Last night I looked at you asleep in your bed, and I was overwhelmed. "She's not a little kid anymore!" I realized all at once. The last traces of that toddler's roundness are disappearing. These days you are a long, lean kid with a large vocabulary and a fast growing understanding of the world. Judging from the screaming, stomping and crying that's been going on in our house lately, you are experiencing some growing up pains. Your behavior is frustrating to say the least — more so because no matter how much you hate me or rail against me, you never want to be away from me. But at the same time, I can empathize. Growing up is not easy. It's painful to look back on your youthful innocence with the knowledge that you will never get it back. When I look at pictures of my younger self — before I knew how much was at stake in this life, before I had a mortgage and a husband and a child, before I struggled with insomnia and anxiety — I can't help feeling a little sad.
A few days ago, you turned seven. Instead of your customary glee to be turning a year older and having another fabulous birthday party, you told me in your new taciturn voice that you didn't want to be seven. You didn't want to grow up. You are resisting our efforts to get you to take more responsibility by, say, washing your own hair in the shower or finding and putting on your own shoes before school. It's not that you are incapable of these things. I think it's just that you miss the safety and comfort of not having to worry about the mundane jobs of life. You miss being taken care of. I still remember when I got old enough that my parents stopped opening and holding doors for me. It was a tiny thing, but I felt a a little less protected in this big world.
I think you are also beginning to lose that magical presence that young children have. Until recently, the place where you were at that moment was the only place that existed. You were able to throw yourself into every experience without the baggage of wondering what better things you could be doing right now, or how this time compares with last. But this week, you came home from school and told me you were thinking about the wrong things. You were supposed to be doing a math worksheet, but you were wishing for summer vacation, days at the beach or hikes in Maine. Suddenly, the everyday world doesn't feel quite so magical anymore. Those ecstatic jumps for joy at the thought of an ice cream cone don't come so easily. And you're not sure why.
But despite your frequent rages and complaints, I see all the signs that you are growing into a kind and lovely person. We took you camping in Maine this summer, and you lit up with a love for the outdoors. We climbed to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak in Acadia National Park, and you smiled (and talked) through the entire four and a half journey. You happily crossed streams and scrambled up steep slippery boulders. You love to camp and bike and swim and sail and climb trees. We have started reading chapter books together, and we are having so much fun discovering stories together. You are learning to play the piano — a pursuit that I hope is teaching you how much you are capable of if you work at it. You are still mostly game for anything, whether its summer camp where you don't know a soul or joining a soccer team without any soccer experience. And you still spend hours immersed in pretend play, a world where you seem to feel safe. I'll hear you in there doing dialogue for a group of dolls and stuffed animals. Later, I'll find a fairy taped to the back of a plastic horse with "reins" made out of a scrap of yarn. Your imagination scatters our house with the most random bits and pieces.
Lately, life with you is so intense — your moods so fast-moving, our days so busy and exhausting — that I often lose my perspective. I'm always rushing you here and there. I get angry and yell. You ask to be picked up and I sigh that you're too heavy. I'll try to do better, but this mom job is a tough one. I can't promise anything but my eternal, unwavering love.