Dearest Sugar Bee,
It was your birthday yesterday and I fell in love with you again. We were out in the desert with friends and you were your beautiful, lively self, enjoying your family and friends and soaking in the sunshine. We spent a lot of time holding hands and swinging in a hammock and talking about life. I gave you your “7” charm to wear around your neck this year. It’s the charm that I wore when I was 7 and Grandma wore and Aunt Lenore too. The charm that Grammy brought into our lives. Lucky seven. We are indeed lucky.
Flashback a week and we are fighting about homework. Again. You are giving me that look. Slack jawed, tongue forward, eyes rolled, wobbling your head like a car ornament. And I want to kill you. I feel my chest tighten and I want to shriek that I can’t stand you. That I don’t understand why you treat me the way you do. Why only me? I try to diffuse your frustration and anger which I have gotten pretty good at after this much practice. My encouragement falls on deaf ears. You are too far gone. I excuse myself from homework and give myself a time out in my bedroom and hold my head in my hands until my anger dissipates. When you calm down too you knock on my door and we hug. You give me the picture you drew of us together. I smile and thank you and add it to the pile. We continue to work; you finish your homework and peace is restored to our home.
And so it goes with us. Two steps forward, one step back, which mostly describes my own progress at navigating our tender relationship. But you are forging ahead as best you can and you are magnificent. You are strong and loving and confident and curious and wild and silly and expressive. You are finding your stride and it is amazing to watch.
But we clash, as do mothers and daughters. And it reminds me of clashes I used to have with Grandma. And that’s hard too. A friend of mine with a 4-year-old asked me what was the deal with her “teenager” and I gave her a knowing smile. I told her it eases up with time. And it does. I can see that. Our clashes are fewer and further between. We no longer fight about the “bumps” in your high ponytail. Getting dressed in the morning is a non-issue (school uniforms help). We have tools to help us. We do that funny thing when we feel a fight starting and we put up our fists and make our meanest faces. And then we laugh. And then we can talk. But sometimes the fury comes on so fast that we miss our window and it gets ugly.
It’s all okay though, you know why, Sugar Bee? Because you are still just 7. You are not a teenager; you just play at it sometimes and play is good. You are still just 7, I remind myself. It’s been a year of big changes, like every year, but you still play with dolls and you still like unicorns and rainbows and Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Loom and drawing and dancing in front of the mirror and snuggling and pretty hairbands and climbing trees and hiking and Ivy and Bean and Hello Kitty and Legos and riding bikes and baking. And you love Judo. What would we do without Judo?
You have great friends who still like to play house and build forts and hold hands with you at school. You have one brother who thinks even your farts are magical and another brother, who, despite his constant teasing and antagonism, admits he can’t live without you. And you have two parents who often find themselves staring at you and wondering how such an astonishing creature came from them. In fact you are surrounded by love and admiration going back generations. You are lucky 7 and you know it. You feel it. So something is going right.
And as we swing in the hammock together and watch the clouds move through the blue sky on your seventh birthday in the desert, my chest tightens again. I know the time passes as quickly as the clouds. And you know I love you.