Thursday, June 15, 2017

Forever six.

My favorite seven-year-old

"The child is within me still.  And sometimes not so still."  - Fred Rogers

November 4, 1986. . .my parents had already tucked me into my yellow canopy bed with my array of stuffed animals, but I lay there in the digital glow of my purple clock radio unable to sleep.   I was anxious.  Distressed.  Agitated.  The next day, I was going to turn seven.  S-E-V-E-N.  I know kids are supposed to be excited about their birthdays but little Jenny most definitely was NOT. I finally couldn't stand it anymore and made the short walk across the hall into my parents' room, where I found my mom reading in her bed. 
She looked up from her book at me in my jammies with my tear-filled eyes.
"I don't want it to be tomorrow," I pleaded,  "I don't WANT to turn seven!!  I want to stay six, Mommy!  Make my birthday not come."
My mom did her best to soothe it away, but I can still remember the ache of that feeling.  I don't even know where it came from, I just knew that I wanted to stay six forever. 
Six was awesome.
Six was jump roping and learning to read.  It was Rainbow Brite and puffy-sleeved dresses and watching the Cosby Show with my parents.  It was stuffed animals and First Communion and Hi-C juice boxes and tag at recess and being friends with everyone.  Being the youngest in my class, I had already witnessed most everyone around me turn seven, I had just decided I didn't want to join them.   (This was a far different emotion than later when I witnessed everyone in my class turn 21. 😉 )

But on that night in 1986, there was no way to stop the clock.  The clock turned, and I along with it.  Seven.  My mom and I still joke about that night, but it turned out that it wasn't the end of the world.  I mean, there was cake, after all!  I turned eight, nine, ten, eleven. . .and now I am checking in at 37 1/2.  This might mean I'm a grown-up, but I still feel like I am doing a lot of growing. Will I ever arrive at being a grown-up?  Sometimes I look around and I am not sure if I even want to. Over the years, as I grew I watched everyone around me "grow up", too. The kids around me got older, wiser, and many of them grew more cynical. More critical. Less enthusiastic.  A little more "exclusive".  Glossed in a veneer of cool and casual totally unfamiliar to our six-year-old selves.   Well, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) for me I am not good at being cool.  Or exclusive.  Or cynical. I think there maybe there is still a part on the inside of me that has stayed six, and still wonders- why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we "grow up", especially when growing up can mean hiding those parts of ourselves that can bring us the most connection and love?  

I ponder this today as my little Joshy turns seven.  As much as I love sweet, bright, enthusiastic and loving SIX, I couldn't keep him there any better than I could keep myself.   All I can do is pray that as he grows, he keeps that six-year-old spirit inside.

So, on this day, this is what I have to say to Josh.  Maybe someday he'll go back and read all of the things his mommy wrote, and know just how loved he is.  And maybe you'll read it and know how loved you are, too.

Joshy, I'm so proud of the way you're growing. I love how you fit in my arms just right for a hug, and run off the bus every day and leap right into them.  I love your sense of humor and the insightful questions you ask and the way you make our family just right.  I love your honesty, your genuine smile, and that adorable giggle that wells up from deep inside you until it overflows.  I love how hard you work in school and how you never want to stop learning.  I admire your faith and your reverence.  I love the way you sing. I adore your patience and your pretend with Shopkins and your assortment of stuffed animals and your love of Dr. Seuss books and stickers and the way you cuddle up on the couch and watch Mister Rogers or Elmo with Noah just as easily as you sandwich between your older brothers to watch Star Wars or Pokemon.

Part of me selfishly wishes I could keep you little forever, but since I can't stop the clock, I just want you to know that as you grow, it's O.K. to just be you.  You are enough.  Your genuine self?  It is MORE than enough.  You are just right.

Here's the thing.  Other people around you are going to be testing out the great big world and trying on all different forms of their grown-up selves.  Someday, those people may shame you for getting too interested in things.  For trying too hard. For your enthusiasm.  For trying to please your teachers.  For following the rules.  For laughing at all the funny things.  For including people who are different.  For singing, or wearing your favorite color, or for liking Disney movies or for your shoes or for taking your time or whatever thing that people of your age may have decided that they are currently too "cool" for. But even when that hot feeling of embarrassment burns inside you, don't let shame creep in and steal your joy.  There is no shame in being authentic, and nothing wrong with being you.  You might consider for a moment if you should be tougher, or different, or if you could somehow be just like everyone else.  But even if you feel like you are on your own path, know you certainly are never alone.  Lots of us have felt that, too. I've often wondered if I should stuff down the parts of me that are different.  Could I be less sensitive?  More jaded?  I have even tried.  But here's what I've learned: It's OK to turn the volume down, but please don't mute the parts of you that make you. . .YOU.  You can't experience joy unless you live life wholeheartedly.  God made you for joy, he made you so special, and he wants all of Y-O-U.

Keep growing, my love, but please keep that tender six-year-old heart, the heart that makes you cry when you see something beautiful or when you see someone sad, the heart that helps you be so quick to say both "I love you" and "I'm sorry."
Keep hugging. Your hugs are the best, the world needs them.
Keep praying. Your childlike faith isn't naive, it's a gift from God.
Keep being spiffy. You can never be overdressed, really.  I love your style. 
You like to take your time- keep taking it.  Please don't hurry when the world tries to make you rush. Rushing is overrated . .follow your own little drum.
Keep creating.
Making new friends everywhere you go.
Being YOU.

Grow big.
Grow strong.
But always keep a little bit of that six-year-old self inside.

Happy 7th birthday, Joshy Pooh!  We love you!

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
Matthew 18:3-5

Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.
Matthew 18:3-5