I wrote this post right before Lila’s 11th birthday. Sharing it here for posterity’s sake now.
When you arrived in my life, one of my dreams come true. I had wanted you so, so badly. On Father’s Day eleven years ago, you were born — incidentally looking just like your Daddy.
I remember staring at you and not believing that it was all real. You were here! This baby I had prayed for, written to, imagined… was here. In real life. And she was more amazing than I could have ever imagined.
Sweet girl. I feel like that today… again.
Lila, you’re more amazing that I could have ever imagined.
I smile as I type this because I’m overwhelmed with love for you.
When you were born, you were 21.5 inches long. You were this spaghetti-noodle of a baby drowning in her newborn clothes, but with your ankles and wrists sticking out. Tall and proud. Now at 11-years-old, you’re 61 inches. Lila, that’s just 2 inches shy of my height. But as I’ve told you, not to worry… you’ll never be too big for me to hold. And if ever you are, then we’ll switch – and you can hold me. Deal?
Sure, you’re taller and you can fit in my shoes. But sweet Lila, it’s the coolest thing when I look into your eyes at any given moment and I can glimpse who you were as a baby. Those cheeks, that smile, those giggles.
I love when I look at you and can still see that effervescent, joyful toddler and that bubbly, yet-reserved sweetie-pie kiddo. It’s so fun seeing the whispers of yesterday, but I’m so excited to see the hints of grown-up Lila, too. Sometimes you’ll be reading quietly and the way your head is tilted stops me in my tracks and I think, “Grown-up, Lila. I’m looking at my grown-up Lila….”
I feel like we’re in the most precious of moments, Lila Ross. We’re walking the line between yesterday and tomorrow and I’m so thankful for what was, what’s now and what will be.
In the same way, Lila, our conversations are changing. They’ve taken on a depth that they hadn’t known before. We don’t just talk about the day and recount what happened, we talk about why it happened, how it feels and how to handle all of it. It’s like you’re no longer happy to paddle and fuss in the baby pool of life but have instead fully jumped into the deeper end of the pool. You have so much to learn, and you can’t quite reach the bottom… but you’re steady and confident, cutting through the water assuredly and beautifully, like when you swim.
And oh, when you swim. At this point in your life, I think you’d pull a reverse-Ariel from The Little Mermaid and willingly leave your family here on the land and live in the sea, permanently. You are happiest when you’re swimming – whether at the beach or in the ocean. It’s tremendous. And it works out GREAT since you have such great beach hair. (Hair matters in this family… wink, wink.) And, you swimming? Lila, it’s a sight to behold. It’s gorgeous watching you move, fluidly. Gracefully.
You’re navigating life in bigger ways both inside and out of the water, sweet girl. You’ve had to deal with real-life conflict. With mean girls. With bullying. With being on the right side of a wrong thing. You’re encountering the stuff that makes us adults wince when we think back to when we were your age. It’s hard to grow up. It’s hard to be ten and now eleven.
You’re learning. And while I never expect you to be perfect, I do expect you to be kind. And fair. And to constantly be sliding your feet into the shoes of others. (But never other people’s hats or brushes. #NoLice.) Wear your empathy every day like it’s your job, Lila Ross. Sparkle and shine and be Lila, but always, ALWAYS recognize your privilege and stand up for and learn about others. Grow, Lila. Grow, grow, grow.
This past year you’ve done a bit of that already. You’ve continued to humble us by your appreciation of beauty, of small things. Lila, you see opportunities everywhere. Empty box? You’ll transform it with paint. A pile of mud or dirt? It becomes a gorgeous, flower-laden “cake.” Your head is in the clouds and it’s something I admire. I believe that when we operate in the boundless wide-open, ANYTHING can happen. And you, sweet girl, you were made to make things happen. Loud and big, or soft with intention, clanging or whispering — there’s a plan for you that is amazing.
This past year you left us. You went to camp for two weeks. You were indpendent and you rang the bell. You have found the author whose books touch you. You’ve grown closer to your sister… when you’re not arguing or audibly sighing about her. You’ve created recipes and followed recipes and no longer “need” me in the kitchen. (You could work on cleaning up while you go, though…) You have made so many beautiful pieces that adorn our house and you’re more comfortable, more confident in your own skin.
Lila, we’re proud of what you do: the amazing grades, the books you’re reading, but we’re more proud of your heart. You’re kind, Lila. You’re thoughtful. You’re loyal and you’re sweet. And my favorite, most favorite part of being your Mommy right now happens between about 8:30 and 10:00 pm each night. It’s you. And me. Lying on the bed. Talking. We talk about the day, the hard stuff. The awesome stuff. And we go deeper. We sometimes cry and hug one another. I sometimes poke your eyes and you sometimes laugh. Sometimes you’re angry with me. Sometimes we sit in silence… reading. Sometimes we can’t stop talking. It’s in these moments that I feel like I’m getting to know you, the Lila you are meant to be.
I love who I see.
Sometimes, as we’re lying there talking I’ll just stare at you and think, “Is this real?”
You. This baby I prayed for, wrote to, imagined… you’re here. In real life. And you are more amazing that I could have ever imagined.
There is no one more happier that you were born than your Daddy and I. (He’s not a writer, but I know he agrees with everything I’m saying here and his well of love for you is so deep you’ll never know it. He’s so proud of you.)
Lila Ross, my sweet Lila Pickle, happy, happy birthday. My summer solstice baby, may your eleventh year be your sweetest yet.
Lila’s Birthday Archive…
The post where I introduced that I was pregnant with Lila. (See here.)
This is the first picture I ever posted of her. (See here.)
Lila’s birth story – the story of the c-section. I was quite big. (See here.)
Lila’s first birthday. (See here.) Such a sweet baby. …we had a party. Of course we did. Here is the recap. (See here.)
Lila’s second birthday. (See here.) My favorite photo of her as peep is there. …this is how the second birthday party went. (See here.)
Lila’s third birthday post . (See here.) …the third birthday party post – the recap. (See here.)
The fourth birthday. (See here.) …and the fourth birthday recap. (It’s here.)
The fifth birthday post. (See it here.) Here’s her fifth-birthday-party-recap post. (It’s here.)
Lila’s sixth birthday. (Read it here.)
Lila’s seventh birthday. (Read it here.)
Lila’s eighth birthday. (Read it here
Lila’s ninth birthday. (Read it here.)
Lila’s 10th birthday. (Read it here).
And here, your annual interview.