Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Grace Face the Nation: Six Years Later (Happy Birthday to Grace)

Were I able to choose the background music for this past year, when Grace was five and Noah eight, it would undoubtedly be the soundtrack of Hamilton (with a little Moana rounding it out). And so I awoke on Gracie's birthday morning this past Sunday with "Dear Theodosia" already running circles in my head.

Truly. Listen to this song. The lyrics alone are great, but the music really needs to be there too. So listen if you can, and know that you might cry.

Last night of being five (creepy photo cred: me)

Dear Theodosia, what to say to you?
You have my eyes. You have your mother's name.
When you came into the world, you cried and it broke my heart.
I'm dedicating every day to you.
Domestic life was never quite my style
When you smile, you knock me out, I fall apart
And I thought I was so smart…

Oh Philip, when you smile I am undone
My son
Look at my son. Pride is not the word I'm looking for.
There is so much more inside me now
Oh Philip, you shine like the morning sun
My son, 
When you smile, I fall apart, 
And I thought I was so smart.

It played and replayed in my head, like a lullaby, bringing me in and out of a sweet early morning sleep. The house was quiet, Duncan passed out at the foot of our bed, kids sleeping off a long day of happy birthday (cha cha cha) partying from the day before.

And then, as if the sun in its entirety squeezed itself through our windows and into our dark, silent room, two boisterous laughing voices broke the stillness. Grace and Noah, Noah and Grace. And there they were, pulling us into the day in the form of a pouncing embrace which had to be returned with equal vigor. A brand new year for Grace. Six years old.


"It's my biiiiirthday!" She announced. "Time to get up!" "Six, mommy. I'm six, daddy. Noah, now we're only two years apart."

"Not really, Grace."

My little dream who is no longer just a dream. Gracie. Grace. Grace-a. Gray-bo. Gray. Graceface. Graceland. She is wild and then she is shy. She speaks inaudibly soft (often when answering questions from grown ups) and then, an hour later, brings Noah to tears with the volume of her screams. She is stubborn and yet often indecisive (when she can't choose between socks, she'll go with one of each). She stays up past her bedtime, playing and singing and reading, and then sleeps in late to make up for it (that's *my* girl!).

She loves sparkles but doesn't usually wear them because they are itchy. She admires fancy shoes but will only wear sneakers. "My body is my body!" she tells me, over and again, when I even attempt to encourage an outfit, or a shower, or a walk outside. True that, Grace. She adores her friends, but when they hug her, she usually stands with her hands hanging by her sides, sometimes quietly yelling "too tight!" Her body is her body and it might turn out to be the best phrase I ever taught her, so long as she learns to say it to people other than me alone.

She is also the sweetest kid I've ever known. She gives away so many toys and clothes to her friends, she forgets what she's parted with, asking me about it later on, forgetting her own generosity. She loves her stuffed animals almost as much as her own (real) puppy, Duncan. The stuffies often join her when she's watching a show. They go to school with her. She spends minimal time coming up with names for them, and the names she assigns seem to consistently resemble their color or animal type: Orangie. Rainbow. Uni (that's for the Unicorn). Wolfie (that's for the cheetah. kidding.).

And with all these toys and animals by her side, always around, her absolute unabashed passion is still Noah. Always. If she could just shadow him every day, all day, sometimes playing along, but mostly just being in his presence, then she would be content.  She loves Voltron because they discovered it together, and watch it side-by-side. She asked for her birthday party to be half Pony (for her), half Star Wars (for him). She never takes a lollipop at the gas station or a sticker from the doctor without first asking if she can have one for her brother. Always one for Noah.

This weekend, Noah took a doggie-shaped specially designed balloon that had been made for her birthday and unwound the thing, thinking he could put it right back together just like the balloon lady had done. You'll be surprised to learn he couldn't. We sent him upstairs to confess to his sister and ask her what he could do for her to fix this (buy her a new balloon? give her some of his allowance?). Minutes later, the two of them were at the bottom of the stairs, laughter brimming over, Grace holding a shoddily-constructed red balloon sword, telling me she liked it more than the original dog balloon. This is how they operate. I understand. I've been her. I still am ("Hey! Hey Scott? Scott! Remember my brother love post?" Oh wait. He's not going to read this. But I love you, Scott! I love you I LOOOOOOVE YOU!).

Gracie tolerates Hamilton because Noah obsesses over it. She acts as though she's not listening, but it turns out she is. Just last week, Noah and I were arguing over whether the lyric is It might be nice... to have Washington on your side or It might be nice to have Hamilton by your side... and Grace, sitting quietly by, finally said, "It's actually both. They say both." No surprise, she's correct.

And she has so many interests of her own. Photography (with my iPhone when I'm not looking). Shopping (as soon as she saves up any amount of money). Bug, still bugs. Less so than before when she used to create little homes for the spiders and ants she found in our house, but she still loves them. My Little Pony, Num Noms (I'm still trying to figure out what on earth their purpose is), unicorns and rainbows (literally - she goes to a class after school called "Unicorns, glitter, and rainbows"). No sports yet, but if she got a little courage to get out there (on the field/court/floor), I am certain she would thrive. ("Are you going to do any activities this year?" Grandpa asked her this summer. "No, I'm doing Kindergarten," she replied).

She loves painting, drawing, coloring, counting to 100, stringing letters together and asking me what they say. Playing with Duncan (her "little brother") brings her endless joy (constant laughter, thank you Duncan). She has the most beautiful singing voice but only when she doesn't think anybody is listening. And when she is feeling truly carefree, she dances with the kind of moves that can't be taught.

She cozies right up to us when we read to her, asking few questions but taking it all in. Lately, we've been enjoying the book, "Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls," a book her best friend Maya gave her for her birthday. It is a collection of Once upon a time bios of some of the amazing women in our history: Harriet Tubman, Malala Yousafzai, Cleopatra, Jane Goodall (seriously, get this book, even if you don't have kids). Rebel girls, rebellious in all the right ways. There are endless possibilities out there for you, Gracie. God willing, they will be there when you are ready. And if they aren't, you can make them so, in your own Gracie way.

I want her to see her potential and believe it is real.  I want her to stick up for herself better than I did when I was growing up. I want her to be wild but wise, smart but sensitive, confident, kind. Always kind. This is what we all want for our children, I imagine. My gosh, parenting is precious. We have only so much time and just endless, absurd levels of love. We want our babies to take that love and internalize it and then take that energy and spread it into their lives, their interests, the people they know and love, all their failures and successes. And yet, what a privilege to even have such desires when every moment we have is so darn delicate.


Wednesday morning, late November, and we're running late in the morning once again. "GRACE!" Noah says. "You're going to make us late AGAIN!"

"I've never done Kindergarten before!" She retorts.

"You've done it for three months!" He responds.

"Well, this is my first time doing Kindergarten!" She fires back, reminding him again.
Preschool graduation
First day of Kindergarten
And she's right. Kindergarten is huge. These steps she's taking right now, which sometimes must feel like carefree leaps and other times like concrete tied to her sneaks, are giant, each one of them. New rules, new lessons, new friends. Independence in thought, behavior, decisions, creativity. She gets it, she knows how meaningful all of this is. Not even her big brother can tell her it's not. I try to acknowledge all of this, to remember how big she must feel she needs to be right now. And yet, still, every time I see her face -- cheeks still pudgier than they will soon be; nose quite literally the size of a My Little Pony hoof; chin hardly much bigger than her nose --  and every time I hear that tiny voice, so often brimming with laughter, I want to swaddle her right up again, as I did six years ago, and never put her down. To literally hold your dream in your arms, to lift it in the air and bring it towards you, even when it's forty plus pounds, and then have it squeeze you back. And as hard as some days can be, I can't help but wonder, how am I actually awake? How could I ask for anything more?

(Oh Grace) When you smile, you knock me out, I fall apart
And I thought I was so smart…

Happy Sixth Birthday, Gracie girl. Your mommy (and daddy... and brother... and other brother...) adore you beyond words.

Gracie - fifth birthday
Gracie - sixth birthday (she made me remove the paint
5 minutes after it was put on - this is why we're at the sink)