For the past few years there has been a great deal of “big girl” talk in the McKenna house. Starting with the birth of Amelia and progressing all the way into Hannah’s recent foray into kindergarten, I feel like Susie and I have been extolling the virtues of being a “big girl” to Hannah for a very long time now.
There was moving into a “big girl” bed in her “big girl” room. There have been limitless admonitions to “talk like a big girl” and that “big girls don’t whine”. My favorite story about being big goes back a few years ago to when we went to Disney World.
We had been going around to different rides and talking about which ones Hannah was tall enough to ride. She had been riding a handful of so-called kid rides, including a relatively exciting kiddie roller coaster. But Hannah was interested in something bigger. She really wanted to ride a big roller coaster. After our previous experiences that week, Susie, Hannah and I all knew that Space Mountain was out because it was “in the dark”. (Hannah had previously freaked out while riding the Winnie the Pooh ride, a seemingly harmless and kid-friendly ride, because it was indoors and had moments of darkness). So that left Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Having ridden on that before, we knew that Hannah would be able to handle it, because it was a pretty straight-forward coaster. No loops, gigantic drops or anything too scary. What we didn’t know was if Hannah would be allowed on the ride.
We knew what the minimum height was and we knew that Hannah was right at the limit. However, we didn’t know if this would carry over to reality. When we stood Hannah next to the guide at the front of the line, she was kind of border line. Maybe the official sign would be slightly off, maybe Hannah would be a little slouchy, maybe the line worker would be grumpy and not give Hannah the benefit of the doubt. Hannah would be crushed and it would be a big blow to a week that had been going so well.
The moment of truth finally came, and Hannah walked up tentatively to the line worker. She stood next to the guide and awaited the woman’s decision. I was sweating, because it looked awful close. It could have gone either way. I was fearing the worst, when suddenly the line worker waived Hannah on. Hannah got a huge smile, turned to us and said excitedly, “I’m big! The lady said I’m big!” We must have ridden that ride two or three times that day and a few more the rest of the week.
Despite all of this “big girl” talk for the past few years, it is only recently that I have begun to see Hannah as an actual big girl. She is most definitely not a baby anymore and she is not really a little kid anymore. I remember when I was a kid I measured myself and my place in the world by what I could look over. In particular, there was one tall counter at the bank we used to go to in Cal City.
I remember one day standing next to it while my mom was discussing something with the woman behind the counter before heading to one of the tellers. I felt so small looking up at the counter that towered over me. I thought to myself that someday I was going to be taller than that counter, and then I wouldn’t just be a little kid anymore. I would be big.
In that same regard, I feel like Hannah isn’t looking up to nearly as many things as she used to be. In the past month or so, she stopped needing a stool to reach the bathroom sinks in the house and can reach most things on the kitchen counters and island as well. Half the time now she is taking showers or baths by herself. On the rare occasion when I give her a bath (mostly to speed the process along), I have recently noticed how she fills up the bathtub. She used to look so small in the comparatively massive tub.
She doesn’t have the skinny, scrawny and frail feeling arms and legs like a baby or a toddler anymore. She has strong, solid and significant extremities that she uses to run, jump, dance, kick a soccer ball and so much more. It sounds silly to say, but she is like a real person now. The funny thing is that when you live with a person every single day, you get used to them and how they look. I keep thinking that right now Hannah looks and acts in exactly the same way that she did last year and the year before that and the year before that. But she doesn’t. In the past few weeks I have come to the realization that somewhere during the course of this past year, she has really grown up. I can’t pinpoint an exact date or moment, but it has happened. It is exciting and nerve-wracking and daunting all at once.
Our little baby is definitely not a baby anymore. She is so much more. And in reality, the adventure has only just begun. The canvas of her life has only just begun to be colored in and I can’t wait to see how the masterpiece takes shape. Happy 6th birthday Hannah!
You can take my word for it that Hannah is big now, if you want (or for that matter the word of the lady at the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad). Or you can see for yourself in the annual Hannah birthday video.