Allow me to embarrass the hell out of you while I brag about how great of a swimmer you are this year. Seriously, you’re really good and given how humbling of an experience it was last summer to see you come in last place on almost every race, it’s really wonderful to be on the other side of the spectrum. You’re one of the top girls in your age group and currently hold the second best record in the Tri-Valley for the girls 6 & under breaststroke! Your free and medley relay team currently hold the best record in the whole league by a fairly decent margin. I’m so proud because I’ve seen how hard you’ve worked to get to this point. I’ve talked to quite a few people who find joining a swim team to be too much for young kids–daily practices, competitive racing, long swim meets but you have fun. That’s the major difference between kids who kind of like swimming and kids who love swimming. I couldn’t pay you to do these things if you didn’t enjoy being in the water. Only a kid who loves swimming would spend six hours at a swim meet and turn around and ask if we can go back to the pool.
I do have to remind myself that you are in fact only six years old and despite it being a favorite sport of mine, as hard as it is for me not to meddle, I have to allow you to grow in this sport at your own pace. It’s tough because I see things that you’re not doing correctly and I want to stop you constantly and show you the correct form. It’s clear on most days that you don’t really care what helpful tidbits I have to offer so for the most part, I chew my nails excessively and wait patiently for the day you ask for my help. I’m still waiting…
Your swim team held their annual fundraiser which is a swim-a-thon where they encourage swimmers to swim as many laps as they can and collect donations based on their efforts. I think last year you swam around 40 laps which is an incredible achievement for a five year old. When you declared that you wanted to swim 100 laps this year, we all kind of chuckled and admired your big dream thinking. After you hammered out 50 laps and continued your stance that you were going to swim 100, we all kind of sat back in astonishment that maybe you would actually do this after all. You swam lap 100 in just shy of two hours and you were so proud to have achieved your goal. You got out of the pool and ran over to your coach and announced you swam 100 laps just like your momma and I’ll admit, I got a little weepy. You make me proud everyday.
Your cousins, Jack and Kate, visited recently and I’m so happy that you have family that you have a good relationship with. Even though we only see them roughly once a year, we do try to stay in touch whether that be through FaceTime or Toymail. You’re slightly obsessed with babies right now and ask me most days when you’ll have a baby sister (according to your dad, never), so you were ecstatic to spend some quality time with Kate who is just at the age you love. You were fantastic with her: playing with her, making her laugh, telling us when she face-planted into various bushes in the backyard. I suddenly realized I had gone about having children all wrong. I should have waited until now to have a second because I would have received a hell of a lot more help. A child willing to watch a younger sibling? Solid gold! Instead I have two children who bicker all the livelong day because the other is staring, making random noises and smells like a garbage can.
You’ve been continuing with piano lessons and I’m pleasantly surprised to see how much you’re enjoying it. You practice constantly although most of the songs you play are original musical pieces you call “songs of love.” Chances are, if anyone is within earshot, you will beckon for them to take a seat next to you and listen to the ballad you just miraculously threw together. I’m either really tired or experiencing horrible deja vu because I’m almost positive every song of yours goes to the same tune. Clearly it’s time for you to learn a new scale in class. Since you like to compose your own music, I thought it would be fun for you to record yourself. These little gems will be worth a lot of money one day when you become a celebrity or at the very least, a jingle writer. I’m telling you, these tunes are catchy.
For the last few weeks, your front tooth had become very loose. So much so that a gap had formed in the space between the two teeth, almost making it look as if you had already lost a tooth. You refused to pull the tooth claiming it was your lucky tooth and the source of your speed in the pool. So for the last few weeks, we have watched the tooth become janky and disturbing. There were times I couldn’t even look at your because the tooth would be hanging out between your lips. You, being aware of your new backcountry smile, started making weird faces at me that I just couldn’t handle. Suddenly, my main life’s purpose became finding ways to eliminate that tooth.
Finally, one evening as we were reading books and preparing for bed, you quickly announced, I just lost my tooth! And there in your hand was a perfect little baby tooth. Since it was late and you knew you would be seeing your grandparents the next day, you asked if you could hold on to the tooth for one more day. Specifically, you asked if I could leave a note for the tooth fairy requesting a one day extension. The next morning, you were happy to discover that the tooth fairy obliged and left your tooth for you to study under the microscope and to share with family and friends. That following night, as you settled in bed and positioned your tooth in its designated tooth box, I could hear you talking to your tooth: goodbye tooth. I’m going to miss you so much but you’ll be happy with the tooth fairy. So precious it hurts sometimes.
With your new smile and you finally reaching the height where you can ride down the big slide at the city pool, I’m reminded again that you’re growing up too fast. You’re getting to an age that scares me–you’re very critical of yourself and are starting to be concerned about what others think about you. I want you to live in this precious little carved out world where you maintain that beautiful innocence and optimism for things and people but we all know everyone has to grow up and that realization hurts.
I read a blogpost recently where another fellow mother was discussing how her life has changed since having a daughter. In times before her daughter, she was quick to talk negatively about herself–obsessing over a new gray hair or another wrinkle. Once she had a daughter, she realized that she didn’t want her daughter to obsess over those very same things. She became hyper-aware of how often she criticzed herself and made a conscious effort to stop. Instead of seeing the flaws, embrace all the imperfections as part of a journey–your life’s journey. This particular post became quite personal for me because I remember being of an age where I became aware and concerned about how others viewed me. I was embarrassed about my imperfections and even though I had a mother who didn’t obsess over makeup or exercise, I still discovered self-hate and now that I’m a mother with a daughter of my own, I see now that those moments in front of the mirror obsessing, were wasted minutes.
I want you to love yourself despite of how different you look or feel. I realize the journey ahead is long and hasn’t even really begun but as your mother, I will never stop the long hard struggle of teaching you self-acceptance and self-love. I can speak now because I have lived through the awkward (still do) and can honestly tell you that you’re not alone. Everyone has self-doubt at some point or another. Embrace your uniqueness and understand that all those nuances are what make you, you. Beautiful, strong, intelligent, janky-tooth and all, you and it’s perfect, my dear. Absolutely, without a doubt, perfect.