• Shannon Stocker

Dear Cassidy (a tribute to my no-longer-7-year-old daughter)

Quote from 5/17/16 – Cassidy (in the shower) – “I love the loofah. It feels like fingernails.”

(Pause, then calling to me)

“Mama, do you have a loofah?”

Me – “Hmmm. Not right now, I think. But I do like them.”

Cassidy – “Did you have one when you were little?”

Me – “I don’t think so. I don’t think they made them like this back then.”

Cassidy – “Really?!?” (Big sigh) “There were SO many things they didn’t make waaaaaaaaay back then.”

Funny moments are priceless to me. Being from a broken family, I have only a handful of photos and scant memories. Each time my daughter hits a new milestone, she asks, “Mama, did this happen to you when you were a little girl?” All too often, I must reply by saying, “I don’t know, sweetie.” It’s hard to describe how much those words hurt my heart.

“I don’t know.”

I don’t know when I took my first steps. I don’t know if I crawled or went straight to walking, like you did. I don’t know when I lost my first tooth. I don’t know what I liked to do when I was 7, because for me, being 7 was all about survival and self-preservation.

I don’t want that for my children. I want them to know what they were like when they were little. I want them to know when they lost their first tooth. I want them to know that their milestones were important to me. That their little moments, which aren’t so little in their eyes, are worth remembering. The wonderful things they say, the things we laugh about at the kitchen table, their questions… those memories will fade with time.

But I don’t want to let them go. I want them to know that those moments meant as much to me as they did to them.

So, I write them down.

Welcome to the birthday letter for my 8-year-old girl.

—–

Dear Cassidy,

Every year, I feel astounded that you are another year older. How can that be? Why does it never get easier?

You are 8. You are sweet, and kind, and empathetic, and bright, and friendly, and compassionate. You make me proud every single day. Just last month you told me that you didn’t want me to read your report card until you were home to read it with me. You want to see the pride in my face, because you care. You care about your teachers and your classmates. You care about the homeless people on the street and stray animals. You care about people in songs that you’ve never met, many of whom don’t even exist. Just recently (8/6/16), we were listening to the song Better, by Meghan Trainor, on the radio. Toward the end of the song, she repeated the chorus – “I deserve better, I deserve better than you.” This conversation ensued:

You – “Mama, is that song real?”

Me – “I don’t know, baby. Why?”

You – “Well, I hope she made it up. I don’t want to think anyone really hurt her like that.”

You care, Cassidy. Your heart is pure and open, and I pray that never changes about you. You will grow up and people will tell you that you’re too sensitive, just like they always told me… but you’re not. Your sensitivity will allow you to feel more deeply, and give (and receive) tremendous love. And it will make you charitable and generous, like your daddy.

Don’t ever lose that about you.


You still fight me on piano, but you’re torn between not wanting to play and wanting to make me proud. So you play, but you complain about it. Last winter, I got so tired of the complaining that I was going to stop the lessons. Right at that time, you started practicing on your own. You beamed with pride when you’d finish a song. You’d ask me to record you playing so we could send it to Daddy during a business trip. It was heartwarming to watch this happen, considering that it was only last fall when you grilled everyone in the world on how they, as adults, felt about the piano.

“Did you learn to play when you were a child?” you’d ask everyone.

“Yes,” some would say.

“Are you glad you know how to play now?”

“Definitely,” they all answered.

Others would say, “No, I’m afraid I never learned.”

“Do you wish you would have?” you asked.

Thankfully, every single one of them said they wish they had.

And so, you played.

You are logical. This fall, you wanted to take karate. However, you just finished your first musical. You see the benefit of learning to dance so you’ve decided on dance lessons instead. You didn’t like dance the first time y ou took lessons, but you see how they can help you achieve future parts in future shows. The wheels are always turning in your head.

Don’t ever lose that about you.


Don’t ever lose that about you.

After telling you that you should be happy if you were cast in the ensemble of either show, and explaining the importance of the ensemble, you got the lead role of Jojo in Seussical. To top it off, the director for the 8th-12th grade production of It’s a Wonderful Life asked me to bring you back to audition for the role of Zuzu Bailey… and you landed that part as well. You were so excited, but at the same time, so aware that getting these parts meant that someone else did not. You were careful not to boast about them, and excited for others when they told you they were in the ensemble. You’re humble, and encouraging. You have so much kindness in you.

Don’t ever lose that about you.

If I could choose one thing with which I could help you right now, I’d make it easier for you to accept that failure is ok. Good, even. Everything won’t always come so easily to you. In fact, we tell you all the time, “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.” You’re still a perfectionist, and learning new things can be a painful, anxious process. You still don’t know how to ride a bike because you’re afraid of falling. You don’t like to read because the words don’t flow… although you’re getting there. New math concepts come quickly, but not fast enough for you… you’ll pull at your hair and bite your fingers. This past year, you’ve even bitten them until they bleed. We got you fidget toys to go on the ends of your pencils, and necklaces (“chewelry”) to help you break the habit. And in very “Cassidy fashion”, you worked your tail off to quit biting your fingers because you knew it broke our hearts. You want so badly to please us all the time – I wish you carried the constant understanding that we ARE pleased with you. Not because of what you do, but simply because you are you.

Your favorite subject last year was science. You still love art, but science takes the cake. You love everything “nature” – catching butterflies, lizards, salamanders, toads, frogs – anything you can wrap your hands around. You love learning about the weather, magnets, and even chemical reactions. You’re fascinated by it, and new topics don’t cause you stress (so I love them, too). You’ve decided wholeheartedly that you want to be a vet. You bounce back and forth between wanting to be a cat/dog vet and an exotic animal vet, but either way, you want to be a “famous vet”. I think you’d leave the Stocker family to be adopted by the Kratt brothers. You ask a lot of questions about finances and costs (there’s the logical side of you again – “How much does it cost to fill a glass with water? Is it cheaper than buying a bottle? Well, I guess it would be, since you don’t need the actual bottle when you get water from the fridge.”). You want to do something that helps you pay the bills, but also keeps you happy. I don’t think I figured that out until I was in my 30’s. You’re incredibly curious and logical, which make for a great combination.

Don’t ever lose that about you.


Don’t ever lose that about you.

You’re still a rule follower, unlike your brother. The most terrifying thing in the world to you is being in trouble. You started therapy this past year to help you deal with anxiety in a healthy way, and we learned that your biggest fear is that you might treat someone unfairly, or be unkind to them. You’re so aware of the world around you. You want to do right, all the time. You’re appreciative and kind. Take these examples:

12/29/2015 – Watching Rio:

You – “Why do they take the baby bird from the wild? That’s just mean! Just for money? If they want money, they should just take one boy, one girl, and let them love each other. Then they would have babies!”

Or this time:

11/23/2015 – You and your brother approached me in the kitchen with wrapped presents in your hands:

You – “We have decided that we want to celebrate Parent’s Day on December 17th, to show you guys how much we appreciate all you do for us. That will give us time to practice. I will do the dancing, and Tye will do the singing.”

Times like these, I just want to scoop you up and hold you.

Then there are other times when you try really hard to be kind, but you miss the mark a bit:

11/22/2015 –

Tye (5yo at the time) – “Mama, can we cut down a live tree and have it in our house?” You – “NO! That kills trees. That’s mean!”

Tye – “Mama? Can we?”

You – How would you like it if someone cut your arm off?”

Tye – “Well, I’d still be alive then.”

(Pause. Silence.)

You – “How would you like it if someone cut off your whole body? Or cut your body off all the way down to your feet?”

Tye – “MAMA! She’s saying things to UPSET ME!”

Or this time:

9/26/2015 – Watching the Browns game at BW’s:

Me (to no one in particular) – “Being a Browns fan is so painful.”

You – “Why? Because they’re so good?”

Me (shaking my head) – “No, baby.”

You – “I was trying to be nice, Mama. That’s why I said ‘good.’”

My point is that you’re always thinking of others – even your brother, when you’re not saying things to upset him. When I’m at my wit’s end with Tye, you’re often the bridge of kindness we need to move forward. You can get him to eat food that I can’t, you can get him to sit still when I can’t, and you can make him stop crying when I just don’t have patience left. Your empathy, leadership, and kindness are astounding.

Don’t ever lose that about you.


Don’t ever lose that about you.

This past summer, you went to a combination of camps. You did some at the Y, one at your school, and one at Camp Hi Ho (your favorite, hands down). Your brother had a rough time at the Y camps each week, and you were always there to support him. Tye once climbed into car crying at the end of the day and you were quick to fill me in on the person who bullied him. You always watch out for your brother, who thinks you walk on water. Let me tell you a little secret about that, by the way.

He always will.

Oh! Just one more memory. Perhaps this is a bit of cheat because it happened right after you turned 8, but you lost your first tooth. It’s a bottom tooth – the right one in the middle. After you’d worked it until it hung by a few fibers, Daddy pulled it out in one swift motion. You didn’t even believe he’d gotten it, and then when you realized he did… the squeal of delight is something I’ll never forget. And I’m so glad I got it on video!

So in case you don’t remember when you’re grown and your kids ask you, you were 8 when you lost that first tooth.

I hope you remember it all, Cassidy. The vacations, the camps, the school parties, the musicals, the rehearsals, the bedtime rituals, the laughing fits with your brother… every last bit. But in case you don’t, I want you to have letters like these to look through. To tell you that although you might not remember, you were an amazing 7-year-old girl. In fact, if I could’ve picked qualities for my perfect daughter, I’d have designed you. Not because you’re perfect. But because you’re you. You’re perfect for me, and for your brother, and for this family. You’re delightful, and sometimes I just wish I could stop the clock to relish the incredibleness that is Cassidy Stocker right now.

But then I know I’d miss out on what’s yet to come. And I don’t want that.

I can’t wait to see what you’re going to become. Whatever, whomever, just always know that I’ll be right there next to you the whole time, every step of the way. Supporting you, encouraging you, believing in you.

Because I do, Cassidy. I believe in you.

And I always will.

Mama

BEST 17 QUOTES FROM CASSIDY, AGE 7

8/17/15 –  My daughter just told me she wants me to write a song for her on the guitar for Christmas because, “as long as it’s from the heart, I will love it.”  She then folded her hands into a heart.

9/2/15 – Kids were “planning” all the animals they want to have over the coming years as we drove to school.  Cassidy was writing her plan in a book, including first a dog, then a bunny, then a horse, then another bunny, then another cat.  She asked what other pets there are and the conversation went like this:

Me – “There are ferrets.”

Cassidy – “A parrot!  That’s a good idea.”

Me – “Not a parrot.  A ferret.”

Tye – “I wanna get a carrot!”

Me – “Not a carrot.  A ferret.”

Cassidy – “I’m putting down parrot.”

Tye – “Do carrots fly?”

9/19/15 – Cassidy – “Mama, when I get older, can I have your jewelry?”

Me – “You can’t have it, but you can certainly borrow it.”

Cassidy – “Well, can I have it when you die?”

10/1/15 –

This morning, I sent Cassidy upstairs to check on her brother’s progress in getting dressed for school.  This conversation ensued:

Me – “Cassidy, was Tye getting dressed?”

C – (said quite seriously) “No.  He was jumping on his bed naked and playing with his penis.”

10/1/15 – Driving to school his morning, we passed cows.  Cassidy promptly began to moo.  This conversation had me in tears:

Cassidy – “Mooooooooooo…”

Tye – “MOO!”

Cassidy (glaring) – “Moooooooo…”

Tye – “MOO!”

C – “Why do you keep interrupting me, Tye??”

T – “Because I’m interrupting cow.”

C (annoyed) – “That’s the way you lose friends, Tye.”

Me (saying one of those things you never dreamed you would say) – “Cassidy, maybe this is not the time or the place to moo.”

C – “I’ll just turn and moo at the window then!” (Turns, and then, quietly) “moooooo.”

10/9/15 – Random morning conversation:

Tye – “Sometimes, when you sleep, your mouth can fall open and a spider can climb in your mouth and go down your throat and into your tummy.”

(Silence)

Tye – “But you won’t die.”

(Silence)

Tye – “Miss Faith ‘Oliphant’ Murphy told me that.”

(Silence, waiting for Cassidy to freak out)

Cassidy – “I’m trying to spell ‘butterfly’ but all I’ve got is ‘butt’.”

11/7/15 – (At the drugstore)

Cassidy – “Can we get these kind of band aids?”

Me – “No. We need the sensitive skin kind.  Those will cause you guys to break out.”

Cassidy – (searching shelves and finding princess ones) “Will these cause us to freak out?” (meaning “break out”)

11/11/15 – Cassidy and Tye came downstairs, wearing underwear on their heads, over their clothes, and around their legs.  At dinner, after they had put all the extra pairs away, Cassidy said, “I had EIGHT pair of underwear on me, including the pair on my privates.” (Long pause) “At least I didn’t say vagina or penis or butt.”

11/20/15 – Cassidy was teaching Tye to sing Do Re Me (Do, a deer, a female deer)… Tye was trying to learn the lyrics and I started singing along.  Cassidy turned to me and abruptly said, “Mama.  I am teaching him.  Please don’t steal my thunder.”

12/15/15 – Cassidy (7yo) – “Mama, how old are you?”

Me – “How old do you think I am?”

Cassidy – “45?”

Me – “That’s right.”

(Pause)

Cassidy – “Hmmm.” (Pause) “That’s really old to have such little kids, huh?”

Me – “Ah, but I’m young at heart, Cassidy.”

Cassidy – “Yeah, but you’re still old.”

2/6/16 – (watching the Super Bowl)

Cassidy – “Mama, which team are you voting for?”

2/22/16 – Cassidy (holding up a pretty shell we got on the beach) – “This is such a beautiful shell!  It’ll probably be the top shell in my collection!”

(Turning around to skip away)

“Gotta go see if I can find any other c*cks.”

Me – “CONCHS, Cassidy.  You mean CONCHS.”

3/9/16 – (Cassidy, walking toward me naked, pushing up her nipples)

Me – “What are you doing?”

C – “Seeing if my body is ready to make milk.”

Me – “Trust me, your body is not ready to make milk.”

C – “Well, how does it know when it’s time to make milk or stop making milk?”

Me – “Your body makes milk when you have a baby. It stops making milk when the baby doesn’t nurse anymore.”

C – “So, if someone kept sucking at your boobies, your body would keep making milk?”

Me (slow breath in, slow breath out) “Well… Yeah.”

C – “That’s just weird.”

4/17/16 – Me (to kids) – “Thank you for getting along at dinner, guys. That always makes me happy.”

Cassidy (7yo) – “Yeah, and when you’re happy, we always get more stuff. Everybody wins.”

6/22/2016 (me, climbing from the back seat in the car to the front seat) – “Cassidy, why do you do that?!?”

Greg – “What’s she doing?”

(Me, squeezing around his breasts to demonstrate what she was doing)

Greg – “Cassidy, don’t do that. That’s not appropriate. Why do you do that?”

Cassidy – “Ummm… I… just like the way that boobies feel.”

(Greg and I try to hold it together)

Greg – “Well that’s not appropriate. Those are private parts.”

Cassidy – (pouting a bit) “Well, then, I guess I’ll just have to wait until I grow my own. Then I can squeeze them all I want.”

8/12/16 – “You know how when you’re really tired and you lay down, and you feel like something magical just happened?”

8/13/16 – While looking for a movie to rent, Cassidy just saw the picture for Seth Rogen’s new movie and announced, “I wanna watch a Sausage Party!”

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