I'm not quite certain how it's possible, but that's the number of years it's been since Riley Jayne made her grand entrance into this world. It's funny...with each age, I've decided, "No this is my favorite." As she's grown and matured, I've found something delightful in each stage of the process. And even though I worry we might soon be reaching a point where that isn't so much the case (Dear Lord, she's almost a 'Tween!) there's been much this past year that has made me so very proud.
Riley began asking about getting her ears pierced a year or so ago. Knowing her to be a true literalist and not one to forget anything, I carefully side-stepped committing to a specific time frame or age. In a stroke of pure parental genius (or maybe just spectacularly good luck), I suggested that, before she could experience this rite of passage, she'd need to earn it by showing me that she was truly responsible enough to take care of her holey head herself. This served multiple purposes: 1) it was a great stalling tactic; 2) it decreased the likelihood that her poor father or step-mother would someday be cursing me under their breath while trying to extract an embedded earring back from an inflamed ear; and 3) it motivated her to step up her maturity game.
Maybe I shouldn't have been, but I was surprised at how seriously she took this challenge. Repeatedly, I'd find her taking on chores and responsibilities I hadn't even thought to suggest yet. Typically followed, of course, with a pointed comment or question as to how well she was showing me she could be responsible. Suddenly, I discovered I had a daughter who not only knew how to pick out her own clothes, but place them in the hamper when they were dirty. Who could prepare and take a shower without assistance -- even if getting all the shampoo out was sometimes a little tricky. Who could cook her own bacon and eggs and heat up her own slice of leftover pizza. Who could open her own lemonade cans. Who could feed the dog and train him. Who could brush her own hair, and, sometimes, her teeth without prompting. Who was slowly but surely easing away from the thumb sucking.
And with the added assumption of responsibility has come an ever increasing air of independence and self-confidence. The little girl who used to cling to my leg, sobbing, when I dropped her off for school, now hops on the bus in the morning without batting an eye. The one who used to be petrified at the thought of removing the training wheels from her bike now rides off down the sidewalk on a mere two wheels, sporting a grin from ear to ear. The kid who was often too scared to even swing the bat is now slugging softballs aggressively.
Though I certainly can't take credit for all of the above, I do take a certain amount of pride in her progress. And yet, there's a bittersweet note to all of it. For with that sense of pride in the fact that my little girl is growing up, comes the realization that my little girl won't long be a little girl.
But for now, she's just right. She's nine. And she has pierced ears! Happy Birthday, Riley Jayne! I love you and am so proud of you!!