Once upon a time I could check all the boxes in the “Do you have children in any of these age ranges?” Now, those ranges get smaller and smaller. In a couple months, I will be checking off that I only have one child under 18. One. Elizabeth. One.
In a sense, you Elizabeth, have never been just one before. In nearly every other you are singular. Yes, you get compared to the other youngest child in the ways you are both “alike” and both unlike your siblings. It’s easy in a way. We can do this. We did this with her.
You singularly own the brains, the savvy, and the independence. You don’t care about ruffling feathers. Or you do–but you like to do it. You push away and cuddle. You squeal puppy cuddle time.
You were so angry when we brought home Lola. We’d not asked your permission or discussed it with you first. We’d hardly discussed it with each other even. But your indignation stays, even as you melt and ask how something could be that cute over and over again. You took the puppies on super long individual walks this past week. The combination of being out of school and off work leaving you at loose ends. Your brother enjoyed the sanctuary of having his own room. Your sister still worked.
It was a good week. Another good week. In the past couple of months, the tension of the school year drained a bit, you grew up a bit, you growled less. (shhh I won’t tell. You still strike fear in all hearts/ ) You watched me work. “You just sent her a hundred dollars? And she questions?” Yes.
I suspect you will be fierce and growly again soon. Stress. Managing your coterie. Dancing the line of teen life and vast dramas you won’t share.
But this is another year I will remember cherishing with you. The year of seeing you grow into a more adult self. The year when I see the glimmers of the responsible, independent leader. Another year when you are the first to hug me, make me laugh, make me suck in my breath ready to chastise you and yet unable to do so because darn it, you are right or wrong but so righteous about it.
I gave you a gift this year that I plotted months ago. We put it on the reminder t0-do list. After years of your careful nativity set-up, you received your first piece that was truly bought for YOU. Yes, the Elizabeth has always been your piece. She has your name. Even though it is baby John in the sling, not baby Elizabeth, it spoke to me of you. But this year, the elephant will join the nativity. The elephant that will begin more pieces. Because I love that nativity, but it tells me it was always yours. It’s just mine until you are ready. You talk, crack jokes, but you are careful with it. It means something to you. So enjoy the elephant. Remember it is a grown-up gift, a growing up gift.
I love you in countless ways, from your personality, to your hair, to your silly avoidance of having a good picture taken of you, to your love of dogs, cats, and dare I say it? Babies. I saw that this year too. You are loud. You are quiet. You love. You hate. You praise genuinely. You are my baby and you are loved. Always. Happy birthday to the most singular, fascinating, youngest child ever born.