Darla is 5 years old today!
I am increasingly careful of what I let Darla overhear because regardless of the topic, she will surprise me with her comprehension, challenge me with her questions, and soften me with her sensitivity. Last week she was in another room entirely when she heard us talking about the high percentage of foster children that have been exposed to drugs.
A moment later she was standing beside me asking, "Mom, what is a drug baby?"
I replied, "It's when a mom doesn't do a good job taking care of her baby growing in her tummy. She puts bad things into her body instead of staying healthy. Then when the baby is born the baby often is sick and has things wrong with their body and mind because of their mom's bad choice."
She was quiet a few minutes. I assumed she had moved on. (Never assume this with Darla.) She re-entered with intention and severity. She looked at S. and said, "Dad, for your job you need to get in the car and drive around the world. You need to tell all the moms to not do that to their babies! Dad, you need to teach them how to take care of their babies and tell them to make good choices! They can't put bad things in their bodies!"
I told her maybe God is showing her things that she has a passion for. She has now decided that along with being a barista, a waitress, and a teacher she is going to drive around the world teaching moms to take care of their unborn children. I don't doubt it. In fact, when I pointed out that this is kind of what her Aunt Megan does (Meg is house mom to unwed, pregnant women) Darla became excited and told Megan, "When I grow up I'll do your job with you! I'll drive over and pick you up, Aunt Megan."
As Darla turns 5 I am humbled by the delight she has been to S. and me. (Okay, aside from the 2 month period as an infant where she would scream bloody murder from 6-8pm every night.) Some moments I look at her and think she's all me; dancing dramatically in front of her reflection, studying books intently, commanding her brothers with "their best" in mind. Other moments I look at her and think she's all S.; memorizing names and striking conversation up with strangers, unable to sleep because she's re-hashing her day, passionate about a good meal.
At 5 Darla is reading. Simple sentences, but reading nonetheless. Her Christmas present was a big whiteboard for by her bed. She spends hours drawing pictures and writing the words she knows with colored dry erase markers. I've been integrating her drawing with reading by writing "books" with a few pieces of paper. Each page has a simple sentence for her to read & then illustrate. Our favorite is "The Cat and the Rat" in which the cat eats the rat. Darla drew a picture of a wide-mouth cat with a rat perched inside. She can't get through the last page, which says "Yum yum" without collapsing in giggles.
We've worked hard with Darla on how to know when enough is enough. She is social and intense by nature but also easily over-stimulated. It's a brutal combination so we've taught her that quiet time is necessary and refreshing, and how to say "no thank you" when someone is coming on too strong and she's about to freak out. Today will be a test in over-stimulation because her birthday falls on her favorite day- Thursday. We get to go to Bible Study and then Jazz & her kids are coming to our house. We don't have enough space so Darla & Pearl won't have naps. They have quiet time together, which Pearl handles fine while poor Darla gets goofier as the minutes tick by. The rest of her cousins, aunts, uncles, and my folks will join us for a cousin party in the evening.
Darla has thought through and planned her party with detail. She reminded me we need paper plates and requested hot dogs for dinner (yes, we are grilling in January). The queen of cupcakes also invented a new idea for this year; she's requested a pinata. She has never tried one so her greatest expectation of the day is what it will be like to hit something with all her might to have it rain candy on her head. What she doesn't know is that I discovered a Tinkerbell pinata last week. Tinkerbell has become a huge deal here and I can hardly wait to surprise her with it.
My prayer for my little girl this year is that her creativity would continue to flourish; that she will not fear taking risks and pursuing passions, however big they may be. I ask that her heart would be tender toward the Lord. I know from experience that when you believe you have all the answers, you are used to being the "boss", and running the show, it's challenging to be humble and receptive.
Yesterday Darla was holding her favorite silky pink blanket. Her eyes widened and she asked in a panic, "Mom!? Do 5 year-olds still have special blankets?" I assured her that she could keep her blanket.
I asked her today what is exciting about being 5. She answered, "I won't have sippy cups anymore- just glass cups. I'm excited to be 5 with Pearl for a lot of days. And I can't wait to go to school and teach all the kids the ABC's and 123's. 'Cuz I already know all that... what they learn in kindergarten." (Oops. Sidenote: never tell your child that they know more than the kids around them)
Just throwing myself out there a bit...