Small Z is eight. Right at the beginning of big kid land. Still playing happily with Z-Mow, but absorbing more and more of the world around her, while submerging into books whenever she can. You are a maker, Small Z. Almost infinitely patient with your smaller and (at present) savager sister – at times you do better than me in this respect.
I see you bounding around like a baby giraffe, all legs, eyes, ears and hair. Curious about all the things. For so long I have negotiated our way through libraries and books – because just because you CAN read it, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. I still turn newspapers over so you don’t see the lurid and depressing headlines that would cause anxiety and worry. Slowly I can see you assimilating the bad bits of the world with the good…
One of the (many) things I have seen in you and your sister this past year is how you display your empathy. At my lowest lowest point, neither of you fell apart or demanded my attention. You got busy. As I lay there, griefstricken, mute, little drawings and love messages landed all around me. “I’m so sorry about Beard, mama.” and “Mama, are you going to not-talk forever?” You stroked my hair.
I tell you how lucky we all are that you have grown up this far without exposure to much advertising crap – you have voices and attitudes to burn without any crazy input at all. The words you invent, the accents you put on are all hysterical – although you are inclined to persist with them a little bit too long. You have watched more films in the past month than you’ve seen in your whole life – the first two Harry Potters, Shrek, James and the Giant Peach – you’re in love with the Famous Five and I’ve shown you episodes of the television show I used to watch (you have not commented on their flared trousers).
As much as I tell you I want to squish you down so you never grow up, you should also know that I always feel so privileged to play a part in the beginning of your journey. Ever since you were tiny I have been so excited about what you have on your horizon – first it was rolling over – then sitting – crawling – walking – talking and then onwards – you now get on the surf-ski yourself and paddle out into the inlet, stay on your own for an hour or so now and again – and your busking! Ever since you could talk I have been awed by your confidence. Where I was shy, you are upfront and unfazed by the opinions of others. You were raring to play your violin in public, and love to go through your repertoire on the street. I love that you are unabashed and curious and that your sister is observing all of it.
Your compassion is big – so big that sometimes it threatens to engulf you. You worry about animals and whether they are happy. You are distressed when you try and whack a mosquito and it’s not quite dead. Sometimes all this leads to anxiety – deep breaths, deep breaths. On your birthday we went tree surfing. You and I managed every level, and on the final one we stood on a platform about forty feet up a tree. You had been so keen to be attached to a line – the aim was then to jump into space, be held by a wire and then swing into and grab on to a rope net wall. You named it ‘The Splatter’.
You stood on the edge and said something I have rarely heard you say. “I can’t do it. I thought I wanted to do it, but I can’t. It’s too scary. It’s SO high up.” The rope wrangler and I encouraged you, pointed out all the safety things you were attached to. You kept looking down to the far away ground and shaking your head. “No, I can’t do it.” I told you that you should do it, and that once you’d done it, you would be thrilled by what you’d done. “Do it,” I said. “Noooooo…. I don’t think I can.” “Yes you can. I know you can. So do it, go NOW!” You jumped.
When M asked you later what you thought at that second, you said; “I thought I was going to die.” He asked what your favourite thing about the whole tree surfing was. You didn’t hesitate. ‘THE SPLATTER!” You told everyone at the Enchanted Maze that it was your birthday. “I can’t believe I’m eight,” you told me. “I’m growing up. I’m not sure I want to grow up. I like it how I am.” I told you that you’re becoming more amazing each year that I know you – like good cheese, you’re getting better with age. A multi-faceted bouquet. Eight is great! Happy Birthday Zoe Evangeline. We love you.