year six

Dear Olivia,

Every year I tell myself that I’m not going to start your birthday post with a comment on how quickly the time has flown by, yet here I am doing it again. Before you were in our lives, a year could pass by fairly fast but it didn’t sting as much. We’d acknowledge the passing of time and move on with what we were doing. But you are our walking, talking reminder of how quickly time is moving on. If you could just check our email, comment on social media, monitor our heart rate and stream music I think we could market you to the masses. For now, though, we’re keeping you all to ourselves. 

This past year has been one of growth and maturity for you. Mentally, you’ve moved on from a lot of the toddler tendencies you had before. Tantrums are fewer and farther between, as you’re using your words much more and understanding the power that they have. Your behavior, especially when it’s just you and your mom together, has come a long way. Your tastes have changed into big girl ones too. You prefer regular Legos over the Duplos, bigger kid shows and movies over the ones for smaller kids and your drink of choice has changed from apple juice to bourbon. Clearly you’re moving on to the finer things in life (much earlier than I ever did, might I add).

Physically you’ve grown and matured as well. Last year at this time you were 3'6", and now you’re 3'9". Clothes wise, you’re transitioning from the ‘Toddler girls’ sections of stores to the full fledged ‘Girls’ sections. You’re losing teeth, gaining finger and toe nail length at an alarming rate (seriously, didn’t we just trim those yesterday?!?!) and becoming more and more leggy just like me. The only thing you’re hanging on to from your “younger days” is the baby talk, which I have to admit drives me a bit crazy. I’d much rather hear your big kid voice because, let’s be honest, it sounds so much cooler when paired with a funk anthem.

We’ve seen your personality continue to develop and evolve over the past 12 months as well. You’re still shy around people you don’t know, but once you get to know someone and open up you can be quite the goofball (this may or may not come from me). You can be super sweet and thoughtful, like when you’ve helped me carry groceries home from the store because there were too many, or when you held the hand of your friend to walk them into school because you noticed they were sad and needed extra emotional support. You can be an absolute laugh riot and want to ham it up for your mother and me, or you can be an absolute pain in the you-know-what for us when it comes to things like stopping play to eat or taking a bathroom break. 

Your creativity and artistic nature have also been a joy to see blossom over the past year as well. We get so much pleasure out of hearing you sing everything from The Beatles to the Hamilton, Moana and Annie soundtracks you’ve come to know, love and listen to on seemingly infinite loops. You love drawing, painting and for a while you were even into making collages out of anything from your environment that you could get your hands on. Toothpicks, straws, stickers, leaves and even half empty water bottles were all part of your creative vision, held together by countless strips of cellophane tape. I think being an environmental artist could be a great career move, although you're going to need a leather jacket, a bunch of dangly jewelry for one ear and learn to say, "Hey-yyy," a lot more if you're ever really going to make it in that world.

School for you continues to be a source of joy and excitement. Once again your teacher tells us about how great a student you are and that you are both kind and a good friend to your classmates. She also recently reminded us that you are one of the youngest students in her class but staying in the middle of the pack when it comes to comprehension and grades, which means you’re actually excelling. Regardless of your grades, we’re just happy that you love school so much and are happy being there. The only thing we may need to work on is figuring out a way for you to keep up with your classmates physically, since your smaller size means you trail behind them in that realm. I’ve got an idea or two to help you there, but it might involve you becoming a super soldier. How good are you at throwing a shield?

Photo credit: Jodi McKee

At home you’ve become much more comfortable playing with your toys on your own versus needing one of us to join you. It’s not that we don’t like playing with you, but you always had a knack for turning playtime with us into a way for the toys you were controlling to act not-so-nice towards the ones we were using. “Pretend all of our toys can fly but then somehow yours couldn’t and they fell and mine just laughed at yours.” Either you’ve got some really pent up frustrations with your parents or we need to find the return receipt for those really sadistic toys we accidentally purchased. 

This past year saw our first ever implementation of an allowance, mainly because you thought we had an endless supply of money and could purchase any and everything you wanted no matter the cost or frequency. Now on the promise of $3 every week we have you doing things like checking the mail, changing the bathroom trash, sweeping the kitchen and cleaning up our newly purchased droids before dinnertime. Your mom and I feel that it’s important that you learn some responsibility, even at this young age. Plus paying for all those power converters with your own money will give you a much better sense of accomplishment and ownership than if we paid for them ourselves.

In the past year I’ve tried my best to be there for you any way that I could, however I also tried to push you a bit and help you become more self sufficient and resilient. I started the trend of you taking showers over baths so that you could learn how to clean yourself, dry off and just use less water overall. I’ve been pretending to forget how to get to certain places in our neighborhood (school, the grocery store, any store where you want to spend our money) and asking you to guide us there so you’ll gain some directional sense. And I’ve been trying to teach you how to open up food packages, cut things with knives and open bottles using a doorframe, a coin or a jar of Vegemite. You know, important life skills. 

Lastly, I’ve been doing my best to help you overcome some of the things that make you anxious or afraid. I’ll remind you that the neighbor who says hello to us on a nearly daily basis is not out to harm you and it’s ok to say hi back to them (in fact, it’s quite polite). I’ll remind you that trying new foods will not, much to common kid beliefs, make your tongue jump out of your mouth, slap you on the cheek and demand to know why you put such a foul tasting thing on it. I will also remind you that I will be there to assist you when you jump off of any stairs in our neighborhood that I dare you to attempt. I may only offer one hand depending on the height, or both hands for the first few attempts, but that offer will always be there. Just know that I’m pushing you to show you how strong you can be. That with a little determination, confidence and thought you can overcome any obstacle that stands in your way.  Yet I swear that I will always be in your corner when you ask for help, no matter how many stairs you want to jump off of. 

You continue to be a constant source of wonder, joy, laughter and love in the lives of your mother and me. We are so proud of the things you’ve learned and done so far and we know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. We cannot wait to see what this year has in store for you and the things that you’ll accomplish. Yet, truth be told, your mother and I would rather you slow it down a bit (or fully) so that we can ride this time in your life out for as long as possible. We want you to get older but we also don’t want that to happen, you know? For now just try to dial it down a notch or two. Maybe ease off the gas and downshift from plaid to ludicrous. Deal?

Photo credit: Jodi McKee