It's November now, but one memory shines most bright from the summer. You and your brother rode the carousel twice before, grabbing the silver rings with everyone else, while you learned the game. With only tickets left for one ride, you and your brother took your spots, him on the inside near the shorter ring holder, and you on the outside, surrounded by adults trying their hand at a child's game. As you passed the ring holder, the announcement was made that the brass ring was loaded. My eyes were glued to the arm with the rings. Silver ring, silver, silver, and so on until finally, when you were two horses away, the brass ring dropped down. I sighed. It was too soon. But then something magical happened. The college kid on the horse ahead of you was busy talking and while he made a late grab, he'd missed the ring. It was all happening in slow motion. I could see the intensity on your face. You reached, stretching out as far as you could, with the loose leather belt from the horse now pulled tight at your waist. I held my breath. Then it happened. You grabbed the ring. I got the chills. The look on your face was first stunned, then pure joy as you looked down at the ring. Everything sped up, as one of the employees stood next to you, signaling you'd gotten the ring. Your brother cheered. I cried. You were the first child I'd seen get the ring. I will never forget the look of happiness that you wore that day.
Since then - unrelated to the ring - we've had plenty of talks about goals and the amount of hard work needed to achieve them. You are smart, but that alone doesn't mean success. It is strange to have this conversation again and again with someone so young, but it is the track you are on. Weeks ago, very seriously you asked me what it took to get into Stanford, and later, after much thought, you told me Stanford was your dream. That is where you want to go to college. So much will change between now and college admissions time, and we won't hold you to Stanford, but when I was your age, I doubt I knew what college meant. Now, I tell you it means work. It means putting in the work to reap the rewards later. It means letting the boy in your class talk as much as he wants about how he is the best at math because - as the saying goes - talk is cheap. Let him think he's the best, while quietly you surpass him. That's our strategy. If people underestimate the small girl in front of them, you will beat them every time.
Last week, prior to a school play, your drama teacher pulled me aside to ask if you were nervous because she said you'd been so quiet. I was surprised to hear that and I shouldn't have doubted your confidence because when I asked if you were nervous, you responded with, "Why would I be nervous? There is nothing to be nervous about!" When I mentioned your teacher's concern, you said it was because your role only had four words. "FOUR WORDS! That's it!" It wasn't nerves after all. It was annoyance. That is the Clover I know.
You want a iPhone desperately. A few of your friends have them and you want one too, but there is no way we are going there just yet. We may be a few steps behind, but I hope one day you appreciate this as deliberate. Your screen time restrictions are as strict as your bedtime, both things you bristle against. My job is to protect you, I tell you again and again, while you roll your eyes, especially while you strap in to your full booster seat. I lie, telling you some day very soon I will let you sit in a half booster. The day is coming. The day you get out of your booster seat, the day you get an iPhone, the day you can stay up as late as you'd like, but for now, you have to trust that we're trying to build a solid foundation from which you can grow strong. It's baby steps. Even though it feels like you'll be a teenager in the blink of an eye, growth and independence are happening in stages. Thankfully. I'm not ready to let go of the girl who reads curled up with her Snowy and Ducky, who plays with Legos, who has a loose sense of colors that match, and who needs to be reminded to brush her hair.
This was the your year of Harry Potter. You'd read the books before, but you re-read them and watched most of the movies, getting deeper into the world. Months ago, from the back of the car, you quietly and somewhat timidly said to me that you felt a resemblance to Hermione. I agreed and you beamed. You are a lot like Hermione. Smart, bookish, loyal, focused, somewhat of a tomboy, self-confident, and a bit bossy. My wish is that you always stay that way. As J.K. Rowling wrote about her own daughters, "Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls."
You were tested at school the other day when some of your classmates were daring each other to jump from your school's front porch. It's certainly not a life threatening height, but high enough that it could hurt. You refused. Some of the kids started to tease you, egging you on, but you held your ground, saying you didn't want to do it. Eventually, they all came around to support you in your decision. When we learned about this from another parent, we praised you for listening to yourself and what felt right for you, instead of falling for the teasing and pressure. I wish I could bottle up this confidence, all of the Hermione in you, as a precaution, in case it fades. But instead of looking ahead and worrying about the challenges to come, I'm going to enjoy you right now. I am the Muggle mom, a little surprised and befuddled by your magic, yet incredibly proud of who you are. You astound me every day. Nine is going to be the best yet. I love you so much, sweet Clover.