We have one celebration behind us (last Saturday, with family) and one ahead (this coming Saturday, with friends), but today is your actual birthday.
Seven years old.
This feels like a big year for you. It is your first year at school all day long. Your first year eating lunch away from us on a daily basis. Your first year with regular homework. Your first year with art class! First grade is the real deal and you, of course, are taking it in stride.
Not only do I remember my own first grade year fondly, first grade is the grade I taught (for four years) before becoming your mom. First grade is familiar territory to me, and yet it feels brand new in so many ways, experiencing this year as a parent and watching you meet the challenges of your time as a first grader.
What has changed about you in the last year? You are bigger of course, growing too tall for your pants at an alarming rate. You are a more comfortable and accomplished reader - a fact that has brought both of us hours of delight. I love being able to discuss books with you and watch you branch out on your own. The Rainbow Magic Fairies series is a favorite right now and yet, even as we buy them (dozens at a time, it seems!) I know they will rest on your shelf briefly and you will be on to bigger and better things. Your writing has blossomed, too, and I love reading the stories you concoct almost as much as I love the fact that it is no longer agonizing to work with you on thank you notes! You've even started writing in a journal of sorts, given to you by your Aunt Molly last year around this time. And you have pen pals, a sure sign that you are, in fact, my daughter.
You are so confident Harper. This is both a good and challenging thing, at your age. Your teacher tells us that you often need to be reminded that you, in fact, are not the one in charge in your classroom. You have a lot of learning to do to balance your natural leadership ability with the compass that needs to be tuned in to the feelings of those around you. You are most definitely a take charge type of person, and I've no doubt that you will continue to take charge as you grow. Right now you want to be a teacher yourself, and, while I know that may very well change, it isn't too much of a stretch to imagine you the "boss" of your own classroom someday. For the record, Michael would also like you to know that you aren't the boss of him.
Nana started you in a ballet class this year. It is a long commitment which will culminate in a big recital this spring. Once in the fall and once in the spring there are days when family members may come in and observe the class. This is your first experience with any kind of dance class and you didn't want us to come and watch. After much prodding you admitted that you didn't want anyone to see you because you didn't think you were very good. The other children have all had dance class before and I think this is one of the rare times that you've felt out of your element. You are used to things coming fairly easily to you Harper, and this dance class is a bit of a different story.
There are things to learn here... you will not always be good at something the first time you try it, try anyway. It is okay to feel uncomfortable and to make mistakes. We agreed to put you in this class knowing that you would be out of your comfort zone, wanting you to have an opportunity to truly grow. Still it broke my heart a little when you cried to me that you weren't good enough for anyone to watch you.
We came to watch anyway. And you, my dear one, were much better than you think. Sure you have things to learn, but I'm confident that you will learn them because you listen, you follow directions, you try. Will you ever be a ballerina, paid to dance on the stage? Eh. Genetics say probably not. Will this experience have been worthwhile? Of course. Will I be fighting back proud tears, watching you in your dance costume on stage this spring, even if you forget everything you are supposed to do? Absolutely.
At age seven, many of the things I've always observed about you are still true. You are stubborn. You like to be in charge. You are smart. You are beautiful. You are creative. You are a girl who makes me very proud to be your mother. And I love you with all my heart.
Happy birthday, Harper.