Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dear Gemma,

I'm sorry I haven't been very good at writing about you this year. One morning in April you came downstairs as I was preparing breakfast and packing lunches. You looked a little grumpy, which isn't entirely uncharacteristic of anyone in the morning. But you also seemed a little sad. I asked what was wrong and you said, "I remember when I used to come downstairs and you would have your hair in a ponytail and be wearing your blue hoodie and you would say, 'Good morning, Gemma! Let's cuddle!'"

You were talking about my general post-workout garb. You were talking about a time when getting out of bed wasn't one of the biggest mountains I'd face in my day. You were talking about a time when we'd send the kids off to school and then lie on the couch and cuddle for a bit. Those times had passed, and it made me sad to know you recognized and lamented the change.

Since then I've tried to make a conscious effort to be that mom again. I might not be in my workout wear because getting Ainsleigh up and off to junior high is its own workout. But I've greeted you enthusiastically every morning since, and we've tried to find time to get a little cuddling in before you leave for school.

That's one of the things I love about you - you're still that cuddler you were when you were a baby. No matter what the problem, you believe a good hug and a whispered "I love you" can fix just about anything. I think you might be right. It certainly doesn't hurt. I think you should keep this up forever.

With great love and cuddling, though, comes great feistiness. I see some of my, er, assertiveness in you. Other people call you bossy. And you are, but you also have some really good ideas! While we've had to talk to you about being kind to everyone, we've had to talk about friendships and finding people who are kind as well. You are thoughtful in the whole sense of the word - you really think about things. I love that.

This year you tried soccer again and hated it. You're really great at running, but you seem to do it more in an orbital fashion, around the action. You love ballet, though, so maybe non-contact activities are better. We'll try one more season of soccer merely because I already paid for it. Good luck!

You're becoming quite the reader and writer. We go through a lot of paper. Nearly every day I find a note on my pillow or desk from you. They are usually complimentary unless I've asked you to clean your room a bajillion times and then you write me notes like, "Dear Mom, it semes like you don't like me." I love those notes the best because they are so ludicrous. Someday you'll understand, but I try to recognize your feelings and then make a case for why you're wrong. (see where you get it?)(insert more cuddling)

You absolutely loved DisneyWorld, but that's not surprising. In that same vein, you thought Kauai was the greatest place ever. What was surprising (to me, at least) was how you took to snorkeling. You were a bit timid at first, understandably. But as soon as you began to see fish, you'd pop up, excitedly exclaiming (as coherently as a snorkel in your mouth allows), "A fish! I saw a fish!" And then dive back down. After doing that over and over, you began to just keep your head down and yell underwater. I love snorkeling, but I love seeing my kids snorkel even more. That's what a lot of parenting is about.

You started first grade this year and you eased into full-day pretty well. You've been my most devoted napper, so by Thursday you're pretty exhausted. You love school, though. I was a little nervous about your teacher since the other kids never had her, but she has turned out to be wonderful. You love her and she seems genuinely happy to see you, unlike last year's teacher (who just didn't seem like she liked kindergarten at all).

You play with Ainsleigh and Donovan pretty well. Occasionally you feel like they are excluding you, which they probably are. Overall, though, you fit in quite nicely. Recently, Avery and Tori from a couple houses up came down to see if Donovan and you could play. Avery is actually Ainsleigh's age and Tori is a year older than Donovan. You've joined in when Donovan has played with them and they have graciously included you despite your age difference and how sometimes you aren't the nicest. That day, however, Donovan was gone. After I gave them the bad news, they kind of shrugged and asked if you could come out and play. I'm not sure if part of that was knowing they could only jump on the trampoline with one of our kids, but they could have easily just gone back home. Instead, the three of you played for an hour or so. While it's not charming to everyone, I like that you try to hold your own. Most of the time you do. That kind of confidence will serve you well.

You're great at unloading the dishwasher and helping make dinner. You leave pictures and notes for your siblings. Your laugh is infectious. And still Ducky is a beloved presence. I wonder when she will no longer be essential to a good night's sleep for you. You're the baby of my babies, though, so I don't care if you hold on to her until you leave for college.

I'm excited for Christmas with you this year. Mostly because these weeks off from school will give us more time to cuddle. I love you billions, Gemma-Gem.



laura said...

Ahhh, she looks so big! Love the portraits. Also, from now on whenever anyone asks me to do something I'm going to say, "It seems like you don't like me."

Wanda said...

Stunning photos of a fabulous girl. Love her bunches!

Becca said...

I love reading about the things they do! Do this more! Sweet, sweet Gemma. I wish I could cuddle her every morning.