Friday, September 23, 2016

Letter to (Seven Year and Three Month Old) Ann Peyton

Dear Annie,

Summer was really fun with you this year. You and Graves did swim team and made almost every practice. We didn't really stress much about the meets, especially since this was right around when Sister Baby was born, but we made a couple of those, too. I was so proud of you guys- my own little Briarwood Dolphins! 

At the first meet, you were on a relay and some of the other little girls could make it across the pool by themselves but, at that point, you couldn't. At the last minute I heard "Coach Brady" say "someone needs to be in the pool with her!" He was on the other end of the pool and I watched him run toward your end, throw down the crutch he was using for some injury I had yet to figure out, discard the removable brace thing on his leg that he takes off to coach in the pool, and jump in to catch you and help you make it the length of the pool. Y'all were both pretty out of breath by the end of the lap! It was a truly precious moment made infinitely more so because of what a full circle moment it was. Back when I thought Papa was super old (I mean I was fifteen and he was in college!) and a total nerd, Brady was three and his older brother Charlie (who is the Dolphin's head coach now!) was five and they were literally the cutest little boys I'd ever seen in my life. Because I'm no good at keeping things to myself, I'll even admit that they made me want my own little boy one day and I even toyed with the idea of naming him Charlie. Now they are wonderfully kind college aged grown men who still say "yes ma'am" to me and who are jumping in the pool in a heartbeat to take care of my babies. I'm married to that huge nerd who I always saw enjoying playing with the tiny people at the pool and suspected would be an amazing father and I have my own little Dolphins who (in my biased opinion) rival the King boys in cuteness. There are no words to articulate what a special place Briarwood is. I hope you and Graves (and Sister Baby) love it as much as we did!

 By the end of the Summer, you were swimming so well. One morning you swam with a friend who is much more proficient and the peer pressure was SO good for you and graves. You swam in the twelve foot deep end- two weeks before that you wouldn't let Papa take his hands off of you in the four foot area.

Funny aside: You slept in your swimsuit most nights because you are NOT a morning person and you like to take care of as much as possible the night before (I took a hilarious picture of you asleep in the loveseat in our room with your swimsuit on.)

One of the biggest undertaking I wanted to accomplish before the baby got here was finishing up your math curriculum for the year. It had been a bit of a labor of love for awhile. We switched curriculums for second grade and it's been a better fit for you. Finishing up our first grade lessons was a grit your teeth thing for both of us, though. And you favorite time to do it was late at night after Graves fell asleep. Which, I really don't blame you. And it IS easier. But I had gotten to where I was either ready to go straight to sleep or just so touched out and in need of a break. BUT, we did it! You told Minnie how you had finished this curriculum and helped us pick (from among predetermined choices) the one for next year. Papa asked me at the beginning of the pregnancy when I was having a really hard time what I'd do if I had a full time job outside the home. It really hurt my feelings but it also made me think. And now I have my answer. I'd show up in exactly the same way I showed up for you at ten and eleven at night, sometimes pushing ourselves to fit in two lessons, not putting it off except on the very hardest days. And I'd try to have the same patience with my students that I've struggled to find for you this past year in this area. Praise God another year of math is in the books! (Another side note: you are SUCH a night owl. A friend who lives in your neighborhood messaged me to say she saw you and Papa taking a walk at ten pm.)

One thing I love about having you at home is that I get to see how you think so often. It's interesting to me to watch your mind work. You say things you don't realize are funny like "I wonder if Minnie has opened my surprise yet. I think surely she's home by now (she had left five hours earlier and they live in an adjacent county less than ten miles away).

Recently Papa was reading you a story and he asked you to connect the proverb at the end to the actual fable and you weren't able to link them fully-and required a good deal of leading to understand any connection. We often give you so much credit for your ability to read and walk through facts (nonfiction connections), but less literal thinking seems a challenge for you. I think it's very natural at your age but I also think it's partly your personality.

Another thing I've been thinking about is how relationships are SO important to me but people deplete mine and your energy. Awhile back, I overheard Papa talking to you about self-care. You had enjoyed a visit from your grandparents and a long walk AND swim with your brother and your papa and somehow you missed "rest time", which you told us might have been why you were so cranky. I love how self-aware you are. (Papa and I were recently talking about how you're usually willing to try new foods even though you have a good idea of if you'll like it or not.) Now we've just got to work on helping you create your own boundaries (like telling Graves you need time by yourself to read- something you can do whenever you want to).

By far, the biggest thing that happened this Summer was welcoming Sarah Lamar. I will admit you've been a bit ambivilant but also so helpful. I may have already mentioned it in another letter, but you told us that you like babies when they get to be "about two or three years old" which incidently is also exactly when Papa starts to like them, too ;)

That said, I've loved seeing your reactions and hearing your thoughts. When you visited her in the hospital the day after she was born you told us that you read in a book that newborns can only see about twelve inches in front of them so we should probably get close to her when we talk to her. You also said "My name is Ann Peyton but I like it when people call me Annie. But you probably won't be able to call me anything for awhile." And you told me that Sallie's hair feels like a kitty cat's fur. I'm pretty sure the more ways we can find that she's analogous to an animal, the more you'll love her!

The day we came home she was crying really hard and you immedietly picked up a book and started reading to her. Papa said you were "comforting an upset baby the way you knew best". You picked a potty book because she had just had a "potty accident", aka a dirty diaper. Haha!

It's also been so interesting to see y'alls reactions to my nursing the baby, something that constitutes a large part of my vocation these days.You mentioned to me  that animal babies get milk from their mommas, too and I said "oh yes, that's true! Mammals do!" And you said "You do know thar pigeons nurse their young, right?". Well no, actually I didn't. I need to stop Goggling and just know in these cases, you're right.

You also did mention to me at one point that you too wanted "a hundred thousand babies" (something Graves has been saying for over a year). And one day you did go put on your watermelon dress to match a bubble Sallie was wearing.

You and Sallie are such unique, amazing little bookends. I'm so thankful for both of you and of course for Graves.

Speaking of Graves- the other day he was ranking who he loved the most. He said he loved Mickey but not as much as Baby Sallie. And he said he loved her but not as much as you. His sisters are EVERYTHING to him and he serves y'all so often and so well. 

A friend mentioned to me recently how the physical work of motherhood gets easier as small people get bigger but the emotional work is ever often ever more difficult. That's been so true to my experience. I always, always say the most exhausting part of parenting is the emotional resources it requires. And (barring this nutso post partum period) that burden doesn't seem to get any lighter. 

I love, love, love tiny babies. But this part is beautiful too, I have to keep reminding myself how much I enjoy you and Graves so I won't be sad about Sallie growing up. And when Sarah Lamar is seven and like you, washing her own fruit I'll be thirty eight and maybe I won't even have any desire to be up in the middle of the night providing meals to a tiny nursing person. I'm very grateful for all the physical things you and Graves are able to accomplish on your own and how big and strong ya'll are becoming.

But more than that, I'm grateful for the ways I get to watch your mind and heart grow. 
Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your shorts are a 5/6 and your Snoopy tee is a 5. You are showing off your missing tooth, which I'll tell you more about in your next letter =)


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