I want to capture you, Chloe, less than a week into your ninth year, because I know soon the next phase will blow in, pushing this one to the far corners of my mom brain. Here’s who you are right now.
What people notice first is that you are tall – the tallest kid in your grade – regularly mistaken as a fourth or fifth grader. You are the picture of how every basketball player or supermodel describes themselves a kid: gangly, some parts of you playing catch-up with others, experimenting with odd style decisions. You seem to like your height, and I hope you always will, never slouching or being embarrassed of towering above others like I was.
You have a spray of freckles over your nose that just totally slays me. Please never ever cover them with make-up.
Your father and I sometimes joke that you are 8 going on 18 when you’re in the midst of a mood swing, but it’s not really true. You are still so wonderfully innocent, with just the teeniest cracks of tween peeking through. You dance to Justin Beiber songs, but are totally weirded out by his screaming fans, and would never want people to think you like him. You’re much more interested in female voices and the women behind them, like Pink, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. Instead of One Direction magazine spreads, you’ve got torn-out pictures of horses taped up in your bedroom. Boys are gross, kissing even grosser.
The one boy who isn’t gross is Daddy. You still like him to pick you up for a hug, and you wrap your legs around him and bury your face in his shoulder. It’s so tender I almost have to look away.
You’re more like him every day. You’ve inherited his thirst for squeezing every last drop out of every experience. You always want to do one more run down the ski hill, no matter how cold it is. When you go to a baseball game, you gotta stay until the end. When you're old enough, I have a feeling you'll be closing out bars. I’m glad your dad has a buddy to do that stuff with now so I can just go home and get in bed with my book. You’ve also picked up his low-drama, sure-footed way of moving through life. I watched in amazement as you started in a new school in a new city in a new country last fall without batting an eyelash. You take so many new experiences in stride that I figure we must be doing something right.
I’m sorry to say from me you’ve gotten a tendency to occasionally catastrophize. The other day, you threw your hairbrush on the floor, and cried that your hair was ruining your life. I wanted to smirk and tell you were being ridiculous…but then I remembered the low-grade funk I’ve been in all week because I need a cut and color. Sorry about that one, Sweetie.
The irony is that your hair is usually an in-your-face mess, and your outfit a hot mess. To you, a hockey jersey is dressing up. Nothing really matches. You wear leggings and sneakers almost every day, like you want to be ready in case a track meet breaks out. Despite the hair drama, you don’t seem particularly obsessed with looking girly. I love that, and yet sometimes I wish you’d just let me style you into one of the untouched dresses in your closet. But I guess true style is not being afraid to like what you like, even if what you like is wearing two different colored socks.
Plus: The Done With Kids Blues
Your free time is spent pogo-ing, riding your bike, doing handstands off every available surface, and creating new dance moves. You are pretty much Michelle Obama’s dream. You’ve made friends who like this stuff too, plus art projects and American Girl dolls. You have the most wholesome playdates ever.
You’re a great sleeper, eater and traveler. You’re so easy in so many ways that it always shocks me how much I need to nag you to get just stuff done already. I can't tell you how many times it's been time to leave for school, and you're puttering around with no shoes or socks on, remnants of breakfast dirtying your face, homework splayed across the coffee table instead of in your backpack. I keep drilling it into you: do the stuff you need to do, so you can do the stuff you want to do. We’ve tried chore charts and docking your allowance and letting natural consequences happen. They work for a day or two, and then I’m back to asking you three times before you comply. I’m not sure if you’re stubborn or really just can’t remember well. I know kids your age can be spacey, but I don’t know if it’s normal to be this spacey. After all, I’ve never had an 8-year-old before.
We’re going to keep an eye on it. In the mean time, your father and I are putting our heads together on Operation Own Your Sh*t, so get ready.
Honey, I love the person you’re becoming. When I saw photos of Martin Richard, also age 8, with the same skinny limbs and crooked teeth as you, I just could not imagine the black hole of a person that could see that potential and set the backpack down anyway. Eight is the age of promise, with reading, maturity and growing independence just opening up new worlds.
I can’t wait to see you take them on.