At this time last year your inner world was mostly a mystery to me. You are by no means introverted or quiet, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was going on in that little head of yours. Your dad was even perplexed, and he doesn’t obsess about things like this nearly as much as I do.
Well, I’m elated to report that your fifth year was a true emotional and mental unveiling. You grew up in so many very big ways. You were like the peony in our front yard that surprisingly and delightfully popped up and bloomed this last spring in the most natural and delicate way. It was just waiting for it’s time, and so were you.
You brought your fifth year in dressed as Belle at a fantastic birthday party. And the summer that followed was a pretty awesome one. We spent lots of time outside, went to Grandma T’s for a couple weeks, and went camping with our church family. I wish our family fun wasn’t so dependent upon my health, but I was feeling great and it worked to our whole family’s advantage. Just as you are with anything that promises amusement, you were all in.
In the fall you started Pre-K at Westgate Chapel. I can’t stop saying how wonderful of a school it is, and you had a great teacher, Diane. She has given us lots of insight into what you’re like in the classroom and in social settings. She says you are a kinesthetic learner, but regardless of your regular movement, you are absorbing everything like a sponge. You have a great memory, recalling experiences from all areas of life, dating back quite a ways. You talk about these memories through your own unique lens, in a way that shows that your heart is attached to what you’re sharing.
Teacher Diane has also consistently pointed out how tender and loving you are, and it’s so true. You have soaked up the affirmation and encouragement from the staff at Westgate. You can’t give or get enough hugs. It melts my heart when I imagine you sitting right next to Teacher Diane during preschool circle time; she tells me that you sat right by her side, every day of class. There’s probably a spot worn on the floor right next to her chair!
Your faith has grown much this year, too. You have a vast knowledge of Bible stories and you were an enthusiastic participant at Awana yet another year. But you also wanted to pray for Jesus to come into your heart, and several months later you asked if you could take communion with us, too.
It’s been such a privilege to see how your love of Jesus is manifesting itself. Teacher Diane made a point to tell me that one of her favorite parts of the preschool class was hearing your prayers. She said they were so intentional and sweet, in a way that was different from others in your class. You also have a heart for those in need–you pray for ambulances you hear, homeless people on the sidewalks, friends and family who are sick or sad. You have a sweet voice and I know God loves hearing it.
When we talk about God’s family and how Jesus loves His children, you often smile with a hint of pride, knowing that means you. I think, at least right now, one of the most valuable things I can impress upon you is that God loves you, and He hears you and sees you. I can see that being left alone is a fear of yours. Even though I can’t always answer the questions of why God doesn’t heal someone or why he didn’t make your scary thoughts go away at bedtime, I can emphatically say that you will never be left alone. That you will always be loved and cherished.
You enjoy all the relationships in your life, and you really do want everyone to get along. I appreciate that about you, but it also pains me because I know from experience that it’s just not going to happen (in this life). That is a hard thing for someone who is so relational and so much wants love and peace between people.
It’s also hard to hear you insist you wear a pretty dress to preschool so so-and-so will want to play with you in class. Or to hear Ian and the neighbor girl engaging in play that leaves you out. You want people, why don’t they want you?!
What I can say to you (when you’re a bit older and read this) is this: You will probably struggle with this for a long time. I wish I could say it gets easier, but it will get harder first (i.e. adolescence). I am praying that through every season of life God puts people around you that invite you into the best of circles, those that have Jesus’ arms wrapped around them. And that you can bring people who are sad or lost into these circles, too, with your gentle ways. I can already see your desire to do that.
Before this last year I would’ve said that you were on the shyer side, especially when it came to large audiences. But now I realize you just hadn’t yet had the opportunity to perform. You completed a year of ballet and your performance this last spring in front of hundreds was a smashing success. You had no jitters, just total confidence and enjoyment. In fact, you led most of the other kids in the choreography AND you re-performed the dance in front of your preschool class a few days later! As someone who loves an audience as well, I say keep going for it, girl.
Ian does try to outshine you, so beware. He pretty much tries to outshine everyone. I hope at this point you realize that and aren’t taking it personally. I often have to tell him to shut his pie hole because I want to hear what you have to say. Teacher Diane was right when she encouraged me to make sure you have a voice in a household of strong opinions.
Partly because of this, we decided to have you do another year of Pre-K at Westgate. I love the idea of you being one of the oldest in your class, leading other kids gently and with confidence. But also, this means that as you get older you and Ian will be another year apart in school and that may be for the best.
Another perk to this is that you and Beatrice will be a year closer in grades. Up until a few months ago you and her didn’t play that much together. In fact, if I found Bea with anybody it was Ian. But as she has grown into a full-fledged toddler you have taken her under your wing–with her permission, of course, since she doesn’t let anyone do anything without that.
Your games usually include you being the mom and calling her “sweetie.” She is either the baby or the puppy dog. You make her little beds around the house and she crawls in, settles in, and sticks her thumb in her mouth. Meanwhile, Ian broods in his room, building Lego bases in solitude. This be a hint of the future Haggard sibling dynamic.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not all peacefulness in this house. Bebo bowls over you at times, and Ian has been doing that since day one. He’s forceful and bossy, and you whine. Dad and I feel a tension between telling him to back off and telling you that you agreed to play with a boy who is sometimes harder to stop than a freight train.
Nevertheless, some of the absolute best sibling moments this year have happened between you and Ian–at bedtime. We turn off the lights, leave the door cracked, and warn you to settle down. Then you two proceed to get all riled up, singing goofy songs, doing impersonations, telling stories. I think Ian instigates, but you are the comic. You are on stage, and Ian is in for uncontrollable laughter. I half-heartetedly yell down my authority, but usually let it slide because you two love each other so much in these moments.
You are still a barnacle, and proud of it. It’s almost monkey-like; you crawl into laps, play with hair, breath in people’s smells. You love snuggling with Dad in bed on Saturday mornings. Oftentimes you have to fight for your space when Bebo comes in like a bulldozer. You are calculated in battle–you don’t shove her off, you just wait until she gets distracted and then sneak back in. Or you gently slide her over when she isn’t paying attention. And then you hold me extra tight, making eye contact with her so she knows what she’s missing.
There have been times I have wondered if you and I lack some particular connection we would’ve had if I hadn’t struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety after you were born. This was compounded by the fact that you and I are different in so many ways, and that in your earlier years I couldn’t quite figure out your internal world.
I feel happy thinking back (and writing about) all the things I’ve learned about you. I feel confident we will grow closer, and you will teach me many things.
Please stay sweet and sensitive. I get it–you’ll have your days of defiance and of sneakiness (your particular sin of choice right now). You are human. But the world needs more of your empathy. Hold onto that, as you know God firmly holds on to you. Also, hold on to others. Vulnerability is a rare, rare jewel, one that God is very pleased with.
I love you, Imogen (innocent) Annabelle (beautiful) Haggard.
Here are photos of Imogen’s fifth year, in chronological order.
That was beautiful and moving!