The only thing The Dormouse wanted to do for her ninth birthday was go to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Festival... again.  We spent a big wad of money on the Ren. Fair when we went last month, but she decided she'd rather do that than have a party with lots of friends.  Then as the day drew close, she realized that there'd be none of her friends to celebrate her birthday with her and started to get disappointed about that.  She needed a win this month, so we invited a family we know with kids similar in age to ours to come with us and paid their way in as bribery (because I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have come otherwise).  And then those people wanted to stay overnight in a hotel so they could swim in the pool.  And then we came up with the idea of going to Hershey's Chocolate World the next day.  And that's how The Dormouse's ninth birthday got away from us... little by little.

Word to the wise. If you plan and spend hundreds of dollars on not just an event but an entire Destination Birthday, but you do not have boxes of presents to open, the birthday will be a bust. You will have to explain that the books she got last night and the money she received from Grandmas and Grandpas and the costumes and the friends coming along and the overnight hotel stay and the food and the rides and the swimming and the gift card from that awful store and and and... actually ARE her birthday presents and she better start appreciating them or next year she could stay home and open box after box of Nothing.

She eventually figured it out.

Another point of information.  You will also have to deal with a whole new year of attitude when she asks you to be allowed to go wander around the fair by herself with her friend and no adults.  And when you say no, it's just too crowded, her snarky response will be: "Oh. I guess I didn't just turn nine then."

Like the world had just changed and its rules no longer had hold over her but we were just to stupid and had failed to recognize that fact.

I apologize if this comes off as complainy or bitchy (I'm seeing a doctor to have that removed) and maybe this should be another post entirely, but what I'm about to say below has been on my mind for some time and like most things that are bouncing around in there, they grow mold if I don't flush them out.

In reflecting over the last nine years of parenthood, I think one of the things that has bothered me the most is the number of people who just don't like my kid, or who go out of their way to point out her faults. I've run across this from friends, family, coworkers, acquaintances, teachers and people in the grocery store in ways that range from innocent and appropriate all the way to obvious, intentional and downright mean. I know I shouldn't take it personally and I admit, I'm guilty of saying something negative about her within earshot more than once. It's something I'm working on. But when other people say mean things about your kid to you, there are no two ways about it.  It hurts.

Here's the thing. You may think you're performing a service to the world by pointing shortcomings to the parents of a spirited child but you are really only accomplishing two things: you are hurting the feelings of the parent and you are bit by bit destroying the self esteem of a child who could sometimes could use a little more positive reinforcement. What you are NOT doing is "helping."

Look, I know my kid can be annoying. I live with her every day. If you think the Annoying isn't obvious to me, the person who puts up with her 24/7, then you must really think I walk around in a daze. She's not a shrinking wallflower, I get that. In times past, when children were supposed to be seen and not heard, my kid would never have excelled. Hell, she'd never have survived. That's why I'm glad she was born now. 

She's never been shy. She's never been afraid to speak her mind. She doesn't back down when she thinks she's right. She has boundless enthusiasm for... pretty much everything... which can quickly turn into overbearing. She'll dig her heels in on some unimportant point and argue until she's blue in the face. She hasn't quite figured out how to reign all that in just yet because... She's. Only. Nine. But it's exactly those qualities that are going to serve her well in adulthood and if the world crushes her enthusiasm now, before she gets to the point where those qualities are useful and appreciated, it would be a huge shame. You might be proud of your kid who never speaks to adults, can't be heard above a whisper when she answers questions, and always does everything everyone tells him without question, but you are just going to have different problems when that kid gets to high school and college. So good job on the child raising. Let me know how the therapy works out. It's like I told her teacher in our conference last week: All the education in the world will be useless to her if she doesn't emerge from these years with an in-tact self concept.

She still has a lot of learning to do about how to be in life. So, yes, I know my kid can be annoying. But you know what? Yours can too. I'm annoyed by someone's kid every day, multiple times a day. It's what kids do. I'm pretty sure the main goal of every kid's life is to see how MANY people they can annoy each day.  So maybe we should all just remember what Thumper's mom told him and keep it to your @#$% self.  (paraphrasing)

This kid is fearless in so many ways...

brilliant in so many ways...

beautiful in so many ways... 

And I love her in more ways than I ever thought possible.

I joke a lot about how I used to have a life before The Children came, but the truth is that in many ways, my life didn't really begin until This One entered into it. These nine years have been wonderful, bucolic, maddening, hilarious, frightening, desperate, and awe inspiring.

There's so much I want for her, but if there was only one thing I could teach my children, it would be that in this life, there is joy.  Sure there will be sadness, death, pain, fear and loss, but along with that (not despite it, but often because of it), if they choose to look at it right, there is joy in this life. And they have every right to claim it.

I want her to fly.