My Josie, Josie-jo, JoJo, JoJo-Bean. Little Monkey. Sweet Pea.
Today you are seven years old. It's crazy to think that it's been seven years since I checked myself into St. Joe's at the crack of dawn so that I could meet you a few hours later. Happy birthday to you. Happy birth day to me.
It's been amazing fun hanging out with you and watching you grow. Last year when I was writing your birthday post, you were just starting first grade and it was a little daunting for you. Though you like to ham it up and act like the life of the party, I could tell that being the youngest kid in the class at a time when so much of learning is developmental was hard. Other kids were getting comfortable with reading and you had fallen a little bit behind and sometimes it made you feel stupid.
Reading is one of those things that kids get when they get. One day it just clicks. I knew it would click for you eventually and that you'd be fine. But seeing you struggle in the meantime was hard.
Of course, it did click for you and then you were off and running, getting a reading award for your class by the end of the year. It was another opportunity to watch you go from "I'm stupid and I can't do anything" to "Mama, look how great I am" in the blink of an eye.
You continue to be this warm, friendly, outgoing social butterfly. On the first day of school, after being all anxious about whether anyone would like you or be happy to see you, as soon as we got to the playground you saw some of your girlfriends and the three of you immediately threw your arms around each other and started jumping up and down and squealing. When I'm dropping you off before school, I'll run into the parents of friends of yours and they all laugh about how funny and amazing you are. "We need to set up a play date! Snowflake never stops talking about how hilarious Josie is!"
You walk around cracking jokes and making funny faces and goofing off with people, young and old. You're affectionate and sweet and generous. You'll sit on my dad's lap and give him kisses and scruff up his hair and say, "Papa, you're so cute! I love you so much!" When Lisa and her kids came to the Outer Banks with us, you adopted four-year-old India as your special charge, holding her hand in the water and snuggling with her during quiet time.
You have recently developed this urge to give people money. You're constantly sticking coins or dollar bills in your backpack because you want to give money to your teachers, or your friends, or to Mimi and Papa. When a bunch of my India peeps were visiting and I was having a get-together at the house, you brought your piggy bank downstairs to give to my friend Rob - the image of him sitting in the living room chatting with people while holding your big ceramic Minions bank in his lap is one that cracks me up to think about.
Another new thing is that you have developed a, shall we say, interesting relationship with the truth. You seem to have no compunction at all about making up random shit when the mood strikes. My favorite recent example involves your new second grade teacher. The first week of school you came home all excited to tell me that Mr. O is Australian.
"Really?" I asked. "That's so cool. You guys have that in common."
"Weeeell, he's not all the way Australian. Just half, like me. I know he spent a bunch of time teaching and traveling there."
"You'll have to tell him about your trips there," I said.
That night I relayed this story to my mom.
"Do you think she's telling the truth?" she asked.
She knows you.
"I think so. It strikes me as a weirdly random and specific thing to make up," I answered.
A day or two later when I was dropping you off at school, I walked up to Mr. O to say hi.
"I hear you and Josie have Australian heritage in common," I said. "She told me you're part Australian and that you spent time there."
He gave me the blankest look imaginable.
"Noooo," he responded.
I looked down at you. "Girl, what's the deal?" I asked.
You smiled and shrugged.
Mr. O offered, "my father is from Nigeria."
He and I had a good laugh about it.
Your relationship with your brother continues to bring me great joy. The two of you are each other's best friend. You look out for each other and play and giggle and conspire together. And also fight.
The fights can get interesting.
The other night you and Zeke were arguing about something - the basis of the dispute was the inability of any of us to remember whose turn it was to sit next to me while watching a movie.
This is something that must be diligently tracked. God forbid either of you should get one more moment of snuggle time with me than the other does.
I was exhausted and irritated by the entire argument, so I left the room and told the two of you to figure it out. You and Zeke proceeded to scream furiously at each other at top volume. It was so loud and awful-sounding that I half expected the police to knock on the door.
After five minutes, Zeke came and found me. He was crying. I opened my arms and he crawled into them, despondent.
"What happened, honey?" I asked.
"Josie screamed at me that I have a terrible memory, and then she called me a fucking idiot," he sobbed.
Yikes. Damn, girl.
You came into the room a couple of minutes later, also crying and terribly upset. I gathered you on the other side of me and the three of us sat there quietly for a minute.
"You guys need to make up," I said. "You need to get over this fight. Josie, you can't swear at Zeke and call him names like that. You guys can't scream at each other like that. Take a deep breath and let's calm down. Can you do that?"
The answer was yes. You calmed down. You apologized to Zeke and gave him a hug. We went into my room and snuggled up to watch Mythbusters (your favorite show).
I think seven is going to be an interesting year.
As ever, I consider it a great privilege and blessing to be your mother, and to usher you through childhood and into adulthood. You make me happy and proud. You're great company. You make me laugh and cry.
And you make me drink a little. Let's be honest.
Happy birthday, sweet baby girl. I love you to stars and back.