Last night she was brushing her teeth and as her little mouth was full of strawberry-flavored toothpaste and an Incredible Hulk toothbrush, her eyes welled up with tears and she started to cry.
With a mouth full of toothpaste, she looked at me and said, “I don’t want to grow. I don’t want to be five.”
Her all-knowing older sister, already cozy in the top bunk of their dimly-lit bedroom, climbed down, walked over to her foaming-mouthed, distraught baby sister and pulled her close to her in a sweet side hug, complete with Big Sister’s head on top of Little Sister’s head. “It’s ok, Vivi. I felt the same way when I was turning five, too. The good news is that it takes weeks and years to grow. You’re not going to wake up tomorrow and be different than you are right now. Don’t worry. It’s ok…”
I remained standing, acting as if I was tidying up the bathroom post-bathtime, listening to this precious sister moment; so unlike the cacophony of tattling, yelling, screaming, giggling, secret-telling that happens throughout any given day.
I looked at Lila, heart swelling with pride at her empathetic, warm, sisterly show of affection. Our eyes met and Lila raised her eyebrows, cocked her head to the side and gave me a side smirk, so as to say, “She’s so sweet? Isn’t she? That Vivi… She needs us… She’s our baby, she doesn’t know any better.” I crinkled my nose and nodded once in agreement in the direction of my wise-beyond-her-years six-year-old big sister.
She smiled back at me.
Vivi stood there. Quiet. Tears still flowing. Lila gave her another squeeze and got back into bed. Her work was done.
We put away her toothbrush and wiped her mouth. She said, “Can you hold me?” And then we sat in the slipcovered, pink-striped rocking chair that I so painstakingly chose when I found out that I was pregnant for my first baby, Vivienne’s older sister. She climbed on my lap, legs hanging down and tucked her head in my neck and we rocked. I could once envelop her in my arms and squeeze her close. Now, it’s slightly more tangled and not as neat and tucked in as it once was. Still, I’ll take it…
I held her tight. She didn’t resist. She rested completely and wholly against my chest.
I explained it to her:
“I will love you forever. Even when you’re super old and tall and big and when Lila is super old and tall and big, you both will still be my babies. And Lila’s right. Don’t be scared about growing up… it happens slowly. You’re incredible now and you’re going to be even MORE incredible as you grow. You’re my daughter, so you’re brave. It’s who Nana was, it’s who I am and it’s who you are.”
Lila nodded as she peered down at us from the top bunk, that all-knowing smile that only someone 19-months-older can smile. She was egging me on with her eyes, telling me, “You’re doing well, Mommy. Keep going.”
(I love these girls.)
Vivi slowly stopped crying, her breath quieted and she sighed. I sighed, too.
Where has the time gone?
I thought of the quiet moments I had alone before I was wheeled in to have my second daughter, my baby, brought into this world. The entire time I was pregnant with Vivienne and well into her newbornhood and throughout, I’ve had a bittersweet feeling… with her sister, it was incredible because she was my first! So exciting. With Vivienne, I just knew… she’d be my last. So, I chose to treasure it. I actively choose to treasure it.
Her sister was independent and loved to sleep on her own, without being smothered by my affection. (That all changed as she got older; she became a sweet lover.) But Vivienne, she seemed to thrive on my physical touch. Still today… when she’s upset she solely needs a hug. “Mommy, I can’t stop crying. I need a hug.”
As we sat and rocked, I was hoping beyond hope that my precious baby would fall asleep right there in my arms… but she stretched and sat up, then stood up. I stopped rocking. And she said, “It’s ok, Mommy. I’m ok now.”
And she ambled off of my lap and into her bed. She got in and fell asleep.
I sat there a few minutes longer and wished Lila could come over to me and reassure me like she had her baby sister, “It’s ok, Mommy. She’s not going to be 30 tomorrow. It takes week and years … it’s ok. We’ll be your babies forever.”
Later on in the day, after we had birthday cake after lunch, Lila walked into the kitchen and set her plate down on the counter and looked at me and said, “Well, our baby’s growing up.”
Happy Birthday, Vivienne.
I would have held you all night long, Vivienne. I would have stroked your hair and smelled your fresh-from-the-bath smell for as long as you would have let me. I would have closed my eyes and stopped time if it were possible. One can dream, right?
But Vivienne, you got up. You got into your bed. You moved on. Just what I want you to do… forever.
Feel your feelings and then move on.
This, sweet girl, is who you are. Your batteries are recharged by touch, reassurance and kind words… then you’re fine. You’re brave and who you are again.
I want you to always know that I, your sister, your Daddy – all of us – we’re here to reassure you for as long as you need, then… we will watch and applaud and encourage you as you get up and go.
You’re a strong one, little lady.
At five-years-old, you’re fiercely independent. “No, I can do it” is something we’re accustomed to hearing you say. In fact, you’re our resident problem solver. Can’t open that box? Not sure where that piece goes? Not sure where to turn that thing on? Not sure where something is? Ask Vivi. In fact, Lila goes to you all the time for a helping hand. “Vivienne, can you fix this/open this/do this?” And you do it. In fact, you happily drop everything that you’re doing to help. To fix things. (You get that from your Daddy.) You are so proud of yourself, too. It’s kind of awesome.
You’re the perfect fusion of delicate and tough. You adore Spiderman. You love running fast and racing. And you will play for hours with your baby, Shirley.
So, Shirley is your bitty baby. You inherited her from your cousin, Clo. You immediately took to her. And, you named her Shirley. After my Mom, your Nana. You talk about her daily. Sometimes hourly. Sometimes every 5 minutes. For the past two years, Shirley and you have been peanut butter and apple butter. (You prefer apple butter to jelly.)
I’ll ask you how you slept, and you respond with, “Oh, Shirley slept well. But I think she’s hungry. I better feed her.”
I looked over the other day at the restaurant where we were waiting for our dinner and you had a crayon between Shirley’s fingers and you were “teaching her to write.”
You change her clothes, her diapers, feed her, put bibs on, take them off, put them on again… pack baby bags. At Christmas, we were playing version of Christmas Bingo and of course, Shirley was sitting up next to you with her own Bingo card. “Look! Shirley got a BINGO!”
Of course, she did.
It blesses my day. You have no idea, sweet Vivi, how much I love hearing my Mom’s name on your lips all.day.long.
“Mommy, look at Shirls. Isn’t she sweet?”
No, you’re sweet, Vivienne.
You love your dogs and peanut butter. You constantly sing, “Mele Kalikimaka.”
You like to watch Mr. Rogers and Ninjago. You love Buzz Lightyear. And Batman. And “Benjamin Hulk.” And Iron Man. And “Bart Vader.”
You met Spiderman recently and I think it was almost the best thing that’s ever happened to you.
After it was all over, you said to us, “He said I was old enough to be a real superhero!” Your eyes were WIDE open and your eyebrows raised.
“A real superhero!”
(I agree with Spidey.)
You play independently extremely well; but if you stay home from school because you’re not feeling well, you ask me when Lila’s coming home every 2 minutes. Because you adore her.
You love small things, like your Calico Critters and legos. And building anything out of boxes.
You are an exceptional sock matcher and folder. And goofball.
You park powerwheels cars like you’ve been driving for years.
You won’t eat a tomato but love Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
(You’re pretty stubborn, too. I have at least 20 photos of you like this. Angrily protesting eating some sort of vegetable.)
You would drink orange juice all day long if I let you. And you love trains. And all things that go. (Cars, etc.)
You’re not great about brushing your teeth, but you excel in other areas: like makeup application.
You love to bake and make cut-out cookies.
You like to play “family” and constantly call Lila, “Kid.” As in, “Kid, come. It’s time for dinner. Wash your hands, please.”
Vivienne, you are a joy.
You’re constantly slinging webs, laughing, singing, and moving.
You love high-tops and that your hair is longer than your sister’s.
Your sense of humor and constant giggle are a treasure. And we all have grown to love your silly faces. For they, like the sun rising each day, are constant. (You never stand still.) (EVER.)
We are all so glad that you were born.
Happy, birthday sweet girl.
I love you to the moon and back.
(Top left, Vivi’s last photo as a 4-year-old, top right – her 1st photo as a 5-year-old.)
• • • • •
Vivi’s History on T W O P R E T Z E L S
Pictures from Vivi’s first year — just a few — click here to see
Vivienne’s birth story — click to read here
Vivienne’s birth announcement here — click to see it
My post to Vivienne on her 1st birthday — click to read it
Pics from Vivienne’s first cake experience — click to view
Vivienne’s first birthday party — click to see
My post to Vivienne on her 2nd birthday — click to read it
The pics from Vivi’s 2nd birthday party — click to read it
My post to Vivienne on her 4th birthday — click to read it
The pics from Vivienne’s 4th birthday party — click to read it