My dearest Audrey Grace,
I’m absolutely stunned that today you’re turning 8 years old. Eight! Every time I say it I am simultaneously filled with a sense of wonder and dread. Where have the years gone? Why must they go so fast? Just this morning you crawled into bed with me in your fuzzy robe dotted with colorful hearts and I jokingly tried to fold up your legs and arms in an attempt to make you the size that you were on the day that you were born. I’m sure you already suspect this, but it was impossible. Even curled up into a tight little ball, your 4’3″ frame is considerably larger than the 19 inches that you were on the day that I first held you in my arms.
As you grow, the milestones aren’t as noticeable as they were when you were younger. You can already walk and talk, so sometimes the moments are not as “momentous” until I realize that suddenly, you’re doing something crazy awesome – like reading entire chapter books on your own – when a year ago you were still reading small storybooks with my help. That’s when I truly realize that you are changing and growing by leaps and bounds and not as slowly as I might like to think.
You may be turning 8, but you haven’t yet lost your sense of joy and wonder. You are so incredibly creative, and you have an imagination that is healthier that any child I have ever met. You also have an insatiable thirst to learn and to have your questions answered. This year you have even researched your own answers on subjects ranging from lunar events to the history of the monarchy in England. You are more organized at 8 than I can ever hope to be – creating your own information charts and filling in the blanks as you go – an idea which was totally your own. In these moments I am proud, amazed, and even a touch amused. There is no doubt in my mind that you are a girl who knows exactly what she wants.
This year you finally had your very first haircut. It took us 7.5 years but we finally did it. I thought it would be tough for me, but it was also a very difficult change for you. So difficult, in fact, that you insisted that I not tell people that you had a hair cut, but instead simply had your hair trimmed. You still like to say that you’ve never had a hair cut, and I know better than to argue. While you are an incredibly loving child, you can also be very stubborn, and I’ve learned to choose my battles wisely.
We were so blessed to have the opportunity to travel to London and Paris in October. You have traveled to both places before – a fact that you wouldn’t let your brother forget for the duration of our vacation – even if you were only 17 months old at the time. Your healthy curiosity about the British Monarchy and love of afternoon tea meant that you expected to enjoy London more than Paris. And you did, indeed, love London. But once we arrived in Paris it was like something in your heart was set on fire and, much like it happened for me, I could tell that Paris wrapped its arms around you and drew you in. You left France begging me to teach you French, and you ask no less than once a week when we will be able to return to the City of Light. In my heart, I secretly hope that Paris will become “ours” – a place that we love to visit and explore together for many years to come – because I love sharing the city that has such an inexplicable hold on my heart with you.
I am so very proud of you, Audrey Grace. I’m proud of the love that you have for your friends and family, your boundless determination to do your best, and I’m even proud of the spunky little attitude that sometimes gets you into hot water. All of these things will serve you well in life, and while I hate to admit it, my biggest job is that of preparing you for adulthood. So far, I think we’re on the right track, sweetheart.
Last night I crawled into bed with you to read you a book and enjoy my last few quiet moments with my sweet little 7 year old. Bedtime in our house is usually rather predictable – you beg me to stay in bed with you just ‘a little longer’ or plead with me to ‘stay just one more minute’ – anything to delay actually going to sleep – before I turn off your light. But tonight, as I closed the book and turned to you to rub your hair and talk to you for a minute, you asked if I would “hurry and turn off the light”. Seeing the puzzled look on my face, you explained “I want to go to bed quickly so I can wake up as an 8 year old!”. Of course, I obliged. How could I ever refuse such an adorable request?
You’re moving full speed ahead with each day that passes and I’m so proud of you for that. I love you so much Audrey Grace – more than I can ever fully tell you. There isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t make me laugh. You fill my heart with joy. Even if the days are crazy and hectic (which they are) I hope you know that I never forget to slow down and thank God for giving me the world’s most amazing gift – you. My beautiful daughter.
Audrey Grace, as you turn 8, my wish for you is that you continue to push forward boldly, never needing to look back because you know I’m there behind you, keeping you safe and cheering you on. And if you ever feel like you can’t do it on your own, all you need to do is turn around, and I’ll be right there to give you a hug and hold your hand for a while until you’re ready to try it again on your own.
Happy Birthday Audrey Grace – my sweet baby girl, my noodle.
I love you to the moon and back. Never forget that.