Monday, June 07, 2010
As Calypso's fourth birthday neared she was giddy with excitement. She quivered in anticipation of the party, the cake, the presents, the day, of attaining the grand old age of four. I thought certainly she'd spend at least a month or so basking in just BEING four, in being able to announce it to people who asked how old she was. I was wrong. The day after her birthday she asked, "Mommy, how many more days until I turn five?" If you've ever been on a road trip with a carload of kids determined to count back all the way from A Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall, multiply that by 3.65 to get the number of times I heard the above question. Then raise it to a power of 10 to get a rough estimate of the anticipatory tension filling my preschooler's heart with regard to her fifth birthday.
That year of her life I not only answered the daily question but I actively sought to cultivate in Calypso and appreciation of the NOW. While looking forward in excitement can be not only fun but a source of hope when it's most needed it should also be balanced with an awareness today's joy. I also feared my wee girl might get herself so worked up over what she expected to happen in the distant future (because really, when you're four a whole year is a quarter of your lifetime) that when it finally arrived it would be a big letdown. I didn't want this to be a pattern in her life which built a foundation for constant disappointment. I wanted her to celebrate the milestones she was achieving now without rushing past them like recently opened gifts discarded amidst the paper and bows to see what was the next new plaything to hold her attention for only a moment.
Please do not in any way regard it as a criticism of my second born but it has seemed to be a hardwired aspect of Calypso's personality not only to wait in expectation for the next great thing but to flit from activity to activity and from mood to mood. She is a butterfly socially. She is mercurial emotionally. I accept this is who she is. I'm not looking to disassemble and re-wire her into some preconceived idea of who she ought to be. I find the beauty of the way she is expressed in eyes that shine with delight which can in no way be contained and a smile that's like the sun. I see how her enthusiasm is a catalyst which motivates people who would have otherwise remained inert. I've just sought to build the awareness of what's in her path before she leaves it in her wake and to encourage enough perseverance to accept obstacles with grace as she navigates them effectively rather than immediately changing course.
It so happens that her birthday coincides roughly with the end of the school year so there is a certain amount of reflection/anticipation built into the season. Last week she texted me at work after the annual ceremony wherein the juniors of the school are bestowed the privilege of leading the school as the new seniors. The excitement of her announcement "I'm a SENIOR!!!!" was unmistakable even on my phone's tiny screen. I simply replied, "Congratulations! Make it your best year yet. :)" Just as her message carried immeasurable happiness, my response carried with it the weight of the history of her struggles and successes over the years, especially this one.
The middle child has also had a chance to blossom a bit this year since her sister's shadow has been cast at college. Mind you, Calypso has always had her own ideas. This is the child from a family of hunters who declared herself a vegetarian for two years because she didn't feel good about killing animals. This is the fashionista from a mother who loves tie dye and a father who defined the grunge look before it was called anything other than not caring. It's sometimes been hard for her to deal with people who can't handle individuality and it's been hard for her to choose to be an individual. Peer pressure has been especially hard for her in the past. She now seems to have developed a gentle contentment with herself regardless of whether or not the crowd approves.
You may recall how she began the year at one school she prepared for heavily, anticipated greatly, and finally entered enthusiastically. You may also recall she returned to her former school, at her own request, halfway through this school year. I've seen real growth in her. Since returning she has faced things that would have left her in a puddle of tears a year earlier. Since I changed jobs and work much later now I have seen her pick up slack at home without being asked. Now when she expresses anticipation for the future it involves making actual plans, not just expecting things to happen magically. She also seems to have started noticing things in the present she missed too easily before. There are still a lot of questions, still lessons to be learned, still maturity to be developed (for all of us, not just her), but what a long way she has come.
This week my girl turns seventeen. When she was four I couldn't imagine her being this old, not that I was in a rush for her to get here, mind you. There have been experiences with her that I've savored all along the way. There have been worries I've held in my heart. Right now I celebrate her birthday and her transition to being a high school senior...and I look forward to seeing what comes next for her.