Growing Up

Today Julianna turns 5.

Each year I feel the same way:  I feel like I was writing last year’s yesterday.  In the blink of an eye, my toddler turned into a little girl and then in another blink, the little girl turned into a big girl.  Whirlwind doesn’t begin to describe what a year its been.  The following does (in no particular order):

Graduates to the upstairs in school.  Started doing drop-off play-dates.  Helps to cook meals.  Does chores.  Gets self undressed.  Takes shower.  Gets self dressed.  Brushes own hair.  Buckles self in carseat (mostly).  Reads (a little bit).  Writes.  Packs up her room.  Survives a move to a new house.  Is showing signs of not being overly interested in hanging out with daddy if friends are around.  Hoola-hoops (for real).  Tells jokes (generally not funny and extremely repetitive).  Happily put on a new backpack today that was given to her by Grandma and Grandpa for her birthday for kindergarten…

Pump the breaks.

Did I say “…for kindergarten”?

When did I all of a sudden have a kid who is getting ready for kindergarten?  I mean, you should have seen the look on her face when she put that backpack on, even though it is just slightly bigger than she is.  This was the face of a girl who was ready for what’s next; or at least a girl who thinks she’s ready for what’s next.  And [this] is the face of a father who is not not ready for what’s next; or at least he doesn’t think he’s ready for what’s next.

It feels like just yesterday that I was writing about her first ballet recital and how I didn’t think she’d have the stones to get on stage in front of people.  Today, she ran up on the stage with her friends at her birthday party and did that ridiculous Gangnam Style dance; you know, the one you just imagined yourself doing with Psy.

Certainly, as we get older, the amount of major developmental milestones that happen each year decreases.  This is not to say Julianna didn’t take massive developmental steps in the past year but in the past I might have said, “she learned how to walk” and now perhaps those milestones are a little less tangible and while they are more difficult to describe, they are no less important.

I suppose I’d put it this way: In the past, when it was just the two of us, I’m watching her.  Now, when its just the two of us, we’re spending time together.  We talk about all sorts of things.  She is constantly asking the whys and the hows of life but now I think a lot of the time, she can actually understand.

We all know what people say about watching your kids graduate from college, get married, have children of their own, or whatever the big life event is.  In the first 4 years, I’ve had countless moments when I thought I felt a similar way; that overwhelming sense of pride that someone you care about accomplished something.  All of that was real but now it feels different.  This is starting to feel like the end of the first long chapter and the beginning of a new chapter.  I’m not just referring to kindergarten although certainly that’s a large part of it.  There’s just something different.

I’m going to try to sum it up in 1 example:  Today, at her birthday party, we brought the cake over with the candles.  The singing happened.  She stared at the candles for a moment and thought about something, her wish presumably.  Then we took the cake away so we could cut it.  As my father-in-law started carving, I looked down and there she was.  Rather than sit at the head of the table and wait for her deserved first piece, she insisted that she wanted to help hand out the cake to all her friends.  We made sure to get her the piece she wanted but she ended up being the last kid to sit down and eat.  Maybe every other kid does that.  Maybe its not that big a deal.  From my perspective, I saw a kid who wanted to help her friends out before she helped herself and I think that’s pretty cool.

She’s not all grown up, not by a longshot, but we’re on the way and it feels like we’re on the right path.

Happy 5th Birthday Julianna.  I can’t wait to see what you show us next.