Today you turned five. I love to wake you kids up on your birthdays, rub your head or belly, catch you in that sweet limbo before full consciousness, and wake you with the reminder. Happy birthday, love!
You stole my thunder. You popped up while I was still only half-awake and squealed: it's my birthday!
"You're five today, love!" I crooned, trying to open my eyes. Yes, I am, you agreed. That's you: take charge and then very happy.
Oh, sweet girl, that strong-and-then-sweet personality has gotten us into all kinds of interesting scrapes, hasn't it? You're true to yourself, though, no matter how complicated that makes my life, or your daddy's. You're intractable sometimes, but one of your great accomplishments in the year since you turned four is recognizing your strong opinions and modulating your reactions to the behavior of others.
What I'm saying, Ladybug, is you are fierce.
You're sensitive, though, too, which is why you tend to have such strong reactions to what other people say and do. At the end of every day you have to catalog the offenses: that girl wasn't nice and this boy said a mean name and that teacher said "don't worry about it" and you didn't like that because you weren't worrying about it, you were mad about it. I know. I know you were. You can feel so slighted.
But the amazing thing with you is that you don't simmer. You hold no grudges and once your anger is gone, it's like it was never there. I listen to your grievances with a smile because I know that you need to get these problems off your heart and then you'll be playful and fancy-free. I envy the way you let go so completely. You're very zen, for a bouncy ball personified.
You're an extraordinary sister and the way your brother and sister both clamor for your attention and the way you play so well their very different games is lovely. You're a chameleon bouncy ball.
And that's five: you're on the big side of little, on the first step of big. You're a fulcrum point chameleon bouncy ball, relentlessly you, as a friend described you today, a mass of big feelings and bigger ideas and plans and questions, oh, so many questions. And so much love.
I love you even more than you love me, you always say, though I don't see how it's possible. But I love the idea of your love stretching past whatever else has been previously felt, arcing to a new measurement of love never before documented. Even your love is competitive, and aren't we fortune favored to be in its golden reach. You're a shimmering elastic diaphanous chameleon bouncy ball.
We went to get your ears pierced today. You've been asking since you cut your hair and strangers began referring to you as a boy. They could be forgiven their mistakes, for you barely hold still enough for a casual glance to take in your exquisite details, but only after we list each treason, of course.
And yet, you wanted some sparkle, my girl in jeans and an ice cream-stained t-shirt, my future firefighter, my norm-defying bundle of self-assured and self-defined individualism, 20 colors of nail polish and tomboy hair and now, tiny pink butterflies fluttering at your earlobes.
You challenge my patience, my memory, and my knowledge. You make me stronger, forging me from love I can't match and resolve I never knew I had and curiosity you kindle with your incessant questioning of how everything you've ever seen operates and why. You're the glue of our family, I sometimes think, playing fairy princess girly nurturer with your sister and rough-and-tumble child derby with your brother, playing Little Chef with me and puzzle solver with your daddy. You reach each of us at our best and draw us to yourself and to each other, connecting the best filaments in each of us and tying this five-pointed family in an effervescent star.
You are brilliant and beautiful and generous and intrepid and flat-out wrong, girl, because there's no way you love me more than I love you. But I don't mind if you keep trying. Just let me wake all the way up first, because I need to be at full-throttle to keep up with you.
Happy birthday, sweet girl.