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To Nora, who has finally become Six

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You’ve been waiting for Six for a long time…the way you wait for everything, equal parts anticipatory excitement and grumpy irritability that the object of your desire has not yet been granted to you. You’ve been musing over this birthday, turning it over and over in your mind as you help me fold socks or unload the dishwasher or water the garden, sharing little tidbits of your thoughts as you tumble them around.

“When I’m six, I’ll read chapter books to myself, completely to myself, like Sam does.”

“When I’m six, I won’t need any help to put my hair in a ponytail.”

“When I’m six, I’ll be able to weave and knit without any assistance.”

“When I’m six, I’m going to make dinner all by myself.”

“When I’m six, could I possibly have my own room?”

Well, as much as I’d love to grant all your birthday wishes and give you the desires of your heart, you can’t have your own room. We’re simply out of bedrooms. Also, for all your blustery rhetoric about not liking to share your things or your space, I’m not sure you’d be entirely happy all alone at night without your sister’s company.

Yes, sharing space is hard, and sharing your things with someone who doesn’t always treat them the same way as you do is a challenge. You like things the way you like them- lined up neatly in rows, carefully arranged to meet your artistic preferences, color-coded and grouped by size and shape. I watch you carefully choose shells to outline a path over the wall around your sandcastle, and I know each one has meaning to you- nothing you do is accidental. You have plans, and they all fit into a bigger plan, and other people’s unwitting blunders sometimes completely ruin your plans and therefore ruin your life.

As you said at the end of the day on your birthday, “Nothing at all went the way I had hoped it would on this birthday, and it’s the most horrible birthday I’ve ever had!”

We never need to ask you how you feel, my girl. You are always quick to tell us.

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And I’m so grateful that you can tell us- that you don’t stuff your feelings down inside and pretend that things are okay when they simply aren’t. Your feelings are enormous, after all! They explode out of you with giggles and whoops and leaps and sometimes sobs and gulps and tears and sometimes even eye rolls and door slams. What would happen to a girl like you if she stuffed her feelings inside and didn’t let them out? She’d be a walking volcano, waiting to blow at any second.

I know it can be scary to be such a feeler. You never quite know when something might leap out of nowhere and make you weep- a story read aloud at the library, a butterfly on the ground with a wing missing, a crushed seashell, a broken crayon. When your tooth came out yesterday, you brought it to me with tears welling up in your eyes. I thought you were hurt, but as you wept in my lap, you told me you were just sad…”and I have no idea why!”

Sometimes, we just don’t know why, do we?

I have never been very good at pretending things are okay when they aren’t, so maybe you got your big feelings from me. Regardless of where they came from, they are here, and they are part and parcel of who you are, and I would not change them even on the days when they are not easy to manage. You have the rest of your life to figure out how to keep your feelings from exploding onto other people. I am still trying to figure that out, myself, but I’ll help you in any way I can. For now, you are safe. I love you, just as you are, large feelings and all. And no matter how many times you slam the door in frustration, I will always be waiting on the other side of it when you’re ready to talk.

Happy birthday, dear one. You will always have my heart.

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