Maya (6 years old)

Dear Maya,

Today you turn six years old.

You led me to bed last night. Never one to fight a decent bedtime and always eager to savor your head-to-pillow routine which almost goes down exactly like every mother would dream of putting her kid to sleep – hair strokes, starry-eyed gazes, cheeks between hands, kissy kisses, huggy hugs and dozens of I LOVE YOUs, you told me how excited you were being six after one more sleep. I turned on the night light, slipped out of your room and back to my evening routine. You’d fall asleep quickly because you don’t care about 5th grade math like your 3rd grade brother does. And you’re well aware that your school snack was all planned out.

There you are, my carefree and joyous little girl, who is unweathered by everything that life has to endure. Right now all you care about is to wake up with a victorious energy that says “I’m big now. I’m six. I did it!”

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One thing I have to mention is your aversion to eating meat. I can’t recall how this happened, but you’ve started to pick out every single chunk of meat from your meal. Not only do you refuse to continue eating if you see meat in your bowl, but you will slip out of you chair, fall dramatically onto the floor like you have been shot, and blame it on that tiny piece of chicken. You love beans, lentil, barley, potato, cheese, eggs… If I knew I would be raising a vegetarian, I would easily turn myself into one. Except your brother is a carnivore. He’d eat a whole cow without even bothering to cook it. A piece of lentil? Um, NO. So now I think I’ve found the balance – instead of dangling your favorite toy over the toilet, I will ask you to trade your unwanted meat with your brother for his unwanted grains. It’s fine for me as long as food goes into whoever’s stomach, not a compost bin.

One evening this June, you asked to be excused from the dinner table to get something from you back pack. When you returned, you handed Ethan a sour key wrapped in a paper napkin. Ethan’s eyes lit up and I asked you where you got the candy. You said, “It’s Audrey’s birthday and she passed out candies at lunch.” I asked you if each one of you got two. You said, “No, only one. But I asked Audrey for another one for my brother.” It was one of the moments that I was most proud to call you mine, Maya. You love your brother, you often let him have his way because you know that makes him happy and you genuinely want everyone happy. Always sensitive enough to know when I’m not in a good mood, you will quiet down and observe to find the right moment to peep from behind me with a smile hoping to make me feel better, hoping to crack me up.

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Maya, you’ve become a first grader this year. One fantastic thing about school is how it has made you much more interested in physical activity, and you always want to show us how you are able to climb across the monkey bars at the school playground. The other day as I tried to follow right behind, you jumped down, held out your hand and said, “STOP. YOU’RE TOO OLD FOR THIS.” Well, little girl. You can’t just call me old IN FRONT OF OTHER PARENTS and expect me to go down like that. I would have shown you how to do a back flip off those damn bars if I’d know I wouldn’t end up in a full-body cast.

But yes, you have great agility! Your brother might be able to tackle 5th grade math, he can never conquer those bars as ass-kicking as you do! When he’s busy finishing reading his tenth book in the span of two days, you will be ready to join the Olympics gymnastics team as you’ve already trained yourself to fling your body sideways in a cartwheel motion four feet in the air off of your bed, and landing firm with your feet on the ground.

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We drove down to Southern California in summer. There were a lot of firsts for you. A long road trip, Disneyland, roller coaster… I’ve mentioned how I’ve never been a fan of Disneyland, and I know it will remain the same. But I’m still smiling looking back to those three tiring days we spent in Disneyland. You’re fascinated. You had no fear at all going on your first roller coaster ride. Then you got addicted. Every morning on our way to Disneyland, you were so amped to go on another crazy ride, I LOVE ROLLER COASTER!!! You said it with the highest pitch of your voice that it might crack the car windows. You acted like you’re fed a constant stream of helium the night before, and every word you said was happiness shooting out of your body.

Travelling with kids is not my favorite pastime. But you are always the easier one, Maya. And when you get to the places you want to go, oh Disneyland, which you named the best place in the universe, a whole new world will open up, a world of foreign languages and warm beaches. I will always remember your unbridled delight when you first saw the life-size walking Minnie Mouse, and the first thing you said to her was, “Hi, I’m wearing a Minnie Mouse underwear today!”. I will always think of the velocity of your pulse when you’re about to go on California Screamin, so ready and fearless. I have a special quadrant I’ve saved for that vibe, so pure and guileless, the most genuine happiness from you, a little spunky offspring of mine.

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We share a unique bond as mother and daughter, something different from the relationship with your father or your brother. You have a way of anchoring me. When I’m stuck in the claustrophobia of worry, when I’m unnecessarily grumpy about how I can never get anything done, when I’m wrestling with life decision, you reach that little hand up and pull me from that wreckage of myself to secure my heart in the beauty of the present moment with you, exactly where I want to be.

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Maya, you are sensitive and loving; hilarious without even trying. Your wit blows me away every day. Such a fireball of color and grit and notes played in the key of lightning, growing very rapidly and fearlessly into your inherited arms and legs, and reminding me to embrace the whimsical kid inside my own aging limbs.

Officially a first grader, you are growing up way too fast. As your mother, I am terrified, proud and so unbelievably sad all at the same time. Part of me wants to shield you from the world, wrap you up in my arms and never let you grow up. But I know that this spunky, incredible, little girl of mine is smart and funny and brave. You have all of the self confidence that I never had growing up. So, at the end of the day, I know that you are going to be just fine.

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Love,
Mama

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