Newsletter: Month Eighty-Four

Dear Leta,

Last week you turned seven years old. When you were born other parents told us to relish that time with you because in the blink of an eye you’d be seven or eight or nine like their own children. I asked those parents if their seven, eight, and nine-year-olds were sleeping, and when they said yes, I asked, “Wanna swap?”

Haha. Not really. Okay, maybe once.

Speaking of sleep, I had to drag you out of bed for the first time last week and had been waiting impatiently for that morning for seven years. I won’t lie, when you rubbed your eyes, looked at the time and said you were too tired to get up, I thought seriously about pooping my pants and saying, TIRED? REALLY? BECAUSE I HAVE A PRESENT FOR YOU.

But I’m more mature than that (I’ve grown up recently, it’s all this bran I’ve been eating), and instead I just rubbed your back, told you I understood, but we needed to get up and eat breakfast. I eased you into the light of morning, although you didn’t see the face I made to your father when he saw us coming into the kitchen together: imagine two frat boys learning that the fart they stored in a jar and hid inside a professor’s freezer last semester finally exploded. In the middle of the night. While his wife was reaching inside for an ice cream sandwich.

That one.

In the last few months it’s as if Inspector Gadget has had control of your limbs, and suddenly he’s all, “GO GO GADGET ARM!” And BAM! None of your shirts or pants fit anymore. I didn’t think it would happen this early, but here you are, the scientific experiment known as Hamilton-Armstrong. Knobby knees, knobby elbows, arms and legs the length of the Texas/Mexico border. The hair on your head, while thick and unruly at times, has yet to grow into its monstrous fullness, but I suspect that will wait until puberty. Like mine did, and my parents had to pretend to hold their shit together when they’d see me first thing in the morning.

First grade has you bringing home pages of addition and subtraction performed to perfection, elaborate stories written about trips you’ve taken, and a weekly bag of books you’ve chosen from the library. Your father and I missed one of the many orientation meetings at the beginning of the year explaining this bag of books, and the first time you brought it home the directions said that you were supposed to read each book three times. When we added up all the pages we realized you’d be reading 400 pages that week. Three times.

I had a heart attack.

The following morning I accompanied you into class, pulled your teacher aside, and said, “Those reading bags—” and she immediately held up her hand as if she knew what I was about to ask. Then she pulled me over to a corner where none of the other kids could hear her and whispered, “Leta doesn’t have to read hers three times. Let’s just say that she’s not checking out your average first grade book.”

I’ll say! I almost suggested you go back and get the CliffsNotes version of one.

Those books are supposed to last you the week, but you finish all three the day you bring them home. If at all possible your love of reading has grown leaps this past year, and in the morning when you do wake up before us you turn on the lamp beside your bed and read until we come get you for breakfast. Sometimes I’ll stand outside your door watching you because it’s such a marvelous sight: my daughter who looks just like her father, devouring books just like he did when he was your age. Just promise me you won’t grow up to wear clogs with black athletic socks.

And he has the nerve to roll his eyes when I sing lyrics to songs by Survivor.

Life in the past year has had its fair share of up and downs, the downs happening prominently in the summer when we failed to have structured activities planned for you during the week. Oddly, smart kids don’t deal well with boredom, and once school resumed all these strange behaviors cured themselves. And by strange I mean “your average six-and-a-half-year old testing boundaries and seeing if her parents really mean what they say.”

Turns out we do!

Which is why in the last month you have gone to bed without anything to eat more times than we should probably admit publicly. Because we set some new rules about food, and hey-oh! Life got so much easier. Eventually I think you’re going to try some of the food we’re cooking instead of sitting there staring at the plate blankly thinking, “They seem think I won’t go to bed hungry, BUT DO THEY NOT REMEMBER WHAT THEY GAVE BIRTH TO?

Yes, I know you’re thinking that. And yes, I do remember.

The ups far outweigh the downs, and like I told you last year in your newsletter, I couldn’t be more proud of who you are as a sister. And it’s not just me who notices. Almost everyone who sees you interact with Marlo comments on how gentle you are with her, how giving, how forgiving, because she can be an outright turd.

You’re never harsh with her. Never. And we rarely have to ask you to share your things with her because you readily want to show her everything. This has to be the most beautiful thing about having a family, seeing my children interact and laugh with each other. Yes, the laughing the two of you do together is second only to watching you lead her by the hand into the playroom.

Grandmommy thinks she is Marlo’s favorite person in the world, but I’m going to share a secret with you. Marlo may call out for me when she’s scared or has bumped her head AGAIN, but she squeals when she knows you’ve come home from school. She runs to be by your side. She imitates your every move.

I think you are Marlo’s hero.

As your mother I am blessed to be able to witness this. Thank you for being such an amazing older sister.