Last weekend we celebrated Autumn’s sixth birthday.
It’s been a bit of a struggle to get my head around the fact that I am in possession of a six year old! Perhaps it has something to do with her growing independence, her rapidly expanding intelligence or the fact that I cannot keep up with how much her little character keeps changing right before my eyes.
I’ve read that the oldest sibling is often organised, a natural leader, a high achiever, an adult pleaser and independent. And I nod along because I do see many of these traits in Autumn.
There are mornings she is standing at the front door, coat on and school bag packed, waiting on me to get my crap together so we can actually walk up to school.
Is my book bag in, Mummy?
Did you pack a spoon for my yoghurt?
Did you sign my reading diary?
(Her prompts are both helpful and annoying because usually I have done none of that stuff.)
She’s a wee stickler for detail. A far cry from the ‘just wing it’ attitude of her mum she likes to know the whys and wherefores, the ins and outs. On leaving the house it will often sound like this –
Where are we going?
Where is that? Is that near here?
How soon will we be there? How long is that?
Who will be there? I don’t think I know them. Who is that again?
What do they look like? Do they know daddy? Do they live near us?
So, who else will be there?…..
Yeah. It’s tempting to just stay at home.
She’s really perceptive and sensitive to the feel of the mood in our house. If I am stressed or feeling a tad over stretched or fed up, a little voice will always pipe up –
Are you tired mummy?
Why is your face like that?
Are we making you angry mummy?
Do you need a coffee?
Yeah. You don’t get away with passive aggressive in our house.
She’s a hoarder. Under her bed is a warzone of teeny tiny bits of plastic crap and little scraps of paper ‘that are important!’ as well as endless beads, clips, necklaces, purses and lip glosses from Christmas 2012. Every so often I will go in with a bin bag and do a massive clear out while she is at school. Obviously.
She dances around like a deranged Michael flatly. And not in a show off everyone look at me sort of way (a blessing!) – but just off on her own in her room, giving it stacks. ‘I made this up myself!’ she shouts.
She is a plain eater. Nothing with spice or herbs or flavour will pass her lips. She has eaten cheese sandwiches for her lunch everyday for about 8 months. I try to switch it up, sneak in a slither of ham or roast chicken. But no, apparently there are red bits and chewy bits and she comes home with a stern reminder ‘Sure I only like cheese, remember?’ Yep. I remember.
She’s a quiet observer. I see her watching, listening, noticing, thinking and trying to find her way in the world and discover her own wee preferences and personality. In the last few months I have watched her go from Frozen to Monster High (help!) then come back to Frozen then onto discovering the Wii, then dabble in art and craft. These days, it’s pop music and dolls!
She delivers one liners as only a six year old can do. Not long ago, on a dull and dreary, runny nosed, overstretched hideous Sunday afternoon, I was a weeping mess on the sofa and she offered this little gem – ‘It’s good having lots of kids, Mummy. But it is hard.’ I nodded in agreement, staring at her, thinking- how did you come out of me?
And so, my eldest child is six and everything seems to be changing.
There was a time she needed help putting on her shoes and picking out her clothes. She used to bring me her favourite stories to read to her. She used to need me in the school cloakroom.
Now she sorts out her own wee outfits and she can read her own books.
Now she runs off at the gate, barely saying goodbye.
And I am so proud of her having a go and I’m so pleased she is learning and growing and changing. But yet, a small part of me misses being needed in such an obvious, practical way. I miss the days when the roles where so clearly defined and I knew where I stood and how to get it all done well.
So I spent some time thinking about this and I actually came back to the conclusion that Autumn still needs me. (yay!)
But it just looks different now.
It looks more like listening really well and trying to understand her world and believing in her.
It looks like continuing to bang on about being kind and honest and the power that lies in that stuff.
And helping her to notice the forgotten and overlooked, the lonely and lost.
It looks like telling her value and worth mean more than the price and cost.
It looks like helping her face up to everything that upsets, worries and scares her and explaining how being brave can mean talking about it and maybe trying again.
And reminding her that the answers to life are not found on a small screen. That ‘actual’ trumps digital and virtual.
It looks like showing her small does not mean insignificant and vulnerability does not mean weakness.
And telling her our greatest hope for this life lies in the power and presence of Jesus Christ.
And so perhaps the real stuff of parenting begins now? Maybe as she takes another metaphorical step away from me, I need to take a step (insert giant leap) closer to God. Because some of this stuff strikes me as a lot harder than tying shoe laces and choosing outfits…
So I pray for my big six year old, her place and purpose in this world.
And I pray for me, her mum. That I’ll be the mum she needs whatever that looks like or requires or becomes.
I pray for Autumn and me.