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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

growing up

Ella is growing up in ways that astound, amaze and undo me. 
Like a physical growth spurt that seems to happen overnight and leaves you wondering why all your child's pants make her look like a clam digger, the changes in Ella seemingly have occured in a span of mere days. 
crazy hair day at school in March
Suddenly Ella understands concepts I didn't know if she would ever grasp.  She gets how to use reverse psychology on her sister.  She knows how to keep a secret.  She is willing to work hard for something she wants.  Over the past month she has perfected the cart wheel, learned some gymnastics tricks on the the bar on her school playground, taught herself how to do a backbend and, as of this weekend, can do a back walk over (kicking over and back to standing from a backbend).  She has really come into her body, with long, strong legs and core muscles that can take her where she wants to go.

And she also doesn't fit into any of her pants.   Thank goodness it is time for capris.

Ella has always been the sort of child that doesn't like new things, especially social situations where people are unfamiliar.  Second grade has been a transformative year in this regard.  She has found her place, a sense of confidence and assurance, and I marvel that she is finally comfortable being a few steps away from me.  She is with many "big" kids in softball and relishes her time in their presence.  I see her making new friends at the playground, at swimming lessons and at social gatherings when in the past she always preferred to be a couple steps back from the unknown.

It is hard to describe what her transformation means to me.  On the one hand, it is painful to feel her pull away from us and move out into the world (even if it is only on the playground), to know that once kids begin to leave the nest that it is a gradual progression of the same.  I'm not suggesting that we are apartment hunting or anything, but it is true that growing up is a shift of moving away from the parents and not toward them. 

On the other hand, I am filled with relief and pride for Ella.  I have wanted her to find her own feet, to believe in herself, to feel competent and confident, to find her own place.  I love watching her self-esteem build block by block as she masters a challenging math problem, hits the ball in softball or works for hours on a gymnastics move and finds success.  Inside I am cheering each time I see her navigate a tricky interaction with Maya when she needs quiet and Maya is singing songs to beat the band. I see her care for herself, apologize when she hurts someone and take accountability for herself.  She shows spontaneous gratitude and compassion, two traits we have tried to nuture like a gardner in a greenhouse, but until recently without much luck.

Ella also eats almost any kind of soup and simple tossed salad now.  Her palate is expanding and each time she finds a new food she likes I want to sing and dance.  Sometimes I do, earning me a, "Okay, Momma, take it easy" from her.

Ella and I are reading Harry Potter together.  I had read the whole series long ago and loved it.  A few weeks ago she was home sick and I suggested it as something we could do together.  She was reluctant as she has often been with new things.  Three pages in she was hooked.   Some of the concepts need explanation but the way in which is identifies with and adores, or equally despises, some of the chararacters makes my momma and literary heart sing. 

We are only reading the first three books (Ange's suggestion since she has read them all recently) due to the more mature content of the later books.  Ella is outraged by this restriction.  She asked me how long until we can read book four (mind you we are only half-way through book two).  I said, "How about when you're eleven." 

"Ten," she countered and I had to look in the back seat to see if that was really Ella back there taking such an assertive stance.

Part of growing up is that you also see things in perpective. 
The other day she said under her breath about Maya's Barbies, "Barbies are for babies."
But it turns out stuffed animals and dolls aren't for babies because she still really loves those and we all know eight-year-olds aren't babies.

on a hike we took on an early dismissal day from school in early spring
Ella's self-portrait from art class.  I love everything about it.
Such is the way of growing, as if shape shifting into a new person right before my very eyes.  On a beach hike with Ange and the kids, Ella found and picked up this baby snake.  I wanted to check her for ID.
Ella has also been saying the most poignant and hilarious things lately.

We were with my mom, my sister and my niece and nephew feeding the ducks in Camden Harbor.  My mom, in an attempt to distract Maya from a onslaught of naughtiness, told her she could hold the bread bag for the ducks.  Maya translated that into I will feed the ducks and prevent others from the opportunity.  She did just that, dumping the bag of bread to the delight of the ducks and the dismay of her sister and cousins.

 I apologized and said, "Maya is in kind of a rare mood."  I then corrected myself, "I don't mean rare as in uncommon but raring to go."

Ella, without hearing my tag on, rolled her eyes and said, "Mom, it isn't rare at all.  She is like this every single day."

We were eating pizza together as a family when Ella got very pensive and said, "I have a question that no one will ever know the answer to."

Sandi and I, sensing a teaching moment, began to respond seriously.  "Yes, those are called unanswerable questions."  "There are probably more things we don't know than those that we do know."

Ella, enjoying her pizza and working hard to abide by our request that she pretty please chew with her mouth closed, replied: "We will never know the answer to the question did the first person who lived eat with his mouth open or closed?"

I love the new, more collaborative relationship I get to have with Ella these days.  I don't have to limit set and interfere so much and we can just be together.  Watching her stretch so she could practice gymnastics the other day I asked her if she would like to go to yoga class with me sometime.  She gave a resounding YES! 

I guess I felt like I might have babies forever, little ones who couldn't be trusted in public and who I needed to secure care for so I could leave the house for 5 minutes. The thought of being able to take my polite and able-bodied daughter to yoga class is a concept that is foreign and delightful.

I look forward to all these new ways of being with Ella and pray that I can keep myself out of the way.  I want to leave her space to blossom and expand and not to put restrictions or too many of my own expectations on her.  I want to love and support her from behind, rather than trying to steer her ship from the front.

Because for the first time in her young life, Ella seems to understand that she is in fact at the helm.


1 comment:

Kristi Carver-Kenney said...

I always worried about Ella. I worried that she would not find her inner confidence and strength. Not due to any shortcomings on your or Sano's part. Some people are just made that way. I am so unbelievably proud and overwhelmingly happy for our baby Ella Bella that she has finally come into her own. It is truly astounding when one considers the growth that is evident recently. She is growing into such a beautiful, sensitive, and caring young lady. Did I mention beautiful? That last picture takes my breath away. She's no longer a little child, but she will always be our baby xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

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