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A Letter To Cora

Dear Cora:
Today is your birthday, sweet girl. Can you believe it? Seven years old! We spent all weekend celebrating your birthday in one seemingly endless fantasia: your oldest friend came in from out of town to surprise you Saturday morning and spend the whole weekend with you; we had a fun party riding horses on Saturday afternoon; and celebrated with family Sunday night. Plus chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, favorite lunches, and more – it’s been a looong weekend honoring you in our lives.

So in some ways the whole Age Seven thing seems old news; but in other ways – in Mommy Time – it’s still startling and a teensy bit unwelcome.

Just keeping it real here.

You are just finishing up first grade, and have been vocal about your impatience to learn more, to be more challenged in school. You’ve spent a large part of the spring semester asking if you could just “go ahead into second grade” because “first grade is just kindergarten over again”. Fortunately for you, your teachers are some of the best in the country and they work every day to challenge you, give you extra projects and teach you new concepts as you race to know MORE. Your homeroom teacher has given you a couple old encyclopedia-type books from the 1980’s: one on Myths and Legends, and another on Holidays and Customs. You spend large parts of your nights reading them like comic books, poring over entries on Sasquatch or Greek spring festivals. You asked for an almanac for your birthday and ask your teacher when she’s going to let you work on more algebra problems. I have to say, this part of you tickles me enormously, though I suspect in a few years I’ll be running hard just to keep you mentally fed.

You run full-tilt at life, and don’t let your fears hold you back. Not to say that you don’t have fears: you definitely do. But you push yourself to go ahead and do something anyway. Some people describe you as fearless, but I know that you are simply Hugely Brave in spite of your fear.

In fact, the only thing that holds you back is yourself. You, my child, have incredibly high standards – for yourself. Kickball this year has been a big challenge for you in school, because you have been nearly paralyzed with fear, worrying you’ll be less than perfect when you line up to kick the ball. I watched you play your grade’s final kickball tournament, and the entire game you were fidgety with nerves, worrying about your time at the home plate. When you stepped up and kicked a run that got you to first, only to go on and eventually score the last – and winning – point for your team, I’ll admit I was crying up in those stands. Every time you face down your own impossibly high standards and let yourself try – and give yourself permission to fail – you grow so much, baby. I love watching it happen .

You are still fiercely loyal to your friends and enjoy as many playdates as I’ll let you have. Interestingly enough, you see all your friends through the rose-colored glasses you refuse to don for self-examination: one friend is “amazingly pretty” while another is “SO good at soccer!” and a third is “always kind to EVERYONE!” You are so effuse with your praise for your friends, and always compare yourself to them and find yourself wanting. I wish you’d measure your own self as generously as you measure your friends.

This year has been the year you’ve fully realized that you will Never. Be as old as your sister. And trying to keep up with her has been frustrating and agonizing and heart-wrenching, but you still don’t quite want to admit it’s not going to happen. Remember, Li’l Bit, that I was the younger sister too, and I know what it’s like to keep chasing the moving finish line. When you finally stop comparing yourself to your sister – or anyone – you’ll be so much happier. I promise.

You started horseback riding this year, and you’ve really enjoyed your time at the stables. You’re such a little thing on that big horse, and you still don’t want him to break into a gallop because trotting’s so hard on you, you can’t imagine what a gallop must feel like. But you sure love hanging around the stables on a Saturday, and I’m eager to see where you go with this.

Dancing is still high on your list of loves as well, and let me tell you, watching you dance is about my favorite thing in the world. When you dance, baby, everyone can see the pure joy in your eyes, and as you move we see what the music sounds like to you. Cora, you have a real gift there, and while I don’t know how you’re going to use it, I have no doubt you will use it your whole life.

You’ve also fallen in love with the stage in general, and our trip to New York last summer certainly didn’t help to slow that down. After seeing Newsies on Broadway and getting a backstage tour, you were the only kid in our neighborhood to trick-or-treat as a Newsie, in your little newsboy cap and bloomers, your messenger bag/candy bag slung over your shoulder as you earnestly shouted, “Buy a paper, mister! Trick or treat!”

I think you’ve got a real gift for taking care of people, for nurturing, for acts of service. You’re happiest when you’re helping out in a soup kitchen line, or helping me organize some items for a large group, or even assisting your teacher with a project. You love feeling useful, I think, and while I want to encourage that servant’s heart, I also don’t want you to get all your sense of self-worth in that way. You are precious, sweet girl, all by yourself, and I would love you to pieces even if all you did was sit and stare out the window all day.

What will happen over this next year? I honestly don’t know. Summer is our time to try out new things in a low-commitment setting, and you’ve asked to try a soccer camp this summer, wanting to give a sport a go for the first time ever. Will you fall in love with team sports? Want to continue with ballet or horseback riding? Decide to become more serious about your painting, and want to go deeper into that? Only time will tell.

I’ve had such a fantastic weekend celebrating your pre-birthday, baby, and am so glad you were born all those years ago! God’s given me such a wonderful gift in making me your mother.

I love you so much!



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