As I went to slip on my shoes, I suddenly had to pause…I wasn’t sure which were mine and which were yours. And how did that happen? When did that happen?
I noticed the other day that you were taller than I realized. I’m not sure when that happened either, it’s as if it just suddenly did.
This morning you woke up a 9-year-old. Here’s the thing about 9: it’s halfway to adulthood. Halfway. I swear I just brought you home, snuggled in your infant carrier with a nursery full of perfectly folded onesies. And then I blinked.
Your love for everything unicorn and mermaids has evolved into llamas and sloths. I remember one afternoon, standing in your favorite toy store, watching you choose a unicorn and wondering if this would be the last one. I knew your love for unicorns wouldn’t last forever, but I wanted it to last longer because I wanted to keep you little longer.
The thing about 9 is that you seem to have one foot already out the door. You love chokers and Birkenstocks and things that sparkle. You love any outfit I would’ve worn in 1996. Today you have a spelling test, but I know I’ll blink and tomorrow you’ll be asking me to borrow the keys.
Last week I was in our favorite store and as I turned down the aisle you loved to browse, I suddenly realized this would no longer be your aisle of choice. You had outgrown the toys on these shelves, the same toys just last year you had on your Christmas list. I had never realized until that moment that the aisles went in order. The infant aisle didn’t seem that long ago and suddenly there is only one row of toys left.
Every phase of your life I have thought, “This will forever be my favorite.” The incredible thing I didn’t expect is that I think that at every stage. I remember rocking you to sleep one night, when I first brought you home, thinking I could never love a moment more than this. I thought the same thing when you were 2. You had bouncy curls and you loved to rock your baby doll, just as I rocked your newborn sister. I remember thinking it could never get better than this. Now here you are, giving me your recap of your third-grade day, and I don’t think it could ever get better than this. We love the same songs and you reference quotes from Friends at the most perfect times. When I’m standing in the kitchen doing dishes, you often grab a towel and start drying. I have loved to watch you become who you are.
The thing about nine is you are ready to take on the world. You are so matter-of-fact about the things you will be and the things you will do, and there’s something about your perseverance that makes me think you just might do all of those things. You care so deeply about the things you love and what a gift it is for me to see the world from your eyes. I am savoring every second of this. Soon we will have disagreements on the issues we have not yet crossed, but for now I am still one of your favorites. For now, you will teach me fun facts about penguins and talk about funny things at recess. You paint rocks for me and leave me inspirational quotes throughout the house. You seem to leave sparkle wherever you go (both literally and figuratively). You are a big sister extraordinaire. You always let your little brother have what’s left of your treat (even after he has already had his) and you make sure his coat is zipped when we rush out the door.
You are still a little girl who loves sloths and things that sparkle and shine and things 9-year-olds love, but you are also a little girl who has great awareness of others. When you set your mind to helping someone, you make sure it’s done. I love that about you. While I wish I could erase the worry you carry about others, I adore that you care so deeply. I love that even at nine, you know what it’s all about. I notice when you hold the door open for a stranger walking in behind us. I notice when you worry about who might not be invited to someone’s party, so you are sure to invite them to yours. Even at nine, you have this ability to make this world better.
I know how fast it goes; I don’t want to blink or I feel I’ll miss it. One part of motherhood I wasn’t ready for was how bittersweet it all is. I wasn’t ready to not be needed when you started to do your own hair in the mornings or pick out your outfits, but there was also something about seeing you so independent that made my heart just burst.
The thing about nine is that it snuck up on me so much faster than I was ready for but you wear it so well: the confidence, the compassion, and the dreams. I hope you will always take parts of this with you, like how you start dancing at any given time and the way you always remember to look out for others. I hope you always take the sparkle and shine you find in life and share it with the world. I’ll be watching you in awe and I’ll try not to blink.