Monday, December 26, 2011

Dear Ainsleigh,

Dear Ainsleigh,

A few nights ago, Daddy and I looked through some of our past year's retrospective videos. We were watching 2007 and I felt this rush of emotion. Daddy said it perfectly when, about halfway through the video, he quietly muttered, "Watching this is making me kind of sad." It wasn't that long ago you were so small. I wondered if, in another couple years, I would look back at 2011 and want to tell myself to hug you more, appreciate you more, tell you I love you more. Because despite my very best efforts to keep you young and innocent, you are getting older, and I'm fighting a serious love/hate battle with that.

The problem with writing down how great you are is that it makes me cry. I've been sitting here trying to think why, because it isn't just overwhelming pride or happiness (which also have a tendency to make me cry -- something you are already far too familiar with). I think it's a mixture of a heaping dose love and a small, but powerful, dose of...what is the word I'm looking for...a small dose of I-don't-deserve-someone-as-wonderful-as-you.

We have had our ups and downs with trying to figure out how to help you with school. As of this letter, we still haven't told you that you were diagnosed with ADHD, but you know what - it doesn't matter. You've made remarkable strides and come up to grade level in reading. You're comfortable with where you are in your math group. You've done amazing work with your history and social studies. But you know what the best thing is? I get parents and teachers who, when they find out who my kid is (which, let's face it, is pretty easy to determine), say, "Oh she is just the sweetest! I love that Ainsleigh." And you know what - I would much prefer you to be cheerful and polite and the kid who all the parents want their kids to play with, than someone who can finish their algebra in 15 minutes.

You've gone from grimacing at the idea of going skiing to being the one to ask, "Can we go skiing yet?" and then giggling with anticipation in bed the night before. Daddy says you're now going as fast as Donovan (and since he loves to just bomb a hill, that's saying something). We let you use poles this year, and your turning has improved a lot. Now I'm nervous that I'll be the one whining on the hill while you fly down ahead of me. 

You've been playing the piano, and I have learned that I cannot help you practice. It only took a few times with me hovering and correcting for you to end up in your room and me to remember how much I detested my Grandma constantly telling me to hold my hands better (which I have silently apologized for a billion times by now). A couple weeks after our last blow-up, I heard you stop your practicing and turn on the metronome before resuming practice. My heart sang. In the months since then, you have turned notes into songs -- songs that are recognizable! A couple weeks ago you told me you were playing "Silent Night" for your primary (church) class party. I casually asked if you had the music for it. "No, but I'm going to get it." Since this party was 4 days away, I got on the phone with your piano teacher and she confirmed that she had music for you. And oh how you practiced! Sitting next to you and playing the duet part while you played an octave higher was a huge moment for me. I think I was more nervous than you were, as evidenced by the fact that you played your part perfectly and I missed a note toward the end. I have learned that one of the best things about being a parent is watching you accomplish great things.

Speaking of new things - this year you've started Seahawks Training Camp (for swimming). This is a 3-day/week program where you swim for an hour. Soccer and dance have been things you've lost interest in and, let's face it, you haven't been particularly talented there. But swimming - you have a good amount of endurance! I don't know why I'm surprised. Judging by the length of time you'll spend sitting on your bed, scowling at the door, rather than cleaning your room, I should have guessed you'd have stamina in other things, too. At the end of a session, they do "time trials," something you've been excited for. For the first and second sessions you didn't dive from the blocks (partly because you were afraid). You logged some improvement on your times, moving up levels. But this third session - WOW. Once again, my heart was beating out of my chest as I timed you on my phone (though you bring me the "official" numbers). You dove from the blocks, did a flip-turn at the end, and raced back down the lane to log a new personal record 13 seconds faster than last time. When it came time for backstroke, you shaved a whopping 27 seconds off your previous time. And for breaststroke (which was only one length), you improved 8 seconds. I couldn't contain my grin and when I told you how dang proud of you I was, you threw yourself into my arms and soaked me. And I loved it.

You are such a good big sister. You are a great friend to your brother and sister. You will often put aside what you enjoy doing to join them in what they want. Sometimes Gemma comes downstairs with elaborate hairstyles (ones that I kind of envy), and I know you've been at work. The howls of laughter and extreme giggling that waft upstairs from the basement reassure me that you and your brother have a phenomenal friendship. You love to take care of Gemma while Dad is working in his office and I run to the store. Your face lights up when I ask you to help me make dinner or teach you how to do something new. You are a sponge and I am trying my best to make sure you soak up the best things. I love spending time with you. Your grin is contagious.

There are little things every day that make me both roll my eyes and giggle at you. Like when you casually walk downstairs with an obviously, ahem, enhanced bosom and then act like, "What, this? Oh, I didn't even notice..." Or how I have to admire your creative fashion choices, but also sugest a few tweaks to make them socially acceptable. I love how you are intrigued by, as you call it, "the Girl Body Book" (thank you, American Girl) and have taken an interest in personal hygiene but not in how babies happen. I am especially grateful for that last part. I love that we have an agreement that you will brush my hair for as long as I will read to you. When I write a parenting book, I'm going to have an entire chapter on contracts, and brushing/styling hair is going to be first. Or maybe I'm just lucky to have a girl who is both willing and happy to humor me.

I love that we have actual interesting conversations. I love that you're rising to roles of responsibility. Even though I get frustrated with some of the things you can be stubborn about, I find myself reassured that that determination will serve you well. As I watch you get older (since bigger isn't really applicable, though you have grown an inch and a half in the last year!), I do get sentimental for the smaller See-see of yesterday. But as you're becoming more of a person, I'm right there loving who you are. Being your mom is a gift, and one I try hard to deserve. I look forward to what 2012 will bring.



NancyO said...

I'm a charter member of the Ainsleigh Fan Club (not to mention the Sarah Leigh Fan Club). I enjoyed reading about all the ways Ainsleigh is growing and becoming who she's meant to be. Also impressed with how you're growing along with her as you get even better at being the mother she needs to support her in becoming that great person. Did I mention that I loved the 2011 retrospective?