As her tenth birthday approached, I felt on edge. Normally the prospect of a celebration has me excited—party planning, baking buying a cake, and wrapping gifts are generally joyful. But instead of joy, I felt dread.
It wasn’t until after her party, when it was quiet and I was alone pouring over images of my daughter as a baby, a toddler, a school girl, right up until photos taken that morning of the amazing ten year old person she has become, that it all came out in a rush of emotions I didn’t expect.
I was choosing photos for a video to document our daughter’s first decade of life. You can watch it below if you feel inclined. I know, it’s kind of like me saying,”Hey, wanna watch slides of our vacation to the Grand Canyon?” And then forcing you to sit through two hours of photos of my family posing in front of various rock formations. Except, this video is only two minutes long and it’s worth watching if only for the song. God I love this song.
Milestone birthdays—there’s obviously a lot of nostalgia that go along with watching your child grow up…and away. As babies, they clung to us. They needed us. We complained and longed for the time that they would be more independent so we could get our lives back, not knowing that when that day comes, we’ll wish more than anything that we could just go back.
When my son turned thirteen a few months ago, I felt all the sentimental feelings. He’s not my baby anymore. He’s nearly six feet tall and his voice has dropped. He’s independent. He’s so grown up. But despite all of that, I didn’t feel a shred of dread.
So where was this sickly sad feeling coming from on Avery’s birthday?
I think the root of it is fear—fear of the unknown. Fear of what comes next…
Two digits old means things are going to change a lot in the next few years. Avery is getting braces in the fall. Not the full shebang, but a brief flirtation with orthodontics to straighten four front teeth that are twisted so much they’re affecting Avery’s bite and even her speech to some degree. She’s having otoplasty surgery to pin back her ears next year. Cosmetic yes, but after years of hesitation, we’ve decided it’s the best thing. More to come on that later.
Hormonal changes are just around the corner and that prospect frightens me for a variety of reasons, some obvious, some more complex like, how hormones might affect her Epilepsy, which at this moment, is fully controlled with medication.
There are decisions to be made about Avery’s education. Choosing these important next steps makes me anxious. What if we make the wrong choice?
Now a tween, her peers are also tweens. No longer “little kids” who have been (mostly) oblivious to her cognitive and speech delays, they embraced her and accepted her without question, and now they have questions. A lot of questions. In the past, Avery didn’t notice stares or slights. She notices now. And her pain is my pain too.
Now that she’s older, it’s harder to protect her from the world. There are dangers and hurt lurking and my mama shield may no longer be enough.
That scares the hell out of me.
When I showed Avery her birthday video, she watched in silence. At the end, she turned to me with tear filled eyes. I was shocked. I asked why she was crying and she sobbed, “Those pictures make me sad.”
She was feeling it too. Not the fear, but the nostalgia. Heartbreaking, but also quite wonderful. For a child who has always lived solely in the moment, she was feeling the past and seeing, possibly for the first time, how far she’s come.
I suspect she doesn’t look ahead very far. The future and the concept of time in general is still very abstract. I hope she continues to live in the moment, with only fleeting and encouraging glances back. It’s such a peaceful and mindful way to live. This is a lesson she’s teaching. One I’m trying to learn.
Close your eyes and make a wish Avery Bravery. Our love for you is bigger than the whole wide world. xo