Shining, then sharing

Dear Avery,

Tomorrow is your eighth birthday.  You were very excited this morning to be able to say "tomorrow is" instead of five days, four days, etc., until my birthday.

And as usual, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about your past year to best encapsulate in one letter to you all that has happened, all that defines you.

Forever Building Fantastical and Magical Worlds
So some of what I write is easy because there are elements of your personality that I have been writing about for eight years that will always hold true: your joie de vivre and your intense desire to play.  If I close my eyes it is very easy to picture you as a cartoonish Tasmanian Devil creating a maelstrom of Polly Pockets, Calico Critters and American Girl dolls in her path.  This explosion of colorful plastic brings you great happiness whether it is shared with a friend or when you are quietly creating a magical world on your own.

If it's not with toys, then you create these worlds through your drawing and coloring.  I find it interesting that while you do not outright reject coloring books, you have always preferred (and continue to prefer) creating and coloring in your own drawings.  In the past year, you have taken great pride in looking at a picture and recreating it in great detail.  It takes focus and it is impressive.  And even more impressive is when it is not perfect, that you do not get frustrated, but you work harder to learn how to do it better.

And regardless of whether it's with toys or with drawing it is ALWAYS accompanied by a giant and clutter-filled mess!  I try to take a deep breath and let you express your creativity, but sometimes what you see as fun and I see as a complete lack of order can create extreme moments of strife.  I still love you, even if you are messy, I promise. :)

Focusing....Outside of the Public Eye
Last year I wrote about your determination to get things right, to keep trying and practicing until you were just about perfect.  I still see this determination in you, but it has evolved.  Last year you would try and try and try right alongside your friends (who may have already perfected a task).  This year I have found that you want some skills all to yourself, that you are not as willing to share and learn alongside your friends.  It's not that you mind them seeing you imperfect, it's more like you want to love new & different things without having to share them, to have something that's yours and yours alone.  I really understand that desire.  I relate it to being the second child, to learning something new only to hear from your older sibling (I'm talking to you Alex and Dawn!) "well everybody already knows that!"

Believe in True Friendship
By having something for yourself you never feel left out or left behind.  I think it is a great way for you to build confidence, so I will help you protect these moments.  But I do hope you remember that when your friends hear about what you are doing and want to join you, it is because they are your friends and they love you and spending time with you, not because they are trying to rise above you.

So take your time to shine, but then also remember to share with friends.  Recognize the good in people; they don't always have ulterior motives.  You will spend a lifetime navigating friendships; I still do!  Please don't be cynical.  Remember that not every friend has to be a "best friend"; you can enjoy playing with someone just once in a while and that is enough. And please try to let the hurt roll off of you - your family and your true friends will always be there to give you a hug.

Happy birthday to my sweet, kind, feeling, exuberant, loud, crazy, expressive, smiley, toothless (finally!) eight year old girl!
I love you with the tightest hug and squeeze that I could possibly muster.


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