Friday, April 9, 2021

High Five for T-W-E-L-V-E

Tomorrow she turns 12. 

I can hardly believe it.


I wrote the following paragraph in last year's birthday post: 

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.

I wish I could write in this year's birthday post that all my wishes for Hallie came true, but the fact of the matter is that they didn't. She dealt with her worst dance injury thus far as well as a challenging Tourette's "season". She returned to school, but never to her school building. And she struggled with the confidence, growth, and peace I hoped she would find.

But that doesn't mean the year as a whole didn't still look and feel beautiful. I will give thanks until my dying day for the gift of time this pandemic so abruptly and unexpectedly dropped at my doorstep. I was able to watch and listen and learn as she fought her way back from that injury, as she tackled virtual school with enthusiasm and a positive attitude, and about the person she wants to be as she goes back out into a world that looks and feels different than when she left it a year ago. I saw battles, internal and external and many more than seemed necessary for growth, but I also saw victory. And as we cross the finish line of the marathon that was this year, I envision her running through the tape with her arms raised high and wearing a huge smile...triumphant.


In honor of her 12th birthday and on her birthday eve, I decided to today share five reasons I love - and also admire, respect, and like - my girl.  

She doesn't want to grow up. More than anything else in the world, she wishes she could stay a little girl forever and ever. Unlike those who gaze longingly or even run enthusiastically toward the teenage and young adult years, she recognizes that she isn't ready for the freedom or responsibility that accompany those stages in life. I will never take for granted having a 12-year-old who still wants to spend time with me and whose choices trend toward the age she hopes to stay, rather than the age that awaits her just around the corner.

She was born to create. To build from scratch, but also to dismantle and analyze and fix and repurpose and breath new life into all that was once glorious but has over time fallen from grace. She can see potential and beauty where others cannot, and she shares her vision of what could be...of what will be...of what ways that make minds open and hearts smile.

Her love language is music. She sings - beautifully - all of the time, but not just along with the radio or Alexa. She sings every word to every song she'll dance to in her upcoming recital. She sings along to television theme songs and commercials. She sings along with the birds when she's playing in the backyard. She sings to the kittens to calm them down after their baths. She sings the steps to her math homework because it helps her understand the process better and enjoy the subject more. (Here she is, singing and working on her summer math workbook three years ago.) She sings when she's happy, she sings when she's upset, and she sings to narrate the world around her. I used to wish I lived in a musical...a world in which people could (and would, given that doing so would be deemed socially acceptable) burst into harmonized song and choreographed dance at any given moment. I realized the other day that because of her, my wish came true.

She gets back up, again and again and again. The last two years in particular have shown me just how resilient she can be when circumstances call for inner strength and a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality. Many times the circumstances she has faced have gotten the best of me and in my frustration and even anger, I have offered her a way opportunity to walk away. And each time she has chosen to lift her chin, put on a brave face, and stay.

This past year has amplified her desire to do what's right because it's right, not because a rule has been forced upon her. Masks and social distancing and indoor activities and contact bubbles...she cares deeply about protecting those she loves and makes careful, calculated decisions to do so. Gender and race and religion and sexuality...she cares deeply about equality for and kindness toward those who are different than her and she is learning how to speak up when her voice is needed.


Nine years ago I began the tradition (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020) 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 had originally chosen another song for Hallie's birthday. But then about a month ago, Made for You by Jake Owen came on the radio, and as Hallie and I sat listening to the words, she exclaimed, "I love this song!" and then added, "I bet it's making you cry...yep, you're crying, just like I thought you would be!" And so Made for You became this year's song instead.


Water towers are made for hearts and names
Friday nights are made for football games
Fallin' leaves are made for fallin' in
Front porch steps are made for goodnight kissin'
And I was made for you, yeah I was made for you

Summer jobs are made for spendin' cash
Second dates are made for goin' fast
Early curfews are made for sneakin' past
Two AM was made for pissed off dads
And I was made for you, yeah I was made for you

Oh like a ship without a sea
Or a song without a melody
I don't know where I'd be or what I'd do
'Cause I was made for you

Smoky bars are made for "How 'bout a dance?"
Open roads are made for holdin' hands and
Laid back seats are made for young love
Two pink lines are made for growin' up
And I was made for you, yeah I was made for you

Like a ship without a sea
Or a song without a melody
I don't know where I'd be or what I'd do
'Cause I was made for you

Tiny shoes are made for tiny feet
My two arms are made for where you sleep
Sky was made for the moon and stars
You were made to steal my heart
And I was made for you, yeah I was made for you

My sweet girl, I know as confidently as I have ever known anything that you and I were made for each other. We were made to navigate this life together. To challenge one another and teach one another. To show each other what it means to accept and support and forgive. To make each other better daughters, mothers, women, humans.

Happy 12th birthday, baby girl. You were made to steal my heart.

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