It’s a birthday day for us today.

C is now 11.

I don’t go back and re-read what I’ve written in previous years about each girl on their birthday, because I think they haven’t changed much. Or at least the two older ones have largely been the same kid for several years now. So I imagine this will be repetitive

C is still our most sensitive kid. She’s the most likely to get upset about something and stomp off in tears. But that is balanced by her empathy for others. She has a knack for discovering what girls in her school might not have the most friends and giving them attention. A few weeks back she asked if she could get a present for a girl in her class who is kind of an outcast. C said, “I don’t think she has many friends and won’t get presents from people.” We thought that was really sweet, kind, and mature act. Especially for a then 10-year-old.

She is our pack rat. Her room is always jam packed with crap: things she’s harvested from other parts of the house, items she’s snuck out of the recycling bin, art supplies that belong in the office, etc. all crammed into every surface and storage space in her bedroom. Along with these collections come the associated trash piles, as she has trimmed, pasted, and taped many of these raw materials into art projects of one kind or another. That’s the balance: she’s super artistic and her brain is calmest when she’s imaging new creation and working to make them come to life.

Also indicative of her artistic nature is her fashion sense. She is our most stylist kid, enjoying dressing up more than her sisters and always willing to tweak her look so she has a little, self-made flair that no one else has.

She gets frustrated easy. But that’s because she’s a dreamer, and thinks things through to their ideal possibility and gets disappointed when the perfect scenario doesn’t play out.

I’ve documented her athletic ability here plenty of times over the years. This year she’s taken a little more pride in her accomplishments in cross country and kickball, which is a confidence boost I think she needs.

C gets wound up – I mean WOUND UP – when she’s in the right situation and can relax a little. “C, settle down,” is probably the phrase I use with her most. She can be goofy as hell when she wants to be. She and L will get themselves laughing so hard at the dumbest things. But a lot of people think she is the quiet one in the family, as she is much more reserved when other people are around.

She’s really the classic middle child, with a twist. She endlessly looks up to and seeks M’s approval. But M constantly treats her like crap. I’ve told C just to ignore it, that one day M will be begging for her friendship. But that’s hard advice to take when you’re 11 and just want your big sister to accept you as someone worthy of her attention and friendship.

C and L get along great, but in an odd twist, C is very much in L’s shadow at school. C is quiet and reserved at school, where L is the kid everyone knows and who has already carved out a big reputation at school. And L’s personality is much bigger in public than C’s. She’s comfortable talking to grownups where C is shy. C doesn’t show any jealousy toward L, but I imagine she struggles a bit figuring out who she is when her little sister is so “out there.”

C is all about balance. She is maddening to us with her mood swings and her clutter and her destruction of the nice things we get her. But, then, she’s the one who shows the most genuine affection and who thinks of others first. I try to remind myself that the messes are her way of finding order, ironically, and give her direction and a source of pride when they turn into art pieces.

I hope she can hang on to the sweetness and not let the moody moments overwhelm her as she approaches the teenage years. It feels like weathering the storms of the next phase of her life will offer a big payoff at the end.