Almost two weeks ago, Olive turned five.
I didn’t write much about it then, and I told myself it was because I was so busy with her birthday party and her family dinner and the excitement and preparation and post-party exhaustion that came with both.
That was partially true – I love birthdays, and I love making hers special, so I am usually completely pooped by the time it’s all over – but I also just really didn’t know how to write about it without leaning heavily on cliches, or composing a post that was just a single long exhale and a slowly whispered, “Five?!”.
So much of this seems beyond the realm of possibility.
First, that I have a child at all when I still feel like a hapless teenager bumbling her way through life much of the time. I don’t feel like an adult – do you ever really feel like an adult? – and that makes it so hard to understand how I have a child. The rest of the moms I know seem so together, they have “normal” families (I know, I know) and normal homes and other children and jobs they dress up for. It all seems so much more legit somehow than this beautiful, messy, cobbled together existence I inhabit.
This child – my child- is also a daughter. I grew up in a family with one brother, four sisters. My mom is a phenomenal woman, my Grandmother a powerhouse. I married into a family filled with more strong-willed, intelligent, vivacious women and now I’m raising a daughter with this blood in her veins; a genetic history rich in strength of will and depth of character. Good women. Loud women. Women who understand and embody La Loba.
And finally, this child, this daughter of mine, is five. Five years old. Half a decade. A whole hand. She says it as incredulously as I do – splaying her fingers out in front of her in amazement, one for each year of her life.
When I count up the big things that have happened in her life, the five times we’ve moved, the innumerable freelance writing gigs that have paid our bills, the birthdays and Christmasses, it seems so long. But when you look at the little things, it’s ages.
In the past five years, Olive has learned to smile, recognize her hands, roll over, use sign language, crawl, walk, run, jump, talk, use a toilet, and ride a tricycle. She’s gone from cooing and endless repetitions of “Ma-ma-ma” to having complex conversations with me about life, death, love, personal responsibility, and emotional intelligence.
It’s absolutely staggering.
When I sat down to try and sum up these five years I’ve had with her, watching her grow and learn and love, and how fortunate I feel to have had this experience at all, well, I was totally flummoxed.
I still am.
So perhaps this is a good time to talk about her kitty party.
Last year she had a puppy party, and when we talked about her birthday this year she wanted essentially the same thing, but with cats, instead. And thus, the kitty party was born.
I downloaded an invitation template from Etsy, added in some cat-tastic puns, and stole one of Olive’s friend’s ideas for dealing with birthday gifts.
In previous years, I’ve requested that guests not bring gifts but in my experience, people are usually very reluctant to arrive at a birthday party empty-handed. At a birthday party we attended last year, they requested that we bring $5-10 instead of a gift. Half would go to the birthday girl and half to a charity of her choice. I thought it was a fantastic idea, and decided to do the same, donating to the SPCA.
On the day of, she woke up to homemade waffles with whipped cream and sprinkles, and then headed off to kindergarten.
After a special birthday lunch, we went to her party at a local cat cafe where the kids spent an hour petting the cats, and then an hour doing crafts and eating the cafe’s cupcakes. It was so much fun!
After the party, we went to a toy store where Olive picked out the toy she’s wanted for months: a Hatchimal. She originally asked for it for Christmas and I said (and still think) that it was too expensive, but she’s a determined little thing and she decided to buy it on her own.
She saved up her allowance money, washed dishes for loonies at our family get together in Invermere, and used her half of her birthday party money to buy it. I said I would make up the difference as my gift to her, but she was able to pay almost the entire amount using her own money! I was so proud of herself for saving up, and I think she was too.
After sushi dinner and gifts, and homemade cat-cakes, I tucked her into bed. My five-year-old.
Our dinner guests left and the house was quiet. I padded around our empty house, gathering wrapping paper and collecting dishes. After I turned out the lights, I sat there for hours looking through old photos.
Olive when she began really looking like herself, with trademark crazy hair and sleepy eyes.
And these past few months, when she’s begun to look more and more like a young girl than a little kid.
My girl. My five-year-old girl. A whole hand.
It was a happy birthday. A significant one. One that I felt so happy to celebrate with this strong, wild, intelligent, imaginative daughter of mine. I’m so proud of her, and the little person she is so quickly becoming. I feel so lucky to be her mother.
Here’s to another year of playground visits and science centre afternoons, kindergarten stories and playdates. Here’s to learning and talking and working through this beautiful, challenging experience we call life.
Here’s to you, Olive Grace.