Celebrating my 9-year-old on International Day of the Girl

Dear AB,

Today is International Day of the Girl Child, and it seems a great opportunity to talk about you, my Rainbow baby, seeing as your birthday was less than two weeks ago.

Your birthday will henceforth always fall on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation (though you have been wearing an orange shirt on your birthday for a while already). You have been raised by your family and your teachers to understand why truth and reconciliation are important, so you have not begrudged sharing your special day – although you admitted it was a little odd to be reminded on the school announcements that we must all be solemn when inside, you were celebrating being nine at last.

I was moved on that day by the huge numbers of orange shirts visible in schools and throughout our community. I was glad that in Ontario, we still went to school on that day, so that we can continue working to reinstate the Indigenous history and knowledge and expertise that was erased from curricula for so long.

But also… I was emotional about my baby turning nine. In particular because you are so NOT a baby, in so many ways.

Right now, you are very VERY into Warrior Cats. You have an abiding love for those Guardian Herd pegasi as well. I finally finished reading the last Harry Potter to you just before your birthday, and all the romantic bits are very compelling to you (even though you still go “Blechh!” any time two people kiss on-screen). You’re a good singer and a funky dancer and an obsessive reader and writer (we’ve lost count of the number of books you’ve begun writing, though they mostly are still on Chapter 1).

You have a very strong sense of style that I don’t even try to nudge. Even working with almost exclusively hand-me-downs and secondhand finds, your style is edgy and cute, and wayyyy cooler than I could have even imagined being at your age. One of the birthday presents you were really excited about was some semi-permanent hair dye. Just like the time you got a pixie haircut and didn’t bat an eye, you had zero qualms about diving straight into the Midnight Blue.

Birthday morning hair.
A few days later, on a hike, with Midnight Blue tips.

Sometimes, your attitude is still tough to deal with, although you are gradually mellowing. There is not nearly as much screaming these days as there was in the not-too-distant past. Maybe you have realized how counter-productive it is? Finally? But you are very stubborn when you don’t want to do something. You are sometimes quite icky (there’s another word that comes to mind but I won’t write it here) to members of your family – mostly your big brother – if things aren’t going as you would wish. Your rants can be pretty withering. And trying to get you to accomplish things (like getting dressed or picking up after yourself) faster than a turtle’s walking pace is a daily challenge. There’s a teenager-ish vibe that can be downright disorienting.

Then again, you still play often, full of your wonderful child’s imagination. Your toy horses are always the first you reach for, but there are many others too – and you happily play by yourself for as much time as you have. You often go outside and be a wild animal, or make natural ‘medicines’ or leaf-salad for your owl friend (Larry), or sing inspirational songs to yourself. (The best is when you sing and dance.) Thankfully, you have friends who are right there in imagination-land with you, creating worlds where you can be mothers and babies and water dragons and custom chewing-gum producers (the Queen herself orders gum from you).

I don’t think you’re nearly as sentimental as your brother and I are, but you do feel deeply. You have profound compassion for the suffering of others – humans and other animals. You have a firm grasp of the unacceptability of injustice. And you are loving – so much so that I shake my head in awe. Your Mama-bond especially is deep and wide. A year or two ago, it was a very clingy bond, but now it complements your growing independence. We have really good hugs and I-love-yous every day, and I cherish them all. Even when you’re mostly stalling for bedtime. My favourite is when we’re in the car and I look at you in the backseat, and you give me the sweetest smile and I feel this gorgeous ribbon of love squishing my heart. You are so beautiful that it almost hurts.

I hope that you will always know this about yourself. How your beauty is your smile, your uninhibited dance, your imagination, your passion, your sense of what is right and what is you, and especially your boundless love for others. I love you SO much, and always will, no matter where we are, every single minute.


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