She looks six. She acts six. She talks six. There's no denying the fact that her "baby years" have come and gone.
Hallie enjoys kindergarten, where, according to her teacher, she follows directions, plays well with others, participates in every subject and activity, and willingly takes on leadership roles. Outside of school, Hallie loves to read, dance, swim, and perhaps above all else, create. Each week she spends hours in her own little world, dreaming up and bringing to life beautiful music and imaginative craft projects.
I may sound biased, but I think I've earned the right after surviving the last six years... Hallie has grown from a sweet and spicy toddler into a charismatic, intelligent, confident, articulate, thoughtful, beautiful, and yes, spicy, little girl.
In preparation for writing this post I looked back on what I wrote about Hallie on her last two birthdays. I noticed that Hallie's accomplishments during those years centered around mastering physical, concrete, and/or measurable skills, like how to tie her shoes, ride a bike, swim, and read. This year, however, Hallie has focused her time and energy on more abstract - different, but still important - skill sets.
Hallie is learning to be a good friend. How to support. How to adapt and negotiate. How to tolerate and accept.
Hallie is learning to use (more advanced) good manners. How to address and respond to others. How to lend a hand when one is needed. How to wait her turn to speak and then convey her message in a way that encourages others to listen.
Hallie is learning to balance becoming a big kid with her preferred status of youngest and littlest. On one hand, Hallie longs to grow up, to be given more responsibility and granted more freedom. On the other hand, she feels most comfortable in her role as baby of the family.
Understanding and implementing these new skills has been challenging for Hallie. She deals with confusion, frustration, and even anger on a daily basis. And because Hallie wears her emotions - every single one of them - on her sleeve, as comfortably as most people wear their favorite t-shirt, we see ALL the emotions 'round these here parts.
Tom and I used to try to explain away her confusion, slow her tears of frustration, and quiet her angry screaming. Nothing we did ever worked, however, so over time we learned and came to accept that we have no other choice than to let her feel it. Them. Every last one of her emotions, from jubilation to despair to outrage, without exception. She needs to express - and release - what she feels inside.
As tough as it is, we let her do and say what she needs to say and do - as long as she's not hurting anyone else - and we stay close. Right by her side, for as as long as it takes, so that when she's ready we wrap her in hugs and smother her with kisses and wipe her tears and talk about what it means to fall down, feel lost, feel weak…and then get back up and try again.
Three years ago I began the tradition (2012, 2013, 2014) of sharing a song - one that reminded me of her and what I hope for her as she grows older - with Hallie on her birthday. Below is the song I chose for Hallie this year, the year she turned six.
Some may need to click over to YouTube to
watch the video - sorry for the inconvenience.
There's always gonna be some canyon in the way.
There's always gonna be a river I cannot cross.
Somewhere along this path that's chosen me
I know I'm gonna fall down, feel lost, feel weak.
But wherever it leads…
Some will write you off before you ever start.
Some will say the journey's just too hard.
Somewhere between right here and the other side
There will be fear and doubt in the deep dark night.
But we will survive.
No one said this would ever be easy, my love!
But I will be by your side when the impossible rises up.
We will travel this life well-worn,
No matter the cost, no matter how long.
We will leave our footprints behind
And carry on.
We may fall behind,
Lose miles along this road.
We will be alright,
I will never let you go.
My sweet girl… The road ahead of you will twist and turn through canyons and across rivers. You will travel through darkness. You will fall down, lose your way, and feel your strength wane. Confusion and frustration and anger are only natural, so go ahead and feel them. Feel every last one of your emotions, without exception, knowing that I will always be right by your side, ready to wrap you in hugs and smother you with kisses and wipe your tears and remind you that, yes, my love, you can get back up and try again.
No one ever said this journey would be easy. And that's why it's worth taking. Together.
Happy sixth birthday, Hallie Claire.