Teagan, today you turn six years old and are more than ready to hit that milestone. You’ve been planning your presents, your party, your school snack and even your birthday outfit for awhile now. The actual birthday is exciting of course, but you’ve been planning beyond today. You talk often about what it will be like to be six, an age you’ve carefully and excitedly considered.
You are the fifth child I have witnessed turning six under my roof and yet, I find myself approaching this next year with you differently than I have with the others.
I watch my middle school kids — ages 13 and 12 — go about their lives in cliche fashion, wanting to spend more time hiding out in their rooms and online with their friends than with the family. They roll their eyes when we make them watch Supermarket Sweep with us and complain about going to the beach in our neighborhood. I remind myself, often, that this is developmentally appropriate but I often wonder where my precious little beach bums who would ride the waves on boogie boards and eat sand-encrusted goldfish for hours have disappeared.
The middle two girls, ages 11 and 8, still spend time with their parents and at home, but need me less and less for the hands-on things. When they want to play, they play together — making up imagination games or jumping in the pool.
And then there’s you, Teagan, greeting me with an armful of My Little Ponies at breakfast, asking me which ones I want to play with in the pony school game you just made up. You still like to shimmy under a throw blanket on the couch, bundle yourself up then ask if I want to snuggle and watch Paw Patrol with you. A few times you’ve bemoaned the fact that I’m not a substitute teacher because you wish you could see me during your school day (and due to the current pandemic, I cannot even come on campus to volunteer). You are full of ideas for how to be with me MORE and in all the spaces of your life.
And I know better, now. I know more than I did seven years ago when your brother turned six and still asked for me to take him to the beach playground every day. I know more now than six years ago when your oldest sister would wake up on a Saturday, and talk to me from breakfast until bedtime about every detail of her life, her friends’ lives, her school week and more.
I’ve learned since your second-oldest sister, now 11, who at your age would bring me simple household craft items and ask me to help her create something she’d imagined. I’m aware that even at the age of 8, like the sister closest to your age, you’ll be learning more on your own, planning more of your schedule on your own and asking to go places without me.
This independent, parent-idolizing phase doesn’t last long. It may have seemed long when your siblings were your age, and there were still babies and toddlers overtaking our home. But there are no babies or toddlers left — just you, the “baby,” who is six today.
So I want this year to be one of togetherness and play, above all else. I know that you’ll continue to learn to read and gain so much in the knowledge realm of that spongey brain of yours — but more than anything, I want you to enjoy being playful, carefree and loved by your family. The rest will come, and too quickly.
Happy birthday, Tea Tea. We all love you so much.