How is this baby ten years old already?
My heart rests atop the knot in the middle of a tug-o-war rope. One side wants you to stay my little Buddha baby and one side wants to witness you continue to grow and learn and feel and experience. The above picture is your daycare school picture at 6 months old. I dressed you up in your maroon turtleneck and little wool skirt and you sat up perfectly straight for the camera. But there was no smile happening for that cameraman. He tried and tried – wiggling funny animals your direction and making ridiculous faces – but you’d have none of that action. You were probably contemplating the meaning of his existence as he engaged in those antics (and thinking “keep acting crazy, I’m not cracking a smile!”).
Grandma Meg’s friend had this comment when looking at your sweet face: “if you want to draw Maria’s face, you just draw a perfect circle.” She was dead on. We called you our Buddha because of that perfectly round head, those eyes in full contemplation, and that full belly. I remember how you would lay in your crib and suck on your binky while rubbing the satin part of your pink bunny against your face. Just rubbing and staring at the ceiling.
And you used to lay your head on my shoulder with your arms draped over my arms. Mouth open and drool coming out of the side. I would find any mirror I could find and look at you sleeping against me. How strange it was to have this little being completely dependent on me but how much I completely and totally loved it like I could have never imagined. I couldn’t wait to come home from work to play with you, hold you, rock you, read to you. And you must have felt the same way because you stayed up off and on throughout the entire night until you were 20 months old! You clearly wanted as much time with me and dad as possible. And now look at you – 10 years old and just as contemplative as you were at 6 months.
You’ve also inherited a bit of feistiness and fearlessness in your ten years, which makes you quite the handful at times. But you always engage people with compassion and love and understanding, which is not something exhibited by a lot of people your age – or any age – for that matter.
Example: Mario was not listening when I told him it was time for bed. He kept playing around and jumping on the bed and I had enough. I yelled at him and told him I was sick of him not listening to me. He began crying and ran to his room. You approached me as I washed my face and began your diatribe: “Mom, I really don’t think it’s fair that you yelled at Mario. He is used to you allowing him to jump around on the bed and act silly because you usually let him get away with it each night. I know you are probably tired tonight because you had a bad work day but I think you could have been a little nicer to Mario and he would have listened.”
You were at once standing up for your little brother and being gentle to the one you were up against (me). I think you are a born lawyer and would be able to sway a jury to your side in a heartbeat.
Another example: You were listening to Mario beg to get his ears pierced because he thinks it’s cool and dad continued to refuse his request. You sat quietly for a bit and then started in on dad: “why can I get ears pierced and Mario can’t? What’s the difference? Is it because he’s a boy and I’m a girl? Is that fair?”
You are thoughtful about your arguments and are fairly quick at responses to your “opponent.” I’m telling you, Judge Maria would be a judge I’d vote for….
You continue to embody a most caring heart; you are always concerned about people’s feelings and love to see folks’ smile. We were getting ready for a city-wide garage sale and you wanted to donate all monies you got from the sale of your items to a local shelter. When your little brother is dying for a new toy, you are the first to try and buy it for him with your piggy bank fund.
We’ve struggled a bit this year with self-doubt and worries that you aren’t good enough. You can tend to give up on something and then dive into negative thinking. These pre-teen years will continue to bring on those doubts and worry and I will work my hardest to talk you through them and listen to you. I have seen you do a good job the past few months talking things out more with me and your grandmas and your aunts, and we promise to continue to encourage open dialogue as you navigate these lovely pre-teen years.
But this year has also been a huge turning point year for you, sweet RiRi.
You have enjoyed a diverse group of friends. You do not have one best friend that you can’t live without; rather, you have a lot of friends who you feel comfortable hanging with for a play date. You are perfectly content doing a range of activities depending on the friend: playing barbies, climbing trees, jumping on a trampoline, drawing pictures, riding your bike, doing science experiments or watching tv.
You decided to play soccer! And now claim it as your favorite sport! This is the girl who absolutely detested it in years’ past and refused to give it a thought. It does not come particularly natural to you but you try hard and usually give it your best at practice and at games. And, you even ended up as the top scorer for your soccer team this Spring with two goals! I was so proud of you that I leapt off the bleachers screaming “that’s my girl!” Not embarrassing at all for you, I’m sure.
You got in the geography bee! There were only five fourth graders and five fifth graders to qualify based on high test scores and you were one of the fourth graders; and there was only one other girl in the bee (a fifth grader). You studied for it fairly routinely (a little nudging from me at times) and ended up one question away from being the student who moved ahead to the regionals. You got all of the first ten questions correct without batting an eye. You were poised and collected while the question was read and when you answered. Others shifted in their seats or twisted their hair but you remained super cool (this is you looking super cool heading off to school)!
You participated in Girls on the Run! Now this was another mind blowing occurrence. You hate, and I mean hate, to run. So if the program had been just about running, there is no way you would have agreed. But in reading about it, it focused on leadership skills and building self-esteem. I really wanted you to participate because you are at an age when it is so important to learn about self esteem and positive thinking. But I still knew it would be a hurdle to get you to participate because of your hatred for running. So I talked with you about it numerous times and explained to you that it wasn’t focused on the running and that you could run as fast or as slow as you wanted. Plus, it would give you time with your girlfriends. I knew that part would help win you over as you are always up for social hour. You hesitantly agreed and I am so proud of you for continuing through it this Spring. The first few weeks you begged to not go – you were bored and you dreaded the running – but I made you go and you always ended up saying “it wasn’t too bad.” And then, holy cow! You had a practice 5K to get you prepared for the race at the end of May. You dreaded it. You went to sleep on the eve of the practice run and cried about having to get up the next day and do it. I kept encouraging you and thought of you throughout the day you ran it. When I finally got hold of you after practice, you sounded exhilarated. I asked how it went and you exclaimed “it was good!” You ended up finishing it in 35 minutes and you even asked if you and I could take a little run on Saturday mornings. I about fell out of my chair at work, and the rest of the day I beamed about you and your perseverance (but don’t worry, I know you’d rather bike any day of the week!).
You learned the violin and performed wonderfully at the Spring concert! I am so proud of you sticking with it through the year even though there were days you did not want to practice. Learning an instrument and understanding melodies and comprehending notes will benefit you in many ways; one benefit is being able to Skype with Uncle Jack and play music with him!)
And you continued to teach me to take risks and push myself out of my comfort zone. I still can’t believe you got me to parasail with you this Summer. This is an activity I would have never accomplished absent my daring daughter taunting me and making me feel wimpy for not trying something a nine-year old had no fear doing. So thank you, Ri, for keeping me adventurous and daring!
Dad and I are constantly amazed by you and know that you will only amaze us more in this tenth year of life. We love you a gazillion times over and are overjoyed to be your parents!
Happy 10th Birthday, Ri!