You turned eight this weekend.
I have started and erased this post several times already, because I cannot get a handle on my thoughts surrounding this event. You are challenging my skills as a writer, just as you are challenging my skills as a mother, forcing me to redefine what both of those roles are when it comes to understanding just who you are as well.
This year has been a challenge. You are not the challenge – you are bright and happy and creative and defiant and confident and all the things I want for you – but you have challenged me, my child, make no mistake. For you are eight, and your role is to change, to discover, to explore, to define and defy the expectations of who you are. Your place is to grow and learn and discover and stretch and uncover and understand yourself and your world.
You are smack dab in the middle of childhood, and I want that childhood to rain surprises and experiences and joy and love and disappointments and complexities right on top of your beautiful little head.
The challenge this past year has been for me to resist holding open an umbrella to shield you from all the things that you are now conscious of and want to deal with yourself. The challenge has been for me to suppress my instincts to steer your days, your actions, your decisions, and to let you pilot your own existence, allowing the map to spread out before you just a little more each day.
I have always been your cartographer, the primary navigator of your path. And it is a path that we have always traversed together, holding hands for both protection and comfort, because the path is sometimes rocky and the woods beyond, unknown.
But this past year, you have ventured east though I may have marked the route west. There have been days when you have moved along without me, sometimes skipping ahead of me happily and sometimes breaking free of my hold with a flick of your wrist powered by frustration and intent.
You have grown so much this year, and the challenge has been for me to grow as well; to embrace not only the child you are, but the child you are becoming. And to be proud of not only the mother I am, but the mother that I must become.
And I hope that, while the path will unfold more with every passing day, our routes will never diverge too far from one another, and that if they do, we will meet again beyond the next turn.
And I hope that it will be ok if I still scan the woods for darkness, and that, though your strides grow longer and more confident every day, you will still reach back to hold my hand every now and then.