Friday, April 10, 2020

High Five for Eleven

Today my baby girl turns 11 years old.

She is kind and gentle, clever and creative, strong and brave. She works hard and plays hard. She loves to move her body with wild abandon, but also to sit quietly with her thoughts. She fears the unknown, but is not afraid to stand her ground. She worries about failure, expectations, and perceptions, but with encouragement and support is willing to try. She reacts ferociously when something upsets her or rocks her boat, and exuberantly when something pleases or pleasantly surprises her. Her emotions cannot be tamed, and I continue to try - some days more successfully than others - to let her (in a manner that doesn't hurt her or anyone else) feel every last one of them.

10 was a tough year for Hallie. She broke her wrist and injured her knee, both of which required medical intervention for extended periods of time and kept her from dancing as much - and as freely - as she would have liked. She struggled through quite a few months of noticeable, uncomfortable, and even painful Tourette's tics. She transitioned from elementary to intermediate school, and while she did incredibly well academically and fell in love with her teachers, as a "young" (socially, emotionally, and chronologically) fifth grader, she found herself confused by and uncomfortable with some of the kids, behaviors, interactions, and relationships she encountered. She fell slightly short of a few of her dance goals, which brought about feelings of doubt and negativity for the first time. And she continues to fear growing both up and older, which, when combined with an onslaught of tween hormones, leaves her scared and unhappy more often than ever before.

I had - no, I have - high hopes for 11. Her birthday celebration and the beginning of her year may not look like what we had originally pictured in our heads, but that doesn't mean the year as a whole can't still look and feel beautiful. I wish for her a year free from illness, injury, and health complications. I hope that when school eventually reopens, she finds her footing both academically and socially. And I pray she finds confidence as a student, growth as a dancer, compassion as a friend, peace with her changing mind and body, and strength as she navigates the complicatedly dynamic world around her.


Eight years ago I began the tradition (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019) of sharing a song - one that reminds me of her and encompasses what I hope for her as she grows older - with Hallie on her birthday. I usually know Hallie's songs by the end of the first time I hear them, primarily because they bring tears to my eyes. I heard Wildflowers by the Wailin Jennys months ago, when a local flower farmer played it in the background of one of her Instagram Stories. I immediately messaged her to ask the name of the song, and when she responded I bookmarked Wildflowers to use on this day. When I know, I know.

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, find you a lover
Go away somewhere all bright and new
I have seen no other
Who compares to you

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, go find a lover
Run away, let your heart be your guide
You deserve the deepest of cover
You belong in that home by and by

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worry
You belong somewhere you feel free

My sweet girl, in all my days I have seen no other who compares to you. You belong somewhere you feel free...somewhere you can express yourself fully...somewhere you can give and receive love, explore all things bright and new, find shelter and refuge from the storm. You belong somewhere you feel free, and while I hope you always feel free while close to me, I suspect you will also always find freedom among the wildflowers.

Happy 11th birthday, baby girl. Mama loves every single thing about you.

A special thanks to Shannon Morton of Shannon Morton Photography for always doing such a beautiful job of capturing my girl.

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