Happy Birthday Zoe

“She doesn’t really know how to act like she’s five,” Eva whispered to me this morning while we were waiting for the school bus. Zoe was running up and down the sidewalk, screaming, “Poo poo vagina!” and swinging her backpack around, nearly kneecapping passing pedestrians. My eldest daughter stood fidgeting next to our gate, giggling uncontrollably. She clearly wanted to run down the street yelling Potty Words too. But she also had enough sense to know that this might just tip Mommy over the edge. See, Eva is my “easy” child. If you also have an “easy” kid, then you know where I’m going with this. Because to have an “easy” one, you must, by definition, have one that isn’t. At our home this other child is named Zoe.

Right from the get go, she was intent on getting herself noticed, doing things her own way. Our surrogate had pretty much sneezed her out, being very good at incubating babies for desperate and longing couples such as ourselves. This perfectly average (7 pounds even) size baby with a shock of black hair and an extraordinarily pug nose began screaming and then almost instantly grunting, her chest muscles pulling in, her respiratory rate way too high. The long and short of it was that she had developed a pneumothorax, or air in the space around the lung. She would need 24 hours in an oxygen tent before I could finally, after months and months of waiting, hold her.

Nothing has ever been easy or straightforward with this child. Not the way she was conceived. Not the way she gestated. Not the way she entered the world. And not the way she came home from the hospital. (On an airplane at 6 days of age). Fast forward 5 years and she’s what some of our family calls “challenging.” I mean, sure she’s barely 5. They are all a bit challenging at this age, aren’t they? I recently met one mother who said, “Forget the terrible twos, I’m stuck in the (*&*ing fours!” But how many of you have had a 90-minute parent teacher conference to discuss your 4 ½ year old? Huh? How many? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Zoe is too smart for her own good and will helpfully recall every single thing I have ever said, even if I thought I was whispering it under my breath. She has a frightfully unpredictable temper and once drew a crowd at the zoo with a 20 minute tantrum right outside the zebra paddock. I’m not joking. It was a crowd. Children were asking what was wrong with the little girl and parents were coming up, patting me on the shoulder and commending my daughter for her “strong will.” She is incredibly jealous of her siblings and will do absolutely anything to get any kind of attention. Ditto the other kids in her class. You think you’re going to play dress up with her best friend at school? Think again. Basically, sometimes I feel like I’m living in some History Channel special on famous and ruthless dictators. I do my best to kill her with kindness, set reasonable boundaries with exquisite care and then just get on my knees and look to the heavens.

But with great challenges in life comes great rewards, as the saying goes. Few people I meet are as incredibly funny as this child. Her imagination is unbelievable. She has the strongest of wills and the greatest streak of independence you will see and that will serve her very well in life. And when she is happy, and happy with you, and all is right in her little world she is the most loving, sensitive little girl I could hope for.

So Happy Birthday Zoe. I sincerely hope that one day you have a little girl just like you. No, no it’s not about revenge (although let’s be honest, that’s part of it.) It’s about how amazing it is to have a kid like you. The challenges are great. But should you rise to them, the blessings are even greater.