To Olive age Ten

When our Elf Larl arrived Thanksgiving weekend and I asked you what Larl would report to Santa about you, you threw your arms up in the air and jumped off the bench with a giant grin on your face: "That I'm amazing!"

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You are, my dear, and what I want more than anything is for you to maintain your confidence and belief in your abilities as time ticks ahead. I want you to stay strong in your body and voice and never shrink into other people's expectations of what it means to be a girl.

This is the year you ditched dresses and dolls in favor of three-quarter leggings and soccer balls. You wear mismatched socks, pull your unbrushed hair into a ponytail and would gladly go to school in the clothes you slept in from the day before.

When you told me: "I'm not really into American Girl Dolls anymore," it made me wonder if this was in response to a boy's playground taunts. It made me sad to think you had to shut off one side to embrace another.

"I'm more into sports," you said. 

But you can like it all, dressing a doll and sliding in the mud, catching a football and playing house. You don't need to reject those activities more associated with "girl" to embrace all those parts of you that fall into the false definition of "boy". You hold power in the bend of your knees, the truth of your words, the capabilities of your hands regardless of your gender.

And maybe this is me talking from my own childhood and you just honestly no longer want to wear a dress. Not even for the Holiday concert. Or for church with grandparents. (Though your Grandma did get you to finally brush your hair.)

You are a natural athlete. The girl the boys pick to be on their team. The one who tied a boy for first in the mile race, who can do more pull-ups than the boys in your class. You are not tall but you are scrappy, your legs covered in bruises and scrapes. And you move constantly, getting up from the dinner table to chase the dogs, kicking a soccer ball around the house in your new Alex Morgan jersey, the one we gave you for your birthday that you've worn almost every day since. It's why I take so many pictures of you asleep, its the only time you are still.

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Maybe your decisions have nothing to do with what you think is expected and all come straight from you.

Olive, you are still so open, innocent, and kind and sometimes I find myself working my mind into a panic when I think of you going to middle school in a couple years, becoming a teenager, and falling into all the insecure daily dramas of adolescence. I tell you often I want you to stay this age forever, fourth grade, full of creative ideas, ambition, and trust that anything is possible.

And yet I can't contain your growth, can't plow the road ahead of you, can't protect you from what will fall in your path. You show us your resilience with the way you respond to your brother's attacks. You talk about your feelings with us at home, with your teacher and peers at school, you work through the hard moments and your empathy for others continues to grow. 

Sure, at times you sulk in the corner when you don't get your way, you still hate to be criticized, stomping up the stairs to your room when corrected, and the competitor in you struggles to lose graciously. You are not always honest and forthright which is another trait that makes me worry about the teen years ahead--but again this could be me projecting my own adolescence onto you, as we are wired much alike, with our tendencies to be overly sensitive, a bit on the sneaky side, and willing to try almost anything once.

Oh Olive, your path is not mine. You will have adventures I can't even imagine and it will be me who grows as I learn to let you go. To trust in you. To see you not as another me but as a force of nature all your own.

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I love you dear Olive, happy belated birthday, may you continue to become more and more you.

Love,

Your Imperfect Still-Learning Mom Who Still Feels Like a Kid Inside

To Olive age Ten