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I have spent the past year learning and practicing mindfulness, and yet it may be my daughter who is the one that I should be learning from.

Turning 7 Years Old

For the better part of the year, my friend, Victoria, has been wanting to do a photoshoot with Kylie. “Whimsical, sparkly, perhaps with glitter, and lots of smiles,” as she would put it.

For most of the year, Kylie has been asking me one question, “Did Victoria get the dresses yet?” She’s asked to use my phone to message Victoria, “Have the dresses come yet?” It’s been a constant focus of hers that springs up at the most random of times. The response has always been the same, “Not yet, Victoria’s been busy with work and still seeking out the right dresses to use.”

Flash forward to September. As is customary for Kylie, she returns to school and, almost on cue, gets sick. First few weeks go great, and then the bug hits her. This year, she missed her school photo day- always a favourite day of hers to look forward to. So instead of waiting for the retake day in another month, I hit up Victoria and pitched a mini-photoshoot with her instead.

A few weeks later I told Kylie that the photo shoot was happening. She was quite excited. When Kylie is excited

for something, she isn’t shy about showing her enthusiasm, which is when I know she’s genuinely happy about it and not just putting on a show. This was one of those moments.

When we arrived at the park to meet Victoria, the nerves started to build in Kylie. She acted rather shy around Victoria at first, which was not the typical response from Kylie. We started with some practice shots to help her warm up while waiting for her mom to arrive, and she slowly eased to it. Halfway through, she was pumped and energetic, ready to shine; by the end, she was worn out and ready to just play without worrying about flashing her smile constantly.

The photoshoot really echoed the year Kylie had.

Nervous, excited, energetic, playful, and then wanting to retreat to relax.

I wrote last year about a lot of the progress Kylie had been making with her French, social skills, and technology. That has all continued to grow at the same rapid pace as last year. This year, her use of technology to communicate and socialize is exploding. She’s been using iMessages and FaceTime to communicate with my parents and a friend in the evenings when it’s too late to be having playdates. This has grown into sharing YouTube videos with each other and taking pictures of what’s happening in front of them. Her friendship has grown beyond just being silly on FaceTime to sharing stories about their day and what’s interesting to them.

YouTube, Google, and using Siri, have all been something of great interest to Kylie. She still asks me questions about how and why things are the way they are, but more and more, she turns those questions over to Google and Siri to find the answers for her. This also happens when she doesn’t believe my answers. It makes me wonder if I ever doubted my parents’ responses this much when I was her age. She is quite determined to discover the real truth and verify that I know what I am talking about.

YouTube has also opened up a new world to Kylie. On Netflix, the shows she tends to watch are either cartoons or sitcoms where she knows the people are pretending. On YouTube, she’s discovered the video blogs of families talking about their days and adventures. Some of them are geared more at parents as a way of supporting them, but others are kids around Kylie’s age having fun on camera. Other series are meant for kids around Kylie’s age, giving them messages about discovering their passions and not listening to bullies. Special shoutout to JoJo Siwa for becoming a near obsession for her- bows, books, bed sheets, and her songs have become of a daily part to Kylie’s life. Part of it is definitely annoying for me to listen to, but then I know she finds me watching sports rather annoying as well.

It’s been a year of a lot of fun for Kylie. It’s also gone by so quickly it feels like everything happened in a few months time. Swimming lessons in spring, summer camp at H2O for six weeks, cousins visiting Kelowna in summertime, and ballet and jazz dance lessons this fall. Lots of time spent at the pool and beach, learning how to sew on a sewing machine with my mom, and operating a lemonade stand mainly on her own. Plus lots of hiking and her times skiing at Big White with her mom.

She’s had a busy schedule without becoming too busy (and expensive.)

More than previous years, she’s been enjoying being at home. It’s not quite as boring and restless for her. Reading and playing games with me, watching things on the iPad, but also starting to express her personality through style. She’s been experimenting with her own hair, using hair chalk to colour it, and playing with makeup to see what works for her. She always asks for my opinion afterwards, and then promptly disagrees with me. She always needs to improve upon something or ignore a problem I’ve pointed out to her. It’s one area where I’m learning that it’s better for me to just let her do her own thing and play.

As Kylie grows older, I find myself wanting to share other details about her life that for the most part have remained private. I feel the urge to share in order to help other parents know that they aren’t alone with the challenges they may be facing with their kids. There are challenges that arise with kids beyond academics and not doing well at sports, and that are not covered in the media like bullying and sexual abuse are. This year has been a year of realization for both myself and Kylie about some of those challenges. They exist, and they can be worked through, without having to avoid the issues altogether or make things worse. This process has lead to some nervous moments for us both, but we’re on the right path to getting through it together. Perhaps some day I will be able to write more about the struggles we have gone through, but right now I don’t think it’s entirely fair to Kylie to go into detail without her knowing and consenting.

At the end of the photo shoot, only an hour long, it was pretty evident that Kylie’s attention and enthusiasm were waning. She did remember something that she had asked about at the beginning though: shots of her playing. She’s always had this naturally bright smile that can light up the room, but it’s nearly impossible for me to capture it. As soon as I bring out my phone to get a photo, the smile tends to disappear and I get a look instead.

But that day, her smile was captured in all its wonderful beauty. Seeing it reminds me that as tough as this year has been, and whatever may lie ahead for us both, she makes it worth it. Always worth it.

Happy 8th birthday, Kylie.

Kylie’s Favourites 2017:

Song: JoJo Siwa ‘Boomerang’

Show: Fuller House

Book: Kylie Jean

iOS game: Wedding Planner

Special thanks to Victoria for doing the photoshoot with us. Go check out her Instagram account to see more of her work.