: one dancer, one martial artist, one sister to a band of brothers, one artist
My daughter A turned 11 one week ago today. We celebrated her birthday as a family that night with tomato tart, salad, brownies and gifts from each of us. Then on Saturday, four of her friends joined us for a night of tacos, ice skating, cupcakes, movie watching and sleeping. (Although less sleeping than all of the other fun stuff.) We took time to open gifts after returning from ice skating and while the gifts were very thoughtful, it was A's reaction that pleased me most and has stayed with me. After receiving a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble, a dance t-shirt, assorted tween girl items like a berry smelling pencil and a painting her friend made just for her with a poem and a ballerina adorning it, A kept saying delightedly, "My friends know me so well!" She was clearly more thankful for their friendship than for any individual gift, lovely though they were.
The timing for this gift of friends who know my daughter well could not have been better. In a school year that has brought change, loneliness and transition after transition, it is a blessing from above for A to realize that in the midst of it all she is known. This longing to be known is something we all share to some degree and A is no exception. She seeks connection with the friends she has and was forging memories as she skated around the ice rink, not just burning calories and sharing smiles.
The joy it gave A to be known has me wondering how well I know this girl of mine. We've had lots of extra time together during this year of homeschooling, but am I paying attention to who she is? Or am I missing the transformation taking place before my very eyes? God is taking care of this as well: earlier this week two different friends told me how they see A.
On Monday (the day of the lost keys), a neighbor shared with me that she feels like A has really grown up this year and seems at home in her skin. While she doesn't know A especially well, I tried to be like Mary and ponder those words in my heart. I don't have any desire to rush A towards adolescence, but I do sometimes wonder whether she is progressing academically, socially and emotionally the way she should. This is the thing about eldest children, isn't it? I have nothing to compare to, so I have no idea whether A is a normal 11 year old or not. Regardless of that, I most certainly desire for all of my girls to be content with who they are, so it was encouraging to have someone else see this in my daughter.
Later that same day, a friend shared her daughter's take on A, who is a few years her elder, "I just really feel like I can be myself around A. She makes me feel like it's OK to be nice because she's nice to everyone, even the kids that I think are a little loud and scary." There's a lot here to be thankful for, several gems to store up in my heart and ponder. First of all, A makes this little girl feel like she can be herself. What a gift that is! How often in my life I have tried to change who I am or what I think because I feel like I am not enough... or am too much. To have a child who makes someone else feel like they can be exactly who they are is encouraging, indeed and perhaps A's ability to do this is linked to her own level of comfort with who she is.
So how well do I know my daughter? Probably not as well as I think. She's a first-born, an introvert, a girl who keeps her own counsel about many things in this life. There are undoubtedly things going on in her mind and her heart that I do not know. But I know a few things. I know she had the birthday party she wanted, right down to the type of cupcakes served. I know she is growing into herself and she is someone I enjoy being around. I know she is both more like me and less like me than I would choose. I know that I see beautiful things inside her - and outside her as well. And I know she has friends who see this as well. Friends who appreciate and enjoy this daughter who is part known, part mystery.