She and I are loud in the car, singing at the top of our lungs. Her voice is young but true, shameless and without embarrassment as she mangles the song lyrics and belts out the chorus.
She and I are locked in a constant struggle about math and whether she can count by sixes or add a column of four numbers or write 5 facing the right direction. I send her to her room and she stomps fiercely up the stairs, knows better than to slam the door. I hear her screechy complaints from the kitchen, where I resignedly wait for her to get over it and try again. Five minutes later she is back at the table, pencil in hand, writing 6-12-18-24-30-36 on her math worksheet as though she’s been counting by sixes since she learned to count.
She is in the bathroom, talking to the wrong end of me as I bend over the toilet with my rubber gloves and scrub brush. She keeps up a constant stream of chatter about her friends across the street, how hard it is to do a backbend at gymnastics, how funny Olaf is in Frozen, how she fell asleep last night curled up in a ball with her fingers in her ears and her face squinched tight because there was thunder and she just really doesn’t like thunder very much.
She is flopped down in a chair, reading Junie B. Jones Is a Beauty Shop Guy, giggling and reading her favorite parts out loud. “But Mommy,” she declares very seriously, “I used to try to cut my hair, but now I know better and Junie B. was very naughty when she did that and I would not ever do that.” I nod, and put the scissors up a little higher.
“Mommy,” she asks, “Why is that lady on the radio singing about “Your presents, Lord?”
She is dressed in a fluffy black tutu and a unicorn t-shirt, helping her daddy in the garden, fearlessly carrying around the worms she dug up.
She comes in from riding her bike through mud-puddles, streaked in grime and splashed with mud, and asks if I can put a princess braid in her hair because she wants to play dress-up.
She is screaming bloody murder because her brother sang, “Happy birthday to you, you live in a zoo, you look like a naked mole rat and you smell like one, too.” Two minutes later she is singing her own version– “you look like a skunk, and you smell like P.U.”
She has covered the table in glitter and Legos and crayons and glue and paper. She is making cards for her friends, notes for her cousins, a grocery store or maybe an ice cream shop or a hotel or a picture that says “I love you! Mommy Gracie loves Mommy fourever.”
She is putting away dishes, so busy talking to me about the dream she had or how she was playing with Bear this morning or how she just really really wants that million-dollar Lego set and she doesn’t know how she’s ever going to get money for it because she is too little to mow lawns like the brothers. She stands with the same dish in her hand for five minutes as I scurry around her, scrambling eggs, stirring oatmeal.
She is mad at me and I am frustrated with her, and she is crying and I am sending her to her room again.
Her arms are flung around me in a fierce and wild hug; she is begging to be snuggled and tickled and picked up and carried.
She insists on painting her own toenails– two shades of blue on one foot, two shades of pink on the other– gets mad when I say I will do her fingernails. “I want to do it myself, Mom!” she says, with an eyeroll that would do a girl twice her age proud. Half an hour later she is crying because she doesn’t want to be by herself in her room at bedtime. I win both arguments. Ten minutes later she is asleep, fancy two-toned pink nails clutched around her teddy bear.
She stands in the shower with a washcloth over her eyes while I rinse her hair, and she sings “Praise Him, praise Him, all you little children! God is love! God is love!” Five minutes later she is shivering on the rug, wrapped in a towel, complaining that she is cold and she doesn’t want me to comb her hair and she doesn’t want to go into her cold room and put on her cold pajamas.
She is wild swings of mood and wild affection and wild anger, and she is not what I expected when God gave me a girl but she is a gift of His sweet favor and His sense of fun. She is laughter and tears and screaming and whispering, writing in journals and on the walls with sharpies, reading long words but pretending she can’t read the short ones. She is hugs and kisses and dirt and worms, a strange mixture of sugar and spice and dirt and fearless bravery and terror of thunder. She carries worms but shrieks about flies; tries to do gymnastics on the pews at church (gets in trouble); stomps in puddles in her rainboots.
She loves bread and butter, pasta and butter, toast and butter, plain butter. She loves her Daddy, her brothers (usually), her friends. She loves fluffy dresses and also grungy sweatpants, bike rides and books, fancy sparkling dress shoes and the grimiest pair of tennis shoes ever. She loves singing (but not in public), teddy bears, writing, reading (but not math!), dancing around, pounding on the piano, coloring, and baking. She doesn’t like mashed potatoes, fried eggs, bacon, or being alone.
She is seven years old, and she is a whirling, shrieking, wild reminder of His wild unceasing grace.
Happy Birthday, Pooka. Mama loves you forever.