Dear Rolo

You turned TEN YEARS OLD on Saturday. Can I just say, how dare you?! TEN YEARS OLD! ExCUSE you.

In some ways you are still just a little girl, all knees and elbows, and in other ways, the little girl is disappearing faster every day. I’ve had a long time to get used to the fact that you aren’t my chubby-cheeked little baby anymore, but both your father and I were floored by this particular comparison –

Again, I say, EXcuse YOU. I’m sure some of this transition can be chalked up to having a healthy amount of sunshine/vitamin D in your life for the first time in a few years, but, um, I can’t really deal with the fact that you seem to be firmly in the pre-teen camp now.

It’s clearly been a year full of growing up for you, and since you have the misfortune of having us for parents, we didn’t make this year any easier on you. It was another moving year, and this one was rougher because you were really well-established and comfortable in North Pole. You had a solid sense of self and place there. In fact, one of the reasons we chose to go when we did was because we knew if we kept waiting, it would only get harder. You were turning into a Full Alaskan. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it’s just that we didn’t plan to stay forever, and if you stayed forever, then we would have to stay forever. We’re selfish like that.

I know it might not seem like it now, but you will be more resilient and adaptable in the future because of the way we wrench you around. Despite all of my excuses and pseudo-apologies for upending your life, you have handled it just about as well as anyone could hope.

*So, in the interest of full-disclosure, I just wrote and deleted three paragraphs. I love these letters to you, and I think you’ll probably get a kick out of them one day too, but you have also reached an age where maybe I’m violating your privacy?

I feel like I need to be more careful describing your year now because it’s really starting to be your story to tell. I don’t know. Just know that I’m only going to publish two thirds of the picture from here on out, okay? You’ll have a ten year old one day and wonder why they are so much more emotionally nuanced than my account of you at the same age, and you need to remember, so were you. So was I. So was everyone. *

Without further ado…

You are as enthusiastic, curious, and confident in new situations as ever. You have a little bit of a tendency to be far more jazzed about new things until the hard work begins, but I think that’s pretty typical.

You love to perform. You love accents and characters and imaginative play that sounds just exactly like an improv performance. We are definitely looking into a theater camp for you this summer.

You have turned more toward the humanities recently. You are on the 5th Harry Potter book which makes my heart so happy because I’m a giant dork. You’ll have to come to terms with that soon. Sorry. We actually read them together a lot, but you zoomed right through the first three without my involvement. Yes, you would still prefer to play with Instagram filters or watch the most mind-numbing Youtube videos, but you also love a good story. You love to pick up a book, you still love to be read to, and you love when we listen to audiobooks as a whole family. You’re also finding a lot of enjoyment in writing lately. You have an excellent writing voice and a sense of humor that translates well on the page. It’s not that you’ve abandoned the sciences, we have a rocket science project in the works right now, but you seem to be expanding your interests.

As you get older, I see so much of your father in you. First of all, 40 degrees is not shorts weather, but you and your father disagree with me about that. Second, you are a social hermit, in that you are a social butterfly but also a hermit. You like people, you want a large circle of friends, but you don’t want to actually be outside of the house/neighborhood. Ever. Where should we eat? Home. We need to run an errand. Can I stay home? Do you want to go do something today? I’ll ride my scooter around and play with the neighbors. Okay, little Sergio. Between the two of you, I can get a little stir crazy. You can also both get frustrated in a fraction of a second, and sometimes watching you two bounce off of each other can be almost amusing. Nobody knows how to motivate you as well as your dad, though, so he clearly understands your mind better than I do.

You’ve been especially cuddly this past year. You are so quick to come seek long hugs from us lately. Maybe it can be blamed on you needing extra affection during this transition period, but I’ll take all the cuddles I can get for as long as I can get them. We have a very short time frame left in which you are still shorter than me, and I’ll still hope for extended hugs when you tower over me too, but it’ll be different when I feel like am the one being held instead of the other way round.

You are moving forward in the world more independently and there is only so much I can do for you now to keep you safe and successful and happy. This must be what people mean when they say having teenagers (I know you aren’t a teenager yet, this is just dread setting in) is harder than babies. As I like to remind you every year, you were a HARD BABY. I feel like my dues have already been paid. I think they are right. At least when you were a baby, I could protect you from all but the most terrifying eventualities. Now I have to stand by and watch as things like angst, rejection, conformity, failure, and temptation attack you from every angle. I’m starting to parent from the stands instead of the floor. It is not my favorite stage, but I suppose it is inevitable.

We are lucky, though, because we got a kick-ass little jokester with a pretty good head on her shoulders when we got you. I think you are going to continue navigating the world like a boss … even with us as your parents.

Happy double digits, Rolo Cate!




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