A recent study shows that a child's brain is 90% developed by the time she enters kindergarten.
90%! That fact blows me away.
My daughter Bella recently celebrated her 5th birthday and for me this birthday was far different from any of the others. Let me explain.
About 4 days before her birthday I decided to take her out to dinner for one of our "special" dates. I haven't gone on a special date with her since our date the week before I gave birth to Chance. It was time. I really try to plan on what to talk about beforehand. These one-on-one moments are so precious that if I don't have a game plan we'll end up talking about cotton candy or Dora or the lifecyle of a frog. Truly gripping, really.
My strategy was simple, I wanted my little girl to know how much she's loved. Unconditionally loved. Forever. No matter what happens or what mistakes she'll make--she'll always be loved. Easy, right?
Parenting has never been easy.
We arrived at our favorite hang out, Noodles and Company. Their Chinese chop salad (only 200 calories) is to-die-for and a couple of stolen spoonfuls of my child's Wisconsin mac and cheese is always expected. Man, we love this place.
It felt so different walking in just the two of us. Usually, I'm yelling at two kids not to swing on the bar while barely hanging on to the baby carseat that carries Chance, or frantically looking over the shoulder of an employee to see where my kids ran off to while placing an order. Not this time. We casually made our way to the front, placed our familiar order and Bella, very independently, grabbed a booster seat from the stack and chose a perfect table for two. She even commented that we've never been able to sit at a small table before.
She pulled the seat out and climbed atop her booster. She asked me to please push her in, I obliged. With the motor skills of an adult, she tapped the end of the straw twice on the table and slid off the plastic straw with an ease I haven't noticed before.
I excused myself to go fill up my cup and left her confidently sitting at the table. As I stood at the drink station, I looked over to my right and saw her smiling at me. She then busted out with a huge thumbs up sign that made me laugh out loud. Our happy stare went on long enough for me to almost overflow my cup with Diet Coke. As I placed the plastic top on my cup I heard her say, very loudly, "Happy St. Patrick's Day Mommy." I laughed again. Then without missing a beat she said even louder, "Happy Birthday to.....ME!!!" The restaurant busted up and several surrounding patrons bestowed their birthday wishes on her. She was thrilled.
We spent about 10 minutes talking about my tossed salad until I knew I needed to make my move or I'd lose the moment forever. I took a sip of my drink and began to say, "Bella, you are one lucky girl, you know that? You get to go through life, and wake every day knowing that you are truly, honestly loved. Some people spend their whole lives searching for love, and you'll have it, forever."
A lump began to form in my throat (much like it is right now) and I struggled to find the right words as I stared at her. Sitting across from my-almost-five-year old I realized something. Something that both saddens me and gives me an unbelievable amount of satisfaction. What I see in her today is what I know I'll see ten years from now, twenty years from now. She is already who she is destined to be. Already.
At the age of 5.
Sure, there's more parenting to do. And more guidance to give. But a part of me feels like I've done what I needed to do, I've seized that window. My God, 90%! I've been there every step of the way--and loved every moment of it. And this, this is the part of me that's sad. The one that recognizes that her "age of innocence" phase is almost over. But it went so fast! And was so much fun! I wish I could press pause and make it last a little longer. But you know what? I've got a great kid on my hands. One that will most definitely make mistakes, but knows how to learn from them. One that lives to please. One that consistently thinks of others. THIS is my satisfaction. That the end result is a precocious, strong minded, adventurous, unselfish and intelligent little girl.
At the age of 5.
Just look at her...
I can't look at this picture (taken from our date) and not well up. So grown up. So confident. I swear I fell more in love with her that night. It was a night and a birthday that I'll always hang on to. Notice the grapes in the baggie? She insisted on bringing an appetizer. Hah. And bless her heart because before she began eating she put half of her dinner in a "to-go" box for Mia.
Bella, how I love you so.
Bella, how I love you so.
Two days later, I enjoyed a "special" lunch date with Mia at the same place. And for totally different reasons, it was just as memorable. My game plan with Mia? Nurture the "big girl" mentality. Cuz, she is. She's totally a big girl......
But not that big, yet.