At some point during our shared birthday week last year, I realized I wasn’t going to write my annual post about where Abigail and I were in our lives. Let’s just say it was a tough week.
And as I re-read the last post I wrote about our birthdays, I was struck by how much hasn’t changed for Abigail and I. She still loves Daniel Tiger, Doc McStuffins, Elmo and tag. I’m still trying to become a healthier, more productive me. So there’s some comfort in the familiar there. We have, however, left sleepovers on the stairs in the past. Amen.
Abigail’s new interests include Peppa Pig, music (specifically Puffy Ami Yumi), playing superheroes vs. bad guys and riding her bike. I’ve swapped Up for Fitbit and come to the realization that my vague attempts at running twice a week needed to be actual workouts four times a week if they’re going to make a difference. I’m reading more. Finding time to write is still a challenge.
Speaking of the familiar, Abigail’s also picked up more than a few phrases favored by Erin and me.
“Actually, the thing is…”
“You know, guys…”
“Can I tell you something?”
Part of me worries about this. Are we making sure she’s given enough space to figure out who she is without too much undue influence from us? On the other hand, when she caught a glimpse of the Oscars opening montage this week and yelled “Dad, that’s Thor!” I was more than a little pleased.
Moreso than in previous years, it’s easier to see how Abigail is our kid through both nature and nurture. She gets frustrated with things she’s not good at and likes staying busy. At various points this year, she’s taken acting, ballet, yoga, swimming, gymnastics and soccer. The latter activity was pretty much a disaster with me spending more time on the field as assistant coach (a.k.a. child wrangler) than she did.
It strikes me that I’m as influenced by having her as a kid as she is in having me as a dad. There’s no way I’d have volunteered to be an assistant coach of anything if not for her. She’s a big part of my motivation for getting on a treadmill. And on and on.
This year Abigail vacillated between becoming a big kid and staying a little kid. She pushed hard for a “big kid bed” only to find that growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She’s been telling us she wants her “little bed” back (because the big kid bed is “too tall”) even though I’ve told her many times that’s not possible because we used the pieces of the little bed to assemble the big bed. Due, in part, to this, bedtime’s been a bit of a struggle lately. On the night of her birthday, she was setting up chairs for a “roller skating show” and we made her stop and get ready for bed which led to a twenty-minute epic meltdown. It is the height of emotional conflict as a parent to be angry and exhausted by a child’s tantrum but still holding in a laugh while she screams “BUT THE SHOW MUST GO ON!!!!”
On a related note, her imagination is through the roof and through it she’s exploring more of her world. She loves building with Legos just as much as she loves acting out elaborate stories with her dolls – sometimes both at the same time. She’s not as cowed by new experiences as she used to be – “I know I can do it!” is something she tells herself to get psyched up. She has two very close friends at school this year who she talks about all the time so she’s figuring out who she is in relationships with humans other than the ones telling her to get dressed or line up for computers class.
As for me, this seems like the year that “life’s too short” becomes my mantra. Too much is uncertain and nothing’s ever perfect. Do the thing now instead of putting it off. Nothing to lose except for missed opportunities. Don’t settle.
Some of that’s a by-product of being on the other side of 40. But most of it is seeing myself through Abigail’s eyes. It’s easy for her to look up to me at 5. Doing the work to make sure she’s still doing it at 25 takes a bit more effort.