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I remember you playing with my earrings one day when you were three or four and asking when you could get your ears pierced. I thought for a minute and then answered, “When you are ten.” Ten felt older, capable of making decisions and, most importantly, it felt far, far away. Today you asked me what the date was then went to the calendar. “Seventeen more days till I can get my ears pierced.” you announced as you came back. Oh. right.

I’ve often wondered, as I watched you grow and you asked the same question to get the same answer, if ten would feel the way I imagined the first time I choose it. Would you really be ready to make a decision that permanently affected your body? Would I still be comfortable with it? Today, seventeen days away, I think, yes. And wow. Ten. Double digits. How does time pass so slowly each day, especially some days, and yet we’ve flown to here?

Now. Now you are this amazing and truly unique person. Then I had all these images of who you might be. Today you are both all of them and none of them. You struggle. You struggle much more than I ever wanted for you. Things that are easy for other kids are many times more challenging for you. But the things that the other kids never even think of, those things come so, so easy for you. I wish I could get you to see that more. How unbelievably amazing and interesting it was last year when, for your birthday party, you rewrote the script for Labyrinth, cast all your friends, and shot the movie in our backyard and basement for your party. That at nine, you not only knit constantly, you knit teeny tiny shoes, shawls and boots for the fairies that are so much a part of your world, on toothpicks. That you’ve already written chapter books, have been writing since before you could read. Your creativity is astounding. I don’t know that I’ve ever met another child who, when presented with puff balls and glue, would use the puff balls to dye the glue then create a “milkshake” sculpture that was incredibly realistic. Your enthusiasm for these projects is so tremendous that you create a following. You’ve taught all the kids on the block to knit. The fourth grade girls at your school all make fairy houses. Your little brother is convinced that you can do anything.

But you, like many people, mostly see what you think is “wrong” with you these days. You are somehow both the most cheerful and the most anxiety ridden child all at once. You struggle with your interactions with the world in ways most of us never have to think about. Some of this is how you choose to deal with the world and some of it, with the sensory processing disorder, is out of your control. Even as I see such tremendous growth in your ability to make choices that make you more comfortable, see you recognize that you can control how your overly sensitive sensory system makes you feel, I also see you struggle with the recognition that not everyone has to make those choices. I see you struggle with the knowledge that running and climbing and biking take more thought and planning on your part. And because these are the things that kids prize, I see you devalue yourself. It kills me. We’re learning, slowly, your Dad and I, to find language that helps you move past these things. Some days it works better than others. Some days I think you recognize that everyone has things they are good at and things that are hard. Some days I think you can’t see anything you’re good at, everything creates so much stress. Most days I really wish you’d come with a guide-book.

This parenting thing, there’s so much they don’t tell you in the books. It was a little easier to make mistakes when you were little, knowing you might not remember. At almost ten though, you’re going to remember later. And you’re going to call me it on now. God do you call us on every little thing. And while it is part of the plan to raise a thoughtful, articulate child capable of defending her thoughts, sometimes I really, really wish you were a little less articulate. And defensive. Tween-dom, teen-dom – whatever it is you are going after it full force some days. And as always, its tricky to recognize what is sensory processing related and what is normal hormonal starts and fits. In between these intense bouts of whatever it is, though, you’re such an interesting person now. I don’t dream for you as much as I did when you were little, creating my image of who you might be. Rather I watch in wonder every day as you create yourself. I love watching you fall in love with books, discovering my favorites as well as all the new ones that were written since I was your age. Seeing you discover yourself as a creator of imaginative worlds and artistic projects. Noticing you nurture (and then completely disregard, depending on the day) your brother, teaching him so many things.  You are an intense and thoughtful person and parenting you makes me a better person. I’m excited to see what the next year brings for you.