Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dear Mia, Part 17

You are five now. Five. You are a kid now, not a baby, or a toddler, or even really a preschooler, but a kid. When people say these years go by in a flash, I never could have believed how true that is.

You graduated from preschool yesterday, and I was completely taken off guard by how SAD I am about it. Your preschool experience has been really wonderful for both of us. Your teachers and your classmates recognized how special you are. I got to help in the classroom and get to know your peers and their parents. I got a front row seat to your school experience. I am going to deeply miss bringing you in three mornings a week and standing out in the hallway before school started, watching you greet your friends with whatever news you had from the past few days apart. You were always so excited about school and bounced right in to the classroom, and I'm so glad I got to be a part of that. Some mornings I was frazzled and frustrated that you and your sister weren't moving fast enough, and now realizing how much I'll miss those moments, I wish I'd savored them more.

For five years now it's been you and me (and Gracie) every single day, and when you go off to kindergarten that will all be changing. You'll be going off (mostly) on your own, and oh, it is so hard on my heart. If you ever wonder about my decision to be a stay-at-home-mom (and I know it's not right for everyone, and may not even be right for you), know that it was absolutely the right choice for our everyone in our family, and I've never (not one time) regretted it. I would relive the past five years over and over, if I could.

For your birthday you and I went on a road trip. We went to visit my friend Pam and her daughters for a night, then we went to Schenectady to see The Lion King musical and spend a night in a hotel. It was a memory I will keep close forever. You've loved The Lion King movie for a few years now, and I've always wanted to see the show. It was like going on a trip with a friend, we had so much fun. 

I took you to the doctor for your five-year well-check last month and when the doctor came in she said, "Let's see how Mia is growing," then she reviewed your height and weight and your growth curves and said, "Well, Mia is a giant." You are in the 91st percentile for height and the 83rd percentile for weight and you look like an adult compared to most of your classmates. You lost your first tooth in November and your second a month later, and if I didn't birth you myself I'd start questioning your age. The dentist said once your front teeth come out you should stop sucking your thumb, but we're all a bit in denial about that. To me, it is your last hold-over from babyhood. You started sucking your thumb when you were 15 weeks old, and I almost fell over dead from the cuteness. I think I will be really sad when you stop. 

You are also reading chapter books and doing a first-grade-level math workbook your dad bought you. You are brilliant and always desperate to learn more more more. You want to know everything there is to know about everything. 

We got a puppy in March. You had been begging to get a dog for about a year, and for some silly reason your dad and I agreed. We went to the animal shelter and you and your dad fell in love with this scared little Australian Shepard mix that you named Clover. She is the sweetest dog, and you have been so good about taking her outside and taking her for walks.

You had your end-of-the-year dance recital last week, and you just love performing. Your teacher had repeatedly told the class to practice outside of class, but I didn't try to force it on you. You wanted to practice over and over again. Then you wanted to relive the whole thing the day after the recital. You are a star, kid. Whatever it means for your future, whether you end up performing for a living or simply lighting up every room you walk into, you are a bright and shining star. 

We registered you for kindergarten in March. Soon enough you will have a school life entirely separate from me. As I can see this on the horizon, I start to feel apprehensive and scared for all the messages and information that will come at you when I'm not around. Obviously, this is a part of growing up. I can't always be there to filter the world for you, but, for five years now your dad and I have been the main influencers in your life. Next year we probably won't be anymore. 

You've been having a tough time at school with your friend Johnny. You think he is just the coolest, and he might be a bit more lukewarm on you. You want to play with him all day every day, but he sometimes tells you he doesn't like you or doesn't want to play with you, which makes you sad. This breaks my heart, not only because he doesn't see how wonderful you are, but because you seem to let his nastiness affect you so much. We've talked so much about how every other child in the class loves you and would love to play with you. We've talked about standing up for yourself and telling him he makes you feel bad. Last week when we said these things to you, his mother was helping in the classroom and heard. She told you, "he didn't mean it," and "boys just act that way," and "boys just do that for attention," and I got very prickly when I heard all that. I'm sure it was just a flippant remark from a mom wanting the conflict to end, but I hate the message it sent, and it seems obvious he acts that way because he's never held responsible for his actions. We talked a lot about how not all boys are mean. You have many male friends and cousins who are kind and sweet and would never say anything mean to you. 

I've spent five years going out of my way not to label people. You've never heard me call someone "fat" or "ugly." You've never heard me say anything was specifically "for girls." You'd never even heard someone called "black" until a few months ago. I think often when we label people we are also subconsciously defining these labels as "good" or "bad." I do this, not because I think I can shelter you from all of this, but I hope by the time you go out into the world you'll have formed your own opinions and have decided that these labels are mostly "indifferent," and say more about the person doing the labeling then about the person being labeled. Recently you said mater-of-factly that you'd noticed a girl in your class was "chunky." I very delicately asked you about it. "Does that matter?" Nope. You were just noticing, as you would notice the sun in shining today. 

As the responsibility of raising two daughters in today's society falls hard on my shoulders, I find myself becoming an aggressive feminist. I find myself dreaming of what kind of women I hope you and your sister are someday, not so I can mold you to some ideal, but so I can help guide you with what I believe are the skills and traits you already have.

I hope you are assertive and fierce, but still warm and kind and nurturing. I hope you stand up for yourself and never back down when you know in your heart you are right. I hope you are not jealous, there is enough success and beauty and confidence to go around. Just because another woman is moving mountains does not mean that you can't do the same (but it also doesn't mean you have to if you are not so inclined). I hope once you've reached great heights you turn and lend a hand to the woman behind you. I hope you turn heads with your confidence. I hope you know that you can do any job a man can do, and you deserve equal pay and equal recognition. I hope you don't accept stereotypes. I hope you surround yourself with people who build you up because you don't deserve anything less. I hope you fall in love and that person sees wonderful nuances in you that you didn't even know existed. 

This is very very important, because it's something that only hit me recently, when I really stopped to hear these words and what they mean: I hope your self worth is not defined by how you look. A man does not go out into the world expected to be treated differently if he is having a bad hair day or if he's not wearing make up or if his clothes are not flattering to his body type. Those thoughts have never even crossed a man's mind. I don't know that I can hope they never cross your mind, but I hope it's rare. You are beautiful, but you are so many other things. 

Mia Jane, I stand constantly in awe of you. You are so different from me. You are the type of girl I would have wanted desperately to be friends with. You are amazing, and I hope you always know I think so.