Eleven years ago Saturday, we welcomed our first daughter into our family.

Which is totally an amazeballs thing to say. Eleven freaking years. Seriously? How in the hell did that happen?

M. celebrated in a very M. way: stretching it out and keeping as much attention on herself as possible. Now that’s not exactly fair. She didn’t ask to have her birthday celebration span three days (with more to come today). Rather it was family circumstance that necessitated it.

She got things started Thursday, getting a gift from her buddy next door since the neighbors were leaving town Friday afternoon.

Friday my step-dad came to town and my in-laws joined us for dinner. Since it still was not officially her birthday, we had angel food cake and strawberries for dessert. And some more presents.

Then on her birthday proper, we headed to the lake with our friends the H’s. She got some more gifts from them, and as is tradition when a birthday is celebrated at the lake house, a Dairy Queen ice cream cake.

Later today she is headed out for a special lunch with her Mimi. And some time this week we’re going to take her to open her first savings account, complete with a rather nice deposit from us to get her started on the path to paying her own way through college! Well, we’re giving her $100. I guess at today’s interest rates it’s going to take an awful lot of babysitting and after-school jobs in high school to get us off the hook for four years (plus?) of tuition.

It’s been a rough year for M. and I. No, it’s probably been longer than that. I can’t deny it: we battle each other a lot. I’m really tough on her because A) she’s our oldest and I expect her to always be leading the way in good behavior and B) her bossy big sister-ness drives me insane and just as she can’t help herself from correcting or otherwise talking down to her sisters, I can’t help myself from jumping in and telling her to knock it off.

And then there’s the arguing. She and I argue about a lot of stuff. I’d say roughly 90% of our conversations are arguments.

S. saw the root of this long before I did: M. and I have the same personality. Which, at first, I thought was ludicrous. I was a male, only child who was fairly introverted. How could a girl with siblings who enjoys attention be anything like me? Bu the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. When I stop and listen to her, often times I can hear a younger me in her words and tone. I may not have had anyone to boss around at home when I was a kid, but I sure as hell had the tools to do so. I was never shy about correcting kids at school who said things that contradicted my understandings of the world, flawed as though they might be. That’s exactly the shit M. does to her sisters.

So I guess she comes by it honestly. Which kind of horrifies me. And exasperates S. when the two of us start arguing about our interpretations of some meaningless event.

Anyway, I’ve been working lately to step back and let her go. To attempt to help her channel her personality in productive directions when I can find a way. To allow her sisters to defend themselevs. And when she gets on some long-winded explanation of something she’s learned that seems like it will last forever and lost its narrative moorings long ago, I try to nod my head, smile, and hope that if/when she comes to the end, I can find a way to engage with her and reward her enthusiasm.

Here’s the thing: if it’s just her and me, she’s awesome and we get along great. When she’s around her school friends, she’s awesome and I love watching her hang out with them at kickball, volleyball, or other school-centered activities. But add a sister to the equation, and sooner or later M. and I are going to butt heads big time.

Man the teenage years are going to be fun!

My favorite things about M.: Her absolute enthusiasm for learning and discovering new things. Her delight in the simple pleasures of every day life. How she still gasps when something grabs her attention.[1] I think she’s a very good friend and it seems like most girls at school like her. And for a girl who is the classic first-born and often reluctant to try new things, I’m so proud of how she is absolutely fearless at the lake. She loves to go fast in a tube behind the boat, hopping waves and remaining calm when she’s floating in water that can be over 100 feet deep. This from the same girl who would not put her head under water when she first took swimming lessons when she was 5.

She is smart, passionate, eager to learn, and kind. Well kind to everyone but her sisters. None of us are perfect. I think she’s pretty well equipped for what life is going to throw at her in the next few years. If she and her old man can just get on the same page!

“(Gasp) Oh my gosh! Look at that dog!” “(Gasp) Oh my gosh, it’s a brand new Austin and Ally!” “(Gasp) We’re going to the farmers market this weekend!”  ↩