Sophie celebrates her ninth birthday tomorrow. To mark the occasion, it would be easy to spew out the usual platitudes about her annual milestone – how I love her, how she enriches our life, how she’s metamorphosing before our very eyes.
Instead, I’ve spent the past couple of days contemplating how refreshing it is that, in Sophie’s world, nine is simply nine. Sophie is still very much a child, you see. In her mannerisms, in her speaking, in her hobbies, in her unpredictable mood swings. Unlike Chloe at nine, Sophie isn’t yet too jaded or too mature for her own good.
I don’t know why Sophie is the way she is, any more than I know why Chloe is the way she is. Are their differences in personality due to their birth order? Our treatment of Chloe as first-time parents and of Sophie as more lackadaisical, yet simultaneously more coddling, second-time parents? The influence of their friends? I’m sure it’s a combination of those and many other disparate factors.
With Sophie, nine means nine. No more, no less. In honor of her special day, here are nine ways Sophie embraces her kid essence and makes me want to be nine again, too.
(1) Sophie is a collector. When I’m in a less charitable mood, I call her a hoarder. She collects Beanie Boos, stuffed animals, coins, bottle caps, shells, rocks, Legos, Labbits, hotel room key cards and anything else that can fit into a box.
(2) Sophie still makes rookie grammar mistakes when she talks. She hasn’t yet mastered the past tense of certain verbs and every once in a while, she’ll slip. Like when she exclaims, “Let me show you the Beanie Boo I buyed myself today, Mom!” And I’m charmed, despite my uncontrollable urge to correct her.
(3) Sophie likes to be given responsibility, especially when she can exercise it at her convenience. Truffle is one of her special projects. She’s trained him to do a few tricks. She sometimes takes care of him, too, when she’s in the mood.
(4) When Sophie receives a good grade on a school test, she beams. Each and every time. And she makes a point of proudly announcing it to Chloe, in a “Ha! I’m smart, too!” kind of way.
(5) Sophie started basketball lessons at the local YMCA couple of weeks ago (yes, we seem to be making progress with the ‘S’ word). So far, so good. I sit on a bench and watch her play. And when she successfully shoots a basket, she always looks my way – with a big grin plastered on her face – to make sure I’ve seen it.
(6) She cries when she’s overtired. At the slightest provocation. A stubbed toe, a scratch from Truffle’s paw, if one of us happens to look at her the wrong way or asks her to do something she doesn’t want to do (like go to New York City for the day). I’m sure that many times, the tears are genuine. I’m also sure that just as frequently, in a feat of masterful manipulation, she mentally commands them to stream down her cheeks.
(7) Every now and then, Sophie will use a word that is a couple of syllables too big for her. When that happens, she’ll say it out loud, pause in surprise – almost as if she can’t quite believe it came out of her mouth – and look at us. Sometimes, she uses the word in the correct context and I smile and think to myself, “She’s growing up.” Sometimes, the word has no business in the sentence and I smile and think to myself, “She’s still my little Sophie.”
(8) Sophie is not at all ashamed about the fact that she remains as attached to her tattered old burp cloths today as she was when she was an infant. Actually, she’s probably more attached to them now because she’s acutely aware that their days are numbered. As I’ve chronicled multiple times on this blog, her two “towels” are her most cherished possessions. She treats them like the Hope Diamond and would most definitely keep them under lock and key if she didn’t need to hold them in her arms in order to fall asleep at night.
(9) Sophie often expresses herself in slow motion. She’ll start a sentence, lose her train of thought for a second or two and start over again. And again. And again. When this happens, her mouth moves faster than her brain. The lips seem to form words, but there is no sound. And I want to squeeze her, just a little bit, to force the words out. Instead, I sometimes find myself using hand motions to move her along. Which inevitably distracts her, causes her to berate me: “Mom! Let me finish!” and start all over again.
People often say, myself included, that kids today grow up so quickly. That when we were their age, we never did [fill in the blank], never wore [fill in the blank], would never say [fill in the blank]. For the most part, I think that’s generally true.
Where Sophie is concerned, however, when I’m inclined to compare my kid self to her, the resulting equation is almost always equal on both sides. She’s not more [fill in the blank] or less [fill in the blank]. She’s Sophie. She’s a kid. And she’s simply nine.