The night before Maggie’s birthday, we were more patient than usual with her bedtime shenanigans.
No matter when we send her to bed, she always finds a reason to come back downstairs. Oops, she forgot her water. Ooops, she forgot her book. Oooops, she forgot to take her asthma medicine. Her last trek downstairs is always with open arms, simply asking for another goodnight hug and promising she will stay in bed if she gets it.
We know she’s playing us, but I often let her hop on my lap and wrap her little wrists around my neck. She nestles her head on my shoulder for as long as I will let her, often triumphantly grinning at her dad across the couch. We know it. When I try to scurry her back upstairs, she instead climbs all over her dad as if he’s a giant sequoia she simply must conquer. They have this little game where she tries to kiss him, but he pretends to hate it and she giggles while squirming all over him from every angle. Eventually she successfully plants a smooch on his cheek, which he promptly wipes off and declares, “YUCK!” Then it’s back to me for another quick snuggle before we shoo her up the steps for good.
She does eventually go to sleep, but clearly a lot of activity goes on in her room between bedtime and morning. Toy animals are rearranged, post-it reminders get plastered everywhere, and the next day’s wardrobe is carefully orchestrated. We should probably monitor this better, but we are over 40 and simply don’t have the energy.
When she finally fell asleep on her last night as a 6-year-old, I found her safely guarded by stuffed animals:
I had to sigh. She has had that stuffed dog since she was a toddler – it was a reward for giving up her beloved pacifiers. We took her to Build-a-Bear when it was time to say goodbye to the binkies, and she safely stashed all her favorite pacifiers inside a new animal friend.
I loved the idea of creating a Binky Bear and was a little perplexed when she picked a Binky Dog instead.
Am I proud that I fretted about alliteration at this pivotal moment of my daughter’s childhood? No. But you have to admit that a Binky Bear has a much better ring to it than a Binky Dog. To my credit, she did get the dog. (Had my husband not been there to intervene with common sense, things might have gone differently.)
To this day, Maggie adores that dog. She named her Sophie, and if you squeeze around Sophie’s fuzzy little body you can feel all the binkies that are still blanketed by the stuffing inside.
Letting her get the dog was the right choice.
I swear, that dog was staring down at me from the top bunk, assuring me that I should trust Maggie’s instincts more often. I realized that, even as a toddler, Maggie had her own ideas and passions. Her own interests and opinions. Strong ones.
Unfortunately, I have some strong opinions myself. And they don’t always mesh with Maggie’s.
For example, when we headed on a weekend getaway last month, I caught myself unpacking the clothes she had selected and encouraging her to refill her suitcase with outfits I deemed slightly more adorable. Shameful, I know.
In my defense, I am never home when she gets ready for school. Clark is the morning guy, and he lets her walk out the door in whatever concoction she creates from her closet. As a result, here are some outfits our darling daughter has proudly paraded in public:
On the rare occasion when I am in charge, however, she looks more like this:
But the truth is, Maggie detests jeans. Actually, she hated that shirt too. She wore it a handful of times, and I think bribery may have been involved.
During last month’s Getaway-of-Swapped-Clothes, I told my friends what I had done with Maggie’s suitcase contents. Their response has stuck with me: Maggie’s personality will outshine any clothes she ever wears. And you know what? They’re right. Since that weekend, I’ve felt a shift. I want to empower Maggie more and control her less. (Not that control was ever a real option with that child…)
Yesterday, our beautiful daughter turned 7. For her birthday, we gave her a bike. It’s a nice gift:
But the bigger gift is one I have vowed to give her from this day forward: the gift of honoring her opinions, her style, her passions, and her interests.
I’m proud to say that tonight, when we headed to her birthday dinner at Benihana, I didn’t bat an eye when she came downstairs in a luau dress, striped knee-high socks, blue tights (which, incidentally, had a hole in the back) and purple sparkly boots.
To be honest, I think she looked pretty darn good.
Happy 7th Birthday, Maggie. Hold tight to your unabashed confidence, because it will serve you well.