Happy birthday, big girl!

It’s been a banner year for you, Ellie. While 2016 was stomping over the rest of us, you stepped outside your comfort zone, tried new things, and came away from it all grinning and asking for more.

You went to a week-long Girl Scout camp for the first time. We worried about sending you to stay in a strange place, but you jumped in with both feet, with barely a “Love you, bye!” when we dropped you off. You sobbed for hours when it was over and still talk about your camp friends, the memories you made, and how much you can’t wait to go back. We got a glimpse of the independent young woman you’ll be, and it was both heartbreaking and breathtaking to observe.

You’re still our geek; we never have to ask you to do your homework, you voluntarily spend extra time working on math problems and making up assignments for yourself, and you’re a straight-A student. You joined the gifted & talented program this month, the youngest in your class, and it’s given you so much to talk about. I love that you love to learn, and I hope that continues!

You wow me with your ability to make friends and chat people up with only a hint of self-consciousness. Your father and I, staunch introverts, wonder how we made such a bubbly, enthusiastic kid.

And yet, I see shyness in you, too; like this fall, when you refused to dance at your uncle’s wedding. You’re starting to notice differences; what makes people stand out, what makes people blend in. If I could wish for anything, it would be for you to ignore that little voice of self-doubt for a few more years, and to dance with the freedom of your six-year-old self.

For all your maturity, you’re also loud, rambunctious, and silly. You still believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. You have to be reminded not to use bathroom words (and make bathroom noises, ahem) at the dinner table. You still want kisses goodnight and snuggles in the morning.

You’re eager to “grow up”, but scared of what that means. And I have to remind myself that you’re not thirteen (as much as you wish you were). You’re eight — eight! — and you have a lot of growing to do.

Take your time, kiddo. You’re living some pretty great years right now. I’m so lucky I get to watch and cheer you on.