Casey and I have begun to really evaluate and think about what we hope our children will take away from their upbringings in our home. We've always purposed to be intentional in our parenting; we don't want to simply let things happen haphazardly. With Leah turning five, it struck us that we really are at that point where she is going to have solid memories about her childhood - what will those look like? It made us take another look at how we go about things in the hopes that we can purposefully shape what we do to have a positive impact on who she will become.
Coming up with some new family traditions - more concrete traditions, now that her being old enough warrants them - was a good step in that direction.
So, the night before her birthday, we decorated the door to her room. When she woke up, it was to streamers and balloons hanging all around the door.
And let me tell you, she was SO excited!
We also decorated the kitchen the night before and prepared a special birthday table for her to come down to in the morning. It was nothing elaborate, just a few little things here and there to really make her feel loved.
The Happy Birthday banner my mom and I made before her first birthday, which has subsequently made its way out every year (probably because it was a stinking lot of work, and perhaps in equal parts that it looks cool).
The chocolate cupcakes she asked for. Pink balloons on her chair. I dug her birth announcement out of the basement so that she could see it. A couple of very small presents - the only ones we get her. In our house, her big present is always her party.
My favorite new addition this year is a tradition that we called Love Notes for Leah. The entire family spent the week leading up to her birthday jotting down quick things that we love about her. Logan loves playing with her. Mommy loves her heart for the Lord. Daddy loves how she joyfully serves her family. On her birthday, we spent the day reading a few here and there.
By the time kids get to 8th grade, I have watched with horror at how dramatically the world has chewed them up and spit them out. So often, they have such an unrealistic view of themselves, because the world around them has torn them down and turned their gifts and uniqueness into nothing. Made them feel imperfect and devalued. I am not someone who believes that kids should be praised needlessly or given trophies merely for participation, but I am a true believer that part of our job as parents is to root them in their inherent value and convey to them just how loved they are, exactly as they are. To build them up by telling them about the wonderful contribution they bring to us as a family. And that's just what this tradition was meant to celebrate. How lucky we are that God chose us to raise that girl, to be her mother, brother, father and sister, and what a unique and lovely person she is - just as she is.
She will have many years when the voices of those around her threaten to drown out what I have only a few years to instill: that she is loved, that she is valued, that she is worth more than rubies. That her worth is not connected to her choices, good or bad, but is inherently and irreversibly linked to who she is as a blessed and loved child of God.
Every year, her response humbles me.
She has exactly the right attitude. An attitude of gratitude. Of awe. Of appreciation and joy. She feels loved. Not because of things, but because someone took the time to celebrate her. To stop and tell her that she is loved and worth loving.
Her one present - the one that I was SO excited to give her - is the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. As a lover of literature, I have treasured the days we've spent immersed in children's books. We love Dr. Seuss. We adore Fancy Nancy. We read, tons and tons and tons. But this gift marks a bit of a turning point into actual literature, and I am so stoked. Purchasing this collection literally gave me goose bumps as I think about what's to come, and the doors that are open to us now, really for the first time.
And, of course, I again loved her reaction, that sweet, darling girl.
It was such a wonderful morning. I just love these moments together as a family.
To cap off the day, she got to choose our family dinner. Because five year olds have exquisite, sophisticated taste, that included: enchiladas, chips and guacamole, and orzo with parmesan cheese.
Livvy Lou helped me prepare the meal. And she's never going to turn five.