Okay, six-year-old, this is it. You're officially not a baby anymore at all. Except for when you still are. Except for the words that you still mix up on a consistent basis, which never cease to crack me up. "Sanimitizer" for sanitizer. "Coffee" for copy. (As in, "Mommy, don't coffee my paper!") "Andylance" for ambulance. (I like to think that you named that one after me.)
You're all grown up. Except for when you try your hardest not to suck your thumb but can't quite succeed. The dentist told you that if you stopped sucking your thumb right now, you probably won't need braces. So you're trying. Really hard. But it's still difficult for you. I keep telling you stories about how I sucked my thumb until I was seven and then had to wear braces for almost five years. I tell you in great detail about braces, trying to scare the hell out of you--but in a good way. (I don't tell you this part, because I don't want to scare the hell out of you, but I'll never forget the thing they called "the whacker," which the orthodontist used to put metal bands all the way around my teeth. It felt about as good as it sounds. You're fortunate in that now they just glue the braces to the front of your teeth. Orthodontia has, apparently, come a long way in the last 30 years.)
You're almost grown up. I taught you how to tie your shoes recently (which, I have to add, was a challenge, since I'm left-handed and you're not), and you've been practicing diligently ever since.
You're finally--finally--ready to work on reading. You've been interested for awhile now, but you are your mother's daughter, in that if you can't do it perfectly, you're not interested in doing it at all. It's taken a long time to get you to the point where you're willing to try, and fail, with the reading thing. But as frustrating as it's been when you dissolve into a puddle of tears and rage on the floor because you just can't get that word, it's been just as amazing to watch you sound out a word and watch you realize that you're doing it--that you're actually reading. (And then you bring home books from the school library that are in French, and we're back to square one, as I have to explain to you that I can't read French.)
You're almost grown up. You woke up last Sunday morning with a loose tooth, and you could barely contain your excitement. Lots of your friends at school have mouths full of missing teeth, and I think you were beginning to feel left out. It took three days for the tooth to fall out, and you were so funny during that time. Pretty much every hour, on the hour, you would announce to me, "Mommy, I know I've already said this, but I can't believe I have a loose tooth!" (Did I mention that you were very excited?) You were even more excited the next morning after the tooth fairy had visited, as all she had in her purse was a $5 bill. I explained to you that the tooth fairy leaves extra money for the first tooth and that she'd probably only leave $1-$2 the next time around. (I also silently marvelled at the fact that someone came up with a reason to get children excited about the fact that their teeth are falling out. Sounds pretty horrifying to me.) The tooth fairy also left you a half-dollar that she'd been carrying around in her purse for awhile, but I've yet to convince you that it's real money. You insist that it's a doubloon. (I blame your father--and New Orleans--for that.)
Speaking of which, you are a New Orleans girl through and through, which fills me both with pride and trepidation. You were incredibly sad that I didn't take you with me to see the Indians on St. Joseph's night, and you insisted on seeing the pictures the minute we got home. (Not surprisingly, your favorite Indian was wearing pink.)
You are still a little walking advertisement for the Saints, which makes me and your father exceedingly proud. You walk around the house singing "Black and Gold in the Superbowl." You get mad at me if we don't take the route home from school that involves driving by the Superdome. You recently drew a picture of Drew Brees, complete with a #9 on his chest, and followed that up with asking me what number Jeremy Shockey wears. (I think you were almost as upset as I was when I had to tell you that he'd been released and was going to be playing for Carolina next year.)
You are sweet, and maddening, and hysterical, and dramatic. You give me kisses when I have a cut on my finger and then spend the next five minutes screaming like a banshee because there's a mosquito in the bathroom. You exhaust me and delight me.
You idolize your father, and tell him so all the time. And I know that it breaks his heart a little bit each day that he's at work most of the time and not here, watching you grow up.
You're learning to ride your bike right now, and I'm very proud of the stick-to-it-tiveness you've shown. When you fall, you get right back up again, which makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief that you're not letting the frustration get to you (see reading, above).
You are preparing for your first dance recital right now and you can't decide whether you want to show me your routine or keep it a secret until the recital. (For the record, it will be to "Singing in the Rain.")
You are beautiful. So much so that strangers often stop us on the street to tell us so. (And then look weirdly at me, with my brown hair and hazel eyes, and wonder if you're adopted.) You have more freckles than I can count now. I hope that you will always be secure in yourself and know how wonderful you are, even though I know that the day will come when you will doubt everything and everyone.
I hope that you will always love yourself but that you will also be filled with humility, and compassion, and love. I look forward to the day that you're an independent person and at the same time dread the day that you will no longer want to crawl into bed with me first thing in the morning for a hug.
In short, I love you. I will never be a perfect mother, but I will always love you completely.
I love you, pretty girl, all the way to the tips of my toes.