By Corey Nicolaides - April 03, 2019

I can’t believe you’re six now; I can’t believe you’re six already.

A couple of nights ago, while Mommy and I were watching the hockey game, and after you’d practiced your plié, relevé, and running leaps across the living room, you popped up onto your bean bag chair and announced “I’m just going to read my book now.”

Earlier that night, while we were pairing down your toys (to make room for birthday presents) I asked you to decide if you wanted to keep X toy, or give X toy to another kid who might enjoy it. You tried to give them all away! I think you genuinely wanted to let them go. You picked a few toys and identified exactly who you’d like to give them to. “I think Brendan would like this dinosaur car, because Brendan LoOVves dinosaurs.”

Yesterday after you opened your birthday presents you offered to share them and let others take them home. You were so happy to have Anna and Audrey here that you wanted them to get presents too. When Grandma cut your ice cream cake, you wanted to help deliver pieces to us because you didn’t really want any for yourself. You just wanted to “be a good helper”. When you opened your gifts, you squealed with genuine excitement. When you opened your Peppa Pig House (with the attic) you shrieked and bounced with happiness. You were a little uneasy on your new bike, but after Mommy and I walked beside you for a few laps, you started to get the hang of it. You were so proud of yourself and you kept yelling for us to watch, saying "Look, Mom! I'm doing it! Look, Dad! I'm doing it!"

“I see you, honey!” Mommy said.

“You’re doing it! Keep pedaling.” I’d say.

Oh we see you, Ayla. We can’t stop seeing you and we won’t stop watching.

As you grow up you’ll find that there are marvelous things in the world that defy explaination. The night sky comes to mind. In the city the night sky can be rather ordinary. Drive out to the edge of town though, and on a clear night you’ll see a million stars, and you can stare up at it and forget time all together. The night can pull you up into the sky and you’ll lose the horizon, and you can start to imagine you’re floating toward the stars and in-between them. Later, you’ll see a photo of the whole galaxy, and you’ll wonder “How far out of town do I have to go to see that?” You can just get lost looking at it even in a photo, trying to make sense of it, trying to find patterns and shapes and to understand its secrets.

Similar things can be said about the ocean. It’s beautiful, wild and powerful, and incomprehensibly vast, but that’s literally just scratching the surface, and the waves just keep coming and going. Each one bringing a little sand, and taking a little sand. You can sit on the beach on a clear morning and watch the sun glint across the water, painting each cresting wave with an endless palette of glowing blue-green pigments. You can imagine flying just above the water, feeling the cool ocean mist on your skin. You can just stare into the horizon and marvel at the distance, the scale of it all, and be amazed by the fact that this, all of this, is always changing.

Another will be the mountains. When you and I finally take a real camping trip, you’ll get to see the mountains. And not just from a car window, but from a trail where the trees open up a little and you realize we’ve hiked a surprisingly long way up. We’ll sit and stare and wonder how far we’re able to see. You’ll see the curvature of the earth, the gradient colors of the sky, the fading blue hues of distant mountain ranges and the way the earth flattens out over there and how many lakes you can count from here. You might notice how the sunlight seems different, how the air is crisper at that altitude, and we’ll examine the different trees and plants and creatures we find up there.

It doesn’t have to be a big thing either; There are small things to explore too. Things we forget to look at that can amaze us when we do stop and see them. In our own back yard, in our garden, we can find amazing little villages of insects and be amazed by how they live their lives right here beside us. The shrubs are always home to a family of finches and the other shrubs always have a couple of cardinals. The squirrels and chipmunks are always bouncing through. The bunnies are usually eating something they shouldn’t be. The bee’s are racing between flowers and stopping off at one of the watering stations we put out for them. “Daddy, I saw a hummingbird!” you often shout. Someday you, like me, might find yourself sitting at the table in the dinning room looking out on the back yard, and you just get lost staring at the countless bugs and creatures being illuminated as they fly through beams of the morning sun, endlessly in motion doing their part as they come and go from our little piece of the world.

And then there’s you. I’ve seen all of these other things, many times. I appreciate them, and they still amaze me, but nothing amazes me like you.

You’re funny and playful and silly. You’re loving and sweet and friendly. You’re emotional and scared and worried. You’re happy, and sad, and sometimes you get angry. You’re forgiving and kind, and lot’s of fun. You’re thoughtful, and forgetful, and anxious. You’re resilient, and strong, and brave… even when you’re not. You’re clumsy, and clever, and sometimes you get a little crazy (in the best kind of way). You’re exciting and stressful, and challenging.

I just keep watching you do and be these things, and new things, and you’re becoming more and more grown-up each day. I can’t stop looking to see what you’ll do next, and I keep thinking about the first moment of your life. When you were born and I was watching them rescue you and I just wanted them to hold the life inside you. To keep the life in you to give you a chance to live. We prayed so hard and we just wanted you to be okay, we just wanted you to survive that minute so we could work on the next minute.

And here we are. You’re six.

You’ll wake up this morning with one hundred new ideas. You’ll talk non-stop about how much you enjoyed your birthday yesterday, and then you’ll be sad that it’s over and that you didn’t get to blow out your candles twice (as requested). You’ll work on your new Lego set. You’ll probably do a little math homework, you’ll practice writing and some reading. You’ll go outside and ride your bike and then you’ll swing for a while. You’ll practice your hula hoop, and we’ll play catch with the frisbee. Mommy will get home from work and you’ll dance and sing, and play tag or hide-n-seek. Mommy will give you a bath, drape you in a towel, and you’ll call out “Super Dad! Super Dad!” Together we'll zoom around the house looking to rescue a particular stuffed animal who needs to get to “Mommy’s Hair Salon” where Mommy will blow-dry your hair, and the hair (fur usually) of the friend we’ve saved. Mommy and I will do your trach care and your g-button care, we’ll say our goodnights and give hugs and kisses, and then one of us will read you a good night story while the other closes-up the house and puts things away.

I expect today to be about like that, but you’re likely to make some modifications. Even though it might sound very predictable, you often find a way to make it interesting.

Thank you, Ayla. Thank you for breathing so much joy and excitement and love into our lives everyday.

I’m so impossibly happy for you and how well you’re doing as a (now) 6 year old. I’m proud of you and who you’re becoming, and I’m excited to be with you as you grow. I’ll continue to do all I can to help you along, and I’ll try desperately to forget just how fast these waves are coming and going.

I love you.



p.s. - You’re doing it! Keep pedaling!

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