family. She is clearly proud of her burgeoning skills and I'm happy to see that music is still so much part of what she loves about her world. She is one of the few girls in her ninja warrior class, a fact that does not seem to make her self-conscious in anyway. I can see sparks of a competitive nature in her. She likes to be the last one to release her plank during warm up, likes to know her time is that much faster each run at the obstacle course. She makes it up the warped wall in one take, but still freezes at the top. She says its the drop that scares her. She describes the feeling of gravity acting on her limbs as an unwelcome and uncomfortable intrusion, something she feels she can not control. We watch her, perched on the edge of the wall, her small frame tense with the desire to jump, only to back herself down. I ache for her and for myself, not knowing how much to push her past her block.
My daughter has always managed to forge wonderful friendships. One of the best things about this age is discovering that she has continued to grow into a loving and loyal friend. She has never forgotten those special friends from preschool and she reserves a portion of each party invite list for those friends she may not see every day, but still counts as part of her little circle. Her delight at seeing their faces, at sharing experiences with them, warms my heart beyond measure. She astounds me with her kindness, her limitless expressions of love toward her besties at school. She adores her friends and her book bag bleeds a regular stream of crayola-stained testimonials that prove they adore her back. Age 8 brought the very first friend sleep over, a play date that picked up Friday after school with her very best friend and ran straight through the next mid-morning. They stayed up far too late and got up way to early but the house was filled with their playful giggles and running feet. After they had finally dropped off to sleep I crept into her room to check on them and found them, heads pressed together, faces soft and serene in sleep. Physically they are polar opposites and they looked like a sweet composition in cinnamon and sugar. It made me think of my first sleepover with my bestie, whom I still treasure to this day and I felt happy for these two the special bond they have forged.
Age 8 has given me such bittersweet moments. I have been so proud of her, surprised by her sudden fierceness, delighted by her antics and frustrated to tears by some of her habits. I have discovered pools of her slime in the rugs, her hair and on the dogs. I have lost hours of my life collecting discarded clothes from her floor and rehanging them in her closet. I have caught a glimpse of her applying lip gloss in her room, her face a mask of concentration. I saw the little lady in her suddenly gaining on the child - and it wrecked me for hours. I am not ready for so much that I see coming but I am so excited to see her becoming her own beautiful all the same.
One day this past month, I had a rare day off with her. We went to the mall to do some shopping together. At some point, she surprisingly slipped her hand in mine and we walked through the mall hand in hand. I was very conscious of that moment, it felt crystalline and rare. I had to fight down the lump in my throat. I was filled with gratitude that at least at age 8, my daughter still wanted to hold my hand in public. Before that moment, I don't think I had been so sure. As I listened to her happy chatter, I felt blessed in the knowledge that at that moment, there wasn't anyone else she wanted to be with more than me.
At age 8, she is my fierce little firefly, my bright spark of light in my wide night sky.
|Image Courtesy of Firefly Bookstore|