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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ella Bella

I truly have no idea how Ella has turned 8.  It makes me feel proud and heartbroken, excited and nostalgic, experienced and rather old.
It has been quite a journey.  Ella, as our first child, was so wanted, planned for, stressed over and anticipated.  (Not that Maya wasn't, but becoming a parent for the first time is such a big deal.)  When she was born, our entire lives revolved around her and we literally would just hold her and stare at her for hours. 
The many ages, stages, and phases of Ella.

Ella was the kind of child that never took to transitions easily.  She either cried when she woke up or had to snuggle in our arms for 30 minutse to acclimate to the world again.  She has never liked when things end and goodbyes are particularly painful.  She cries at the end of vacations, holidays, fun weekends and most Sunday nights in general.

As a young child, Ella was really only attached to handful of people other than Sandi and I.  She didn't want to be left, even with family members she adored.  She had significant separation anxiety when I left her, even with Sandi, and there is still a trace of that today.  She won't go to drop-off birthday parties or sleep overs and will decline an invitation to do almost anything fun if I don't go with her.

Ella has a sweet tooth and a tender heart.  She is creative and artistic and she adores her family, especially her cousins.  Starting at age 2, she had to dictate her wardrobe and many tears were shed in our household until we learned to let go.  She went through an 18 month period of wearing only petticoat dresses.  When poor Maya turned 3 and we opened up the 3T tote, there was nothing for her to wear except velvet half coats and embroidered tulle.  Stepping out into the world with the eccentrically dressed Ella was a life lesson in relinquising control.



Second grade literacy night to show your parents all your hard work
 A few months ago, Sandi and I went out to dinner much to Ella's dismay.  She railed on and on about the injustice of us going out to have fun while her beloved  babysitter, Olivia, put her to bed.  Indeed what awful parents.  She screamed and cried before we left, while we were leaving and after we were gone.  She calmed herself down by making this card for me.  "I love you Momma.  From your baby girl, always. You're the best mom ever."  Inside was a photo of her in case I forgot what she looked like while I was gone.

Ella is all about McKenna her American Girl doll. She is into her injuries and needs. She worries about McKenna's bare arms and inappropriate for December in Maine footwear.
She got the doll for her birthday from her grandparents and then received accessories from the rest of us.  McKenna is a gymnast (there is actually a movie about her) and she hurts her foot doing a risky dismount off the beam.  Ella asked for all the stuff to convalesce McKenna and was literally beaming when she opened the back ordered medical supplies.

McKenna truly is one more person whose needs I have to be concerned with.
Ella's eighth birthday morning: 
Sipping cocoa on her birthday and listening to the story of her birth

Eighth birthday cheesecake
Ella has a sensitive heart. As I read in a book once, she has a heart made of fine bone china. She is a rule follower with a distinct sense of right and wrong. Ella still likes to read and be read picture books. She wants to adopt every stuffed animal (and would prefer a real one) that she sees and makes comments like, "It is so sad for all those animals to be locked up in Target all night."

Ella is our child who gets angry that she has to brush her hair and still has stress over picking out the "right" outfit (although she told me that she has given up on fashion and not prefers "comfy" clothes- I wanted to say, "I'm so glad you're over all the clothing battles of the last 6 years.")  She has a burning need to be in the know and always questions me about the next day's or upcoming weekend's agenda. She has decided she wants to be a gymnast, but a self-taught one and she she practices flipping, tumbling and balancing on everything in the house.

I worry about the infuence of other kids on her. I fear the world might be too cruel a place for her innocent heart.  Going to school is a small heartbreak she must endure daily as she would prefer to tucked in at home.  Being out in the world independently is no small feat and we often work at celebrating her for who she is and how she conducts herself more so than on what she learns at school.

Ella is the kind of child who struggles to want to try new things and is much more discerning about life in general.  She knows not her own abilities and strengths and needs us there constantly encourging her.  She has a bumpy internal landscape and often provides the emotional tone to our house.  When she is angry or disappointed at something not going her way, we all feel the consquence of it.  Yet when she wants to be gracious and inclusive, our whole family shines from the inside out with the love she exudes.  (Yes, this has me shaking in my shoes for age 13.)  I see so much of myself in her, often the parts of myself that I struggle to embrace, that I have to be watchful of how I relate to her.  It is always a fine line with Ella to know when to just accept and let her stand back from the world and when to push her a little to join in the fray.  After all, she didn't exactly come into the world willingly: I had to be given some Pitocin to boost my labor and it took 3 HOURS to push her out. 

Ella is (FINALLY!) becoming thoughtful. She understands gratitude more. She gets that you shouldn't ask for every last thing you want. She says thank you unprompted. She shows some empathy. She has started to embrace the idea that less is more. When we say thanksgiving as a prayer before dinner she now can think of a non-tangible thing to appreciate in addition to the toy/doll/sweater/pair of boots currently in her favor.

Ella is getting so smart and intellectually mature now that I can see we have to be careful. She asked me the other day if Santa brings presents to poor people, a question that touches on the sleigh-sized loop hole in the Santa thing. She was asking why it is so important to help needy families at Christmas if they can get what they need from Santa. I offered up that Santa can bring them some of what they need but that they might have so little that other people also can contribute so that a child may have a toy as well as winter boots, for instance.

Ella quotes:

"I know Maya is a human. I'm just not sure what KIND of human she is."

Regarding the fact that two of her friends had the Target Our Generation dolls lose a leg: "Wow, this is awful. People are losing legs all over the place."

Recently we were late for an appointment and I was in the wrong place. When I realized that where I needed to be was just up over an illegal hill and I took the shortcut with not a soul or car in sight, from the back seat I hear: "This is NOT a good choice, Momma. You need to feel good about your choices and I don't think you will feel good about this one." She also pays attention to those white mumbered signs littering the road (you know the ones with suggested speeds for you to travel?) and likes to point out my non-compliance.
Ella is just now starting to learn about the responsibilities and privileges of being a big sister.  She still sometimes chooses the power struggle and the withholding of love over the open hearted sharing.  Yet she is also learning that she is older and that she is often in on jokes with adults that go over Maya's head.  She relishes this role and I think it boosts her big sister status. She tells us often how hard it is to be a big sister.  No doubt it is.  But we are proud of the strides she is taking.
I can remember the feeling when she was first laid in my arms like it was yesterday.  I remember hearing her alarming cry in the deep part of those early, exhausted nights and thinking, "Is that mine to take care of?" I soon learned to calibrate myself to her, to the nuances of her system, from her early cries to her later more cloaked attempts at communication.  "I don't like school"  meant "I don't like growing up and leaving home."   Ella is part open book, part total mystery.  She is part her own person and part like looking in a mirror. 

When we made Ella' birth announcement we included the quote, "Having a child is like having your heart go walking outside your body."  This has always been the case for me.  Being a mom takes part bravery, part faith, part ignorance and part denial of the heartbreak involved with loving and nuturing an entirely separate human being with the intention of having her go out into the world on her own.

I love these girls irrevocably and I would have it no other way.

Love + heartbreak = motherhood.  Now that is math I understand. 

1 comment:

Kim Cyr said...

awwwww, so sweet!

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