Gosh, 2018 was a huge year!
But you know what else was huge? A special birthday. No, not my 40th, or Cam’s for that matter (both of which we celebrated last year) but another special birthday.
Yes, Clara is now five years old!
For some reason, this feels like a really big milestone. I’ve always felt that a 5th birthday is a special one. I’m not entirely sure why. Is it, perhaps, because five feels like an official move towards being a ‘big kid’? We can’t use those terms like ‘toddler’ or ‘preschooler’ anymore. Is it because it’s generally the age that kids start school (in Australia, at least)?
Whatever it is, I’ve found myself getting unexpectedly emotional as I see posts on social media from my mothers’ group friends as their kids start to turn five. Surely it was just yesterday that they were little babies, and that we were trying our hardest to figure out this crazy motherhood thing? (Ha… who are we kidding? We’re still trying to work it out.)
Recently, our babies have become tall, independent and full of opinions!
And now? It’s Clara’s turn.
In honour of her fifth trip around the sun, I’d like to offer up this reflection on how our little girl is growing and adapting to life in the USA as well as to life in general. It’s peppered with a selection of responses she gave to some questions I asked her on the eve of her fifth birthday, last month.
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did writing it.
As the eldest child, Clara’s had to forge her own path. She was, for example, the first of her siblings to try a new pre-school; the first to start school; the first to have to build new friendships. She doesn’t have an older brother or sister to hold her hand or show her how it’s done.
And you know what? She’s made it look easy.
In mid-November 2017, she finished up at her childcare centre and kindergarten in Melbourne – both were places she loved to go, where she had friends, and where she was guided by teachers that she adored. In moving with us to the USA she left a network of friends and family with which she’d spent her first and formative years. By early December she was attending a new pre-school where the people, the teachers, the environment – and the accent – were all new.
But what did she do? Well, she ran right in there at full speed and never once looked back. I can hardly believe she did that as a three (almost four) year old!
Clara, what do you want to be when you grow up?
I’d like to be an artist! An artist who makes paint. Painting pictures and drawing.
Awesome. What do you want to draw?
I want to draw lots of lovely things… about all my family, and all the things I know. And my school!
What are your favourite things?
I like learning a lot from my friends. I like lying down with you a lot. I’m so lucky! I also love going to school a lot. It’s so good to be with my family!
Soon you’re going to turn five years old. What do you think is going to be new in your life when you turn five?
I could start different games at my school, like adding up and up. I could start eating more food.
What sort of food?
Like, Indian food, I guess? And I think I could have lots of crunchy food. Like I could have Australian food. Like Vegemite!
But Vegemite’s not crunchy and you already eat it?
Yeah but Vegemite’s Australian and I love it!
Back in late August, Clara then made the transition from pre-school to school. Yes, another new environment with new teachers and new classmates. And a new world order in terms of daily structure, right? What a huge and wondrous thing for a five-year-old.
But as I said, she took it all in her stride. Clara is the youngest in her school but that doesn’t seem to have worried her. I have observed with joy the way she makes friends and engages with other children. Instead of sitting back and waiting for an invitation to play, she walks towards them and simply joins in. In parks, she looks up and says “I’m going to make some friends” and off she runs towards some kids. She doesn’t care if they’re older or younger than her. Nothing like this matters to Clara. Not one bit.
I guess this is all pretty symbolic of what I’ve come to realise: Clara has, single-handedly, absolutely owned this move!
“I’m American now, Mom,” she tells me. She also corrects my word choice. “They call it a sweater in America, Mommy”.
What has been your favourite thing about moving to America?
Going to school! Because I like learning things from it, so it’s so good to go to school. It’s also so pretty in America. I love the flowers! It’s so pretty that I really just want to wear lots of things. It’s so pretty. I never believe it. I want to wear fancy dresses.
You *never* wear fancy dresses.
Yeah, but I *want* to!
America makes you want to wear fancy dresses?
Yeah… I love it!
Okay. What else do you like about America?
I think I want another question now!
I feel like moving country makes all of us – kids and adults alike – more inquisitive. For us adults, it brings back that curiosity and childlike sense of wonder at discovering new things; new foods, new places, new words, new people. Back home, it’s incredibly easy to get comfortable and used to the good, ol’ status quo. Now that I think about it, I suppose that when our environment is stable we might become a little blind to the beauty around us. Change brings back a sense of adventure. What a treat.
It seems to me that for Clara, this sense of wonder is only growing stronger by the day. She’s observant, inquisitive, honest and filled with empathy. The way in which she’s managed the challenge and is able to reflect upon it still blows my mind.
In terms of her ability to move about the world in an empathetic and curious manner, something that I love about Clara is that she doesn’t (yet!) perceive differences between people and places. She can’t tell the difference between a fancy house and a simpler one. She never comments on what people look like or how they appear. She likes riding in different vehicles or going to different places, but she never makes comments about something being better or worse.
I am hoping that, in time, this move gives Clara an even greater and more complete sense of understanding of the world and encourages her curiosity for and acceptance of all people. The evidence would tell us that this is most definitely in the pipeline.
Talk about a childlike sense of wonder!
What do you think we’re going to do for your birthday?
Go to the city!
What will we do in the city?
Um… look at places we can go that we can have cake in? Mum, I want to go back and make my snowman.
One more question. Ah… what is going to be the best thing about being five years old?
Starting to add up and up!
What did you ask Santa Claus for?
Great. Thanks for interviewing, Clara!
Happy Birthday, Clara x