It's official. You're six. I vividly remember purchasing a new pair of footie pajamas when you were 18 months old, holding them up to get a good idea of how large they were, and thinking, Well, she will never be that big. Boy, was I wrong, and it didn't take long. You are now wearing size 6 clothing, a size 11 shoe, and you weigh 40 pounds. That's a far cry from the 18-month-old you.
It has been a big year for you--this year, you started school, and, for the first time ever in your life, went away from me every day. I didn't even put you in Preschool because a) I figured it would be pretty easy to teach you letters, shapes, numbers, and patterns, and b) I just wasn't ready to let the world have you yet. I am 34 years old, and have been married to your dad for almost 8 years, and all of that flew like the blink of an eye, and I knew that just like that, your childhood would also be gone, and I'd regret it if I didn't savor every moment. If I stop and think about it too much (which I try not to do very often), it makes me sad that I no longer know that 18 month-old Charis, with the footie pajamas and sweet blond curls, that I will never again get to hold the 6 month-old you, who loved to be cuddled at all times and who I could wear in a front pack while I did my grocery shopping. I will never again delight in hearing you say for the first time, "Mama," and I will never again watch you sing in front of church for the first time. Looking back at pictures, I try hard to remember what it sounded like when you cried and babbled incoherently, try to remember how you walked and ran, and what you liked to eat best. You won't remember that stuff, either, so I feel like I am the sole repository of those precious early memories, and if they're lost to me, then they are irretrievably gone. That makes me sad, because I cherished the tiny you.
The saving grace is that I have the Now you, the six year-old you who is independent, who loves to sing and draw (it's your talent, you informed me recently), who is (generally) very kind to Judah and Ruby, who has a sweet, tender, vulnerable side, and who can (Oh, how I have waited for this day!!!) READ. One of my new favorite things in life is to have you read me a story before bed. It is an absolute wonder to me that your brain can sort out the jumble of letters that is the English language, decode it into things that you can say out loud and even comprehend. You are so SMART. Even though you were one of the very youngest kids in your Kindergarten class, you were academically right on track--you end-of-year tests put you in the mid-to upper 90th percentile. In fact, you did even better in math than in reading, which I cannot understand. you did not get those math genes from me! You yourself are a wonder. You've always been a happy, well-adjusted child, and now you can tell us all about it, and even write it down. And it's slightly miraculous to me that, even though I can no longer hold the tiny version of you, the kind whose whole body fit in my arms, you love to cuddle with me still. Sure, your gangly arms and legs spill out of my lap, and you're about half as tall as I am, but hugging you is still one of the best things I know to do.
You are an absolute character, a total live wire in Sunday School. In Kindergarten, it was a bit different. You were decidedly shier. I thought you would have a best friend on day one, but it was actually a rough year for you in the friend department. Sometimes I suspect it is because your personality is so big and because you like to lead, not follow. Whatever the case, it broke my heart when you came home from school some days and announced that you had no friends. I'll be your friend, I said. It helped to know that Mrs. Newton loved you dearly, and that she took every opportunity to tell us that you were her very favorite. I knew that even if you didn't have a good friend your own height, you were still going to school with someone who thought you were special enough to love on. And someday, maybe this coming year in Mrs. Bell's class, you'll run home to tell me about your new BFF, and the next day you'll have another BFF, and the sadness you felt in Kindergarten will evaporate. Until then, I'd be happy to read you books and take you to the store with me and have you help me in the garden. Anything so that you know just how much you are loved and enjoyed. And you know, there's always Judah. You guys are pretty much the best of friends anyway. Who needs anything but a good brother?
The 9 month-old Charis smiled and laughed more or less constantly. The 2 year-old Charis could spend hours looking at books. The 3 year-old Charis loved to help me in the kitchen. The 6 year-old Charis is all of those things and more, a smart, funny, delightful girl that I am always proud of. I may no longer get to enjoy the babyish you, and you outgrew those 18 month footie pajamas long ago, but the big you is such a wonder, such a mystery, such a treasure, I wouldn't trade you for the whole world.