Hey, Jenna. 

You’re turning 10. Or, rather, you did last weekend. I wrote your post that day, but getting photos onto my computer is hard. Whatever. Anyway. I want to tell you a couple stories that you haven’t yet forgotten, but that maybe will be fun to remember in a few years.

We were at Costco the other day. I had a fully loaded cart, four kids, and we were (finally) checking out. We were going to make it home and I’d found all the items on my list, even the turkey brine leftover from Thanksgiving. 

The little two were squirming everywhere. At 4 and 6, they’re not so small. When you and K were those ages, you were (by plenty) The Big Two already. We were masked, but Brian and Lilly are only minimally aware of this thing called “social distancing.” (If you’re reading this in the future, it’s 2020. Yep. THAT year.) Telling them to stand “one Daddy length” away from other people is fairly ineffective. So I try to herd them. “Give the other customers some space, babies. That’s how we love our neighbors right now.” 

You leaned over and whispered, “poop in a bag.” 

I was the only one who heard you, and I snort-laughed. We had come across this Slugs and Bugs song a couple months ago that was introduced as a song about a way to love our neighbors, and it was, but it was particularly about how we love our neighbors by… cleaning up after our dogs. So the confused cashier shot a look at this crazy, middle-aged mama laughing at an inappropriate volume as her children scurried every which way. I’ve chuckled about it on and off ever since. 

It was 11 o’clock at night. I have no idea why you were up, except that you’re always up late, trying to score some one-on-one time with me. Not that I blame you. I am pretty awesome. 

Anyway. You were doing the thing, stalling, trying to distract me from my book and the fact that it was way too late and you’d definitely been sent to bed already. You opened my nightstand. “What’s this?” you handed me a little tube. “It’s lip balm, please go to bed,” I replied. On a whim, I got a little on my finger and, before you quite knew what was happening, I swiped it over your lips. 

A pause.

“Mom, this tastes like inhaling in a porta-potty.”

And now I will never be able to use that again without thinking of the weird cherry-scented urinal cakes that seem to be in every Sani-can at every playground here. Thankssomuch. 

Okay, besides weird bathroom humor, the reason I’m telling you (and the people eavesdropping on this Very Private Letter that I’m posting on The Internet) is because you seem to have crossed a critical developmental threshold. You’ve always been funny. You told something like a first joke before you turned one. But your humor has bumped up to inside jokes and… whatever that lip balm thing was. Humor via oddly specific description? I don’t even know. But it’s frickin’ funny and I really enjoy laughing with you. 

Did you know I used to think I didn’t like 9- and 10-year-olds? For real. When I worked at camp and when I substitute taught and when I helped in various Sunday school classes, fourth and fifth grade was always the group that I’d inwardly groan at. I’d do it, and I don’t remember having any terrible experiences with kids that age, but I always dreaded it. I worried, like, a lot, about how it would be when I had my own. And then I had you and worried that you’d hit fourth grade and I wouldn’t enjoy you anymore or somesuch idiocy.

In retrospect, I think it’s myself at that age I don’t like and I’d have to unpack that with a therapist to figure out why. But then you hit this stage and I was relieved and delighted to find it’s kinda my favorite. (Yes, I DO say that about all the stages. But also, it’s true.) I didn’t know how fun it would be to share inside jokes with my kid. To have you make me spit my drink on command because your comic timing is impeccable.

Are we friends? Not really, I still really need to be the mom and you still really need parenting. But there are elements of actual, grown-up friendship that I can enjoy with you. It’s a little like when you started playing Blockus and Cribbage and I didn’t have to drag myself through Candyland and Connect 4 anymore. I get to do things with you that  enjoy, not just try to find a way to enjoy the things you can do with me. 

That’s a lot of words to say one thing: you delight me. And you’re growing up exactly right. I’m glad I like you, even though you’re 10. And, no, you can’t have my lip balm just because you ruined it for me.

Published by robininalaska

Robin Chapman is a part-time writer, editor, and birth photographer and a full-time imperfect mama, wife, Jesus follower, and normalizer of failure. She’s trying hard to learn how to do this motherhood thing in a way that doesn’t land the whole family in intensive therapy. She has a heart for helping other mamas buried in the little years with hope, humor, and solidarity. You can find her hiding out in the bathroom with an iced dirty chai, writing and editing and making spreadsheets for KindredMom.com where she is a cheerleader for mamas, or online looking for grace in her mundane and weird life. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her four delightful (crazy) kids—some homeschooled, some public schooled, some too young for school at all—and her ridiculously good looking husband, Andrew.

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