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Janell Burley Hofmann Headshot

To My Little Girl

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It is almost here. Soon I will put you on the bus and ship you off to school. You have waited for this day like no other. Just over five years ago, on a freezing March night, you raced (sans doctor) into the world. You were tinier than the others with blazing black hair and fierce green eyes. I brought you home from the hospital to a house full of siblings. The dogs barked frantically to sniff you. The kids pulled and tugged and begged to hold you. Grandparents stood by thrilled to formally welcome you home. I stared across the noise to your Daddy. Silently, we wondered if we were able to care for this life, handle the millions of ways we'd been blessed. You were not rattled by the chaos, but swallowed into it. Immersed as a vital member of the pack in a blink.

You squawked from your carrier and playpen, living in total newborn fear that you were missing the action. At six months, I pushed you lovingly on a baby swing at the playground. Before my eyes, you flipped out flat onto your back. Panicked, I dove to you. You responded with a smile. I gingerly picked you up. You lunged backwards for the swing. I now know this was not an accident, but a daring attempt for a girl that prefers to fly.

You were not a baby long. You did not crawl. Instead I found you places -- inside, on top, over, above -- whenever I looked away. You ran so sure-footed, I am certain that you never walked. Long before your second birthday, you dragged step stools to the toilet and climbed your way to complete independence from diapers all on your own. Underwear sagged off your petite toddler body and even the pediatrician laughed out loud at the sight of you, in complete disbelief of your determination and achievements. You lugged beach gear over dune paths towards the ocean in full summer sun, not satisfied to be carried yourself. You rode a bike without training wheels the spring of your third birthday. You raced along the Cape Cod Canal in a sparkly blue dress and your brothers's old sneakers. Onlookers gasped. At parks, fathers challenged their sons to match your speed on the monkey bars and rings. You were a ferocious climber and your balance was shocking. You cartwheeled and flipped your way through preschool. With your shoulder and thigh muscles bulging and long, black braid whipping through the air, teacher and parents and strangers stood back, astonished.

But your personality far surpassed the intensity of your physical abilities. You made me work. You tested every inch of my patience. As a veteran mother of young children, sweat would drip down my back as I tried to direct and balance all of your beautiful and unbelievable energy. Some days I hid from your irrational passion behind closed doors and wept. Other times, I screamed out loud, my will an ineffective match for your stubborn stamina. You barked orders to big boys in our backyard. And they listened. You howled at the smallest sign of unfairness. You clung to me when you were shy and with all of my strength I could not peel you away. You made up your mind. And it would not be changed. Ever. However unnecessary, you fought for your life -- to keep up, to be seen, to be heard and to be adored. And it worked. Little girl, you stole my heart.

And still there is this side of you that doesn't race. It is sweet and kind and soft. It is when you lay across the floor petting the dog. When you get lost in play with your dolls. When I read to you on the couch in the afternoon. Your breathing slows, your body surrenders. In these moments, you forget the pace you keep. You let go just enough to be held.

And now I must watch you go, officially a big kid. We will both be proud and brave. Our uncertainty will soon slip into confidence. You, my child, were not born to face the world, but to hold it in your hands. You will delight in the challenges and celebrations of it all. And you will shine.

But a quiet corner of my heart hesitates. And it aches at the passing of time. The space where I hold your wild ways hangs on. And carries you always. You made me grow. You made me honest. You made me tougher. You made me better.

Go on little girl, fly. This is just the beginning.

janellhoffman