Happy 8th Birthday Z!

Zoë!  You are 8 years old!  8!  I cannot believe it.   To me, you are still my little baby and probably always be, even when you are grown and maybe have your own children one day- you’ll still be my sweet baby girl.   This birthday has been special because we know it’s your last one in Fiji.  We’ve had all of your favorite friends (and you have many) over for a party and sleepover, we had our Fiji family/friends over for a celebratory gathering and just the four of us went out to Daikoku and Snowy House for dinner too.   It’s easy to celebrate your life because we all love you so much!
You are well liked among your peers.   Last year at the end of year 1 when all of the students got to write down three friends they wanted to be in year 2 with, you were selected by so many!   I was privy to the information as I helped form the future classes as the school counselor and I couldn’t stop smiling when I saw how many little girls put you on their list.   People are drawn to you and the most beautiful thing is you are not even aware of that.  You know how to fit in well.  You can lead or you can follow.   You tend to lead with your peers and follow with older girls.    You know how to read a situation and how to ease yourself into it when you are ready.   Once you are in, you are accepted immediately because you know how to not come on too strong or come across too distant or cold.  You are very good at social cues.   Because of this, sometimes I embarrass you.  You hate it if I’m too loud or if I’m singing or being really silly in public.   You LOVE being silly….but just in the right moment – only if you are comfortable.   Occasionally I worry (because that’s what I do, worry….) that you are so good at fitting in that you will lose yourself.   You are so SMART, KIND-HEARTED, and LOYAL – I don’t want you to forget who you are if it doesn’t fit into the puzzle.   You are you and I want you to be confident enough to always be you- no matter what the crowd says or does.  Currently you are the leader of the crowd so I hope you continue to make good choices and let your heart lead you in friendships.  
You work so hard in school.  You are incredibly conscientious.  You always get your homework done way ahead of time and you will never allow us to skip reading even for one day because you know the rules.  That and you like being on top of the reader list.  You want to read the most books in your classroom.  You have a super competitive edge when you think you can succeed.   You want to earn the most dojo points and you want to come in first place in swimming.   You can do both of these things!  You are diligent and determined!   On your last day of being seven years old, you finally mastered your front hand spring!  You’ve been working on it for quite a while and you did it!   You didn’t give up.   When you want something, you go for it!!!   Last year when you turned seven we took a day off of school and had a great mommy-daughter day.  This year you don’t want to miss school.  You are too nervous to miss out on something.   You want to spend the day with me but you prefer it to be on a Saturday or Sunday (which is a bit tricky here in Fiji because everything is closed on a Sunday).   We missed school recently since BeBe and PapPap were in town and you were completely distressed about it.   Actually, right now your anxiety seems to be pretty high in general.  I think it’s because we are in the middle of the transition- knowing we are leaving Fiji and heading to Madagascar soon.   You worry excessively about being late and missing school.  You are amazing at knowing your schedule and you always pack your bag ahead of time.   The other day when I packed your bag for a weekend at Allora’s you went through every item just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.  I forgot your gymnastics uniform that you needed 3 days later and you knew it right away.  When we were in New Zealand we were waiting to check into the airport and you asked me if I had my purse.  (It was in my backpack).  You think through these kind of things even when it’s the adult’s responsibility to do so.   When we were in Sydney this year you told me that you didn’t know if you wanted to travel as an adult because you don’t like the stress of making sure we have passports with us all of the time.   But, when we discussed that you could actually live in Sydney with Allora you said, “Well, as long as Allora is with me I’d live here.”
    Despite your worries, you’ve had a great year of traveling.  We’ve gone to the USA for Christmas, we traveled around in a camper van in the South Island of New Zealand, and we’ve explored Australia.    Not too long from now and we will be exploring Madagascar.   You love to list the countries you’ve been to.  You are an expert traveler!  You love seeing new things and you like the excitement of new places and people.   You are not a kid who is content to stay inside all of the time.    While occasionally being home can rejuvenate you, mostly you like being active.   You always want to swim, jump on the trampoline, play games, go visit people.   You don’t really like to be alone.   You are energized by being active and spending time with people.  You are loyal to your friends.  You make a best friend everywhere we are in life - Willa, Tahli, Allora.   
    You are still SO cuddly.  You love physical contact.  You still creep into our bed nearly every night.  You still want me to lay with you until you fall asleep at night.  You love to swing one leg over me to keep me close. When I am in the front seat you like me to reach back and hold your leg.   You like to sit in my lap and rest your head on my chest.   You still suck your thumb and carry blankie (secretly) with you everywhere you go.   You love Andie to stroke your hair and baby you.   While you also cuddle with Daddy, you mostly wrestle with him.  You love to rough house.  You are tough!  You don’t cry or complain when you get hurt.   You hold it in, unless it really serious. 
    No one likes to be vulnerable, but you really dislike it.   It takes you a long time to get comfortable enough to really open up.  You still don’t say I love you to anyone unless it is in the written form or over a voice message.   Every night when I tell you I love you, you just cuddle in or say, “Ok.”   You tell me you are too embarrassed to say it to others.   Even though we are SO safe….you still feel nervous.   In your most recent mother’s day card to me, you wrote it all over the card and you videotaped a message to me telling me all of the reasons you love me, but you still won’t say it directly.  I know you love me so I don’t need to hear it, but sometimes I worry that you are too guarded…..  I hope that one day you can open your heart and let your walls down and feel comfortable telling others how you feel.  You are so incredibly loved by everyone. 
Zoë, you are good at everything you set your mind to!  You are a really good friend, a great student, an awesome athlete, a loving sister and daughter!  You are also SO funny.   Seriously, you crack me up.  You have the best expressions.  You understand humor so well.   You have awesome comedic timing.   You like to be inappropriate, to push the edge.  It works.   Everyone laughs.  You dance silly and act crazy!  You are incredibly cute.

I wrote all of the proceeding this morning while Daddy slept.  We are in Vanuatu for a little weekend getaway.  You are in Suva, with your bestie Allora.   I have no doubt that you don’t miss us at all, except maybe at night when you are ready to go to sleep.  Now we are waiting in the small airport for our very delayed plane.   Again, I was just thinking about you.  I miss you.  Usually when parents go away from their kids, they miss them in a way but are also happy for adult time.  The same is true with Daddy and I.  But, also, I miss you for you Zo.  I miss your presence and just you being you.  You make our family more whole.  You make us laugh and help us to not take ourselves so seriously.  You also help us to be more responsible and get us out of the door on time! You complete our sweet little family of four and I simply cannot imagine life without you. 

 I love you more than a simple love birthday letter can express Zoë Anne Passin.  Thank you for being you.   

Love always,