Your Sixth Birthday

Dear Sophie,

This year your birthday started with a visit from Grandma and Grandpa in Baltimore. And, on the way to the airport, Owen threw up all over himself and the van. As I was trying to get him cleaned up with the few wipes and plastic bags I had, changing him into one of Daddy’s shirts slated for Goodwill I found in the back of the van, you ever-so-helpful said from the back, “Mommy, you are not prepared for this.”

And I loved that, the humor you gave to an otherwise awful situation. And I loved that, because it showed you are still young enough to always speak your mind. And I loved that because, when it counts, you really are generous and kind. You care, about everything, so much.

Which is why, in part, I felt so badly that your birthday was a bit of a bust.

It started out wonderfully, with a present from Great Aunt Susie—a handmade Elsa dress.

Still, on the day of your birthday party at the YMCA, Owen and James had been sick less than 48 hours prior, so both boys had to stay home with Grandpa. (But don’t worry about the boys—Grandpa came through with a small birthday celebration they threw for you, on their own, in the backyard.)

And you, I believe, had fun.

Nini and Pop Pop came to your party at the YMCA, and then followed us home where you opened your presents from them on our front porch. They were on their way to see your Aunt Katy, Uncle Tom and cousin Colleen, who, as you know, has a birthday the day after yours. They stayed on the porch in what we hoped was a germ-free zone, so as not to get pregnant Aunt Katy sick.

After Nini and Pop Pop left, you said your stomach hurt. I tried to convince myself it was the sweets, but then you, too, got sick. After emailing my sincerest apologies to all the other parents of your friends who were at your party, I sat next to you on the couch, holding your hair and scratching your back—not a great way to spend your birthday, any birthday, but especially a birthday when you’re 6.

Still, you said you wanted to open presents. It was clear you loved them, but you were quiet and reserved, and you hardly played with your gifts after, which included some much-anticipated Frozen merchandise.

Several days later you were ready for your meal-of-choice: scrambled eggs, fruit salad, bacon and cinnamon rolls “from the can.”

Still after, you had a stomachache.

So it wasn’t until you were 6 years and 1 week old that you finally had your Frozen ice cream birthday cake, which your dad, who has many varied talents, made for you.

We even threw in a couple extra presents, for good measure. And then, we had cake!

And now is when I normally write a personal letter to you. And I will, but privately. For you’re 6 now, my sweet child. You’re in kindergarten. You’re learning to read. Your friends are learning to read. My thoughts and reminiscences about the year past are no longer primarily focused on physical milestones and parenting mishaps, but more personal milestones—your emotional and intellectual milestones—your growth as a human being, into an adult. And they are yours. And for the ones we share, also mine. And they belong to everyone you choose to share them with, both in the present, and in the future, if that’s what you wish.

This was the first year I didn’t know what you wished for—you have secrets, experiences, thoughts and frustrations tucked away in your brain that I’m not privy to—as it should be. Still, I love when you share. And I hope you continue to share. And in return, I promise to respect your privacy, as well as a mother (who also is a writer) can.

Happy, happy birthday my generous, passionate, funny Sophie.

I love you, always.

“We turn not older with years, but newer every day.” —Emily Dickinson

My “Beautiful” Hair

Sophie and I played “hair salon” today. I sit on the floor of her room while she brushes and puts barrettes in her dolls’ hair, waiting my turn. When my turn comes she tries to brush it but quickly becomes frustrated, because of the curls. Then she sticks some barrettes near the bottom of my hair, says “It’s beautiful!” and then I get up and finish cleaning the kitchen.

Except today, I forgot about the barrettes.

Three hours later, I took Sophie to ballet and hip hop at the Y.

It wasn’t until the kids’ bath, when Andy walked up behind me and started tugging on a barrette, asking “What’s this about?” that I remembered.

“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” —Mark Twain

What’s To Come

The other night, after dinner, I escaped to the Y (which is, thankfully, right down the street) for a quick 30-minute workout while Andy had his own 30-minute workout playing tickle monster with the kids. This arrangement has worked out perfectly for us. I’m able to exercise regularly and I’m also able to get out of the house, alone. Andy enjoys being able to spend time with the kids. The kids get a break from me. I’m happier. Andy’s happier (mostly, because I’m happier). The kids are happier. It’s win-win-win.

After this particular workout, however, I just wasn’t ready to go back home. I needed just a little more time—I craved just a little more time. So I called Andy claiming we absolutely needed some things from Target. And we did. But we didn’t absolutely.

He understood.

I chose a cart instead of a basket. In it, I put paper towels. Dye for my hair. Shaving cream. Shin guards and elbow pads for Sophie. Face wash. A new collar for Tucker. Etc.

I wandered. And lingered. Ran into friends and talked to them. Put things in my cart and then took them back out. Debated over thank-you card designs. Checked the children’s clearance racks. Walked slowly.

Eventually, I went back to our car, having spent more than I intended—both in money and time. It was 8:30pm. The kids go to bed at 8pm.

I drove home with that mish-mash feeling of guilt and calmness, which I imagine most moms feel at some time, when they choose to do something unnecessary or unproductive away from home, just to be away from home, while also feeling and wanting to be at home. It’s a difficult thing to describe.

And then, I drove past Woodfill Elementary, where Sophie will eventually go. I passed its new electronic sign and read, in bright, bright blue, “Father-Daughter Dance Feb 11.”

I pulled into the driveway not remembering the road I had just traveled. Instead, my thoughts were with future Sophie and future Andy. She in pink, I suspected, with lots of tulle making her skirt puffy. He in a tie she, no doubt, insisted on picking out. Her small Mary Janes on top of his dress shoes. Twirling. Lots of twirling. Balloons, perhaps? Streamers? She would like that. And hopefully, lots of pictures (I would insist). I thought about how we were just dancing with her infant self to “Build Me Up Buttercup” in our old living room and now here we are, me able to vividly imagine this dance that will be hers—and his—in only a few short years.

I felt a bit foolish for my Target wandering, even if it did calm me. At the same time I know there will be many more bedtime routines to come—some days it will feel like too many, other days, not enough. But more than anything, that brightly lit sign just made me so excited for what’s to come. It was yet another thing from my childhood that I had forgotten about, yet loved. And it’s coming. For her. For him. For all of us.


“And in today already walks tomorrow.” —Samuel Taylor Coleridge