An age by any other name

By Mir
April 18, 2009

You spent all day yesterday running up to me, leaning in until we were nose-to-nose, opening your eyes really wide and declaring, “HAPPY DAY BEFORE MY BIRTHDAY!”

But then at bedtime, you were somber again. “I don’t think ten was really a very good year,” you said, quietly. “I was in trouble a lot. I was mean a lot, especially to you. And Nightingale was mean to me. Is still mean to me.” I tried to smooth away your worry as I smoothed your hair. I talked about getting through hard stuff, new chances, forgiveness, and how your Mama always loves you, no matter what.

“But I hope 11 will be a better year,” you said, a couple of tears streaking from the corner of your eye down to your ear, as you lay in bed staring at the ceiling. “Do you think it will?” I think it will, and I told you so. I reminded you of the wonderful things from this past year. I reminded you that last year, you’d decided you didn’t want to grow up—you insisted that turning 10 was the worst thing to ever happen, and you never wanted to be big.

I reminded you that 11 is going to be the year you get your ears pierced, the year you start middle school, and the year we can share shoes.

This morning you flew downstairs impossibly early, and dove into our bed, giddy with the excitement of it all. After being congratulated on turning 11, you let loose a mighty cackle, declaring that actually, you’re 47 today. Why 47? We have no idea, and neither did you. But it got funnier and funnier, anyway. Especially when Otto finally turned over and said, “If you’re turning 47 and you just crawled into bed with us, something is very, VERY wrong here.”

You’d been offered breakfast out, but you wanted Otto’s pancakes. So that’s what we had.

Today you are 11. Or B in hexidecimal, my darling geeklette. And although it turned out a little blobby, that’s a heart up there, too, because you’re always loved, no matter how old you are or what you think it means.

You oohed and aahed over your presents, and you threw back your head and laughed to discover the little dolly your grandmother sent all tucked in a knitted purse was, in fact, personalized just for you:

It seemed like the reassurance you needed that you are still our Chickadee, and maybe 11 isn’t all that grown-up after all.

Happy birthday, darling girl. You are forever and always my Chickadee—lucky, lucky me.


  1. Marie


  2. meghann

    Happy birthday to her! I hope 11 is a wonderful year. :)

  3. Nancy R

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee!

  4. elizabeth

    happy birthday chickee!

  5. The Other Leanne

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee! Make it the Best Year Ever!

  6. Camels & Chocolate

    That was poignant and beautiful. Happy birthday, little Chickadee!

  7. exile on mom street

    Happy birthday to Chickie, and happy mother’s day to you.

    I know, technically Mother’s Day is in May, but I think it’s really the day you become someone’s Mama.

    I wish both of you nothing but the best on this special day!

  8. Aimee

    Happy birthday, Chickadee! I hope 11 is really fantastic.

  9. Karen

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee. That doll is a perfect gift for an 11th birthday!

  10. Tatiana

    Awwh, adorable little doll! And the hexidecimal pancake is hilarious. Happy birthday, Miss Chickadee!

  11. Megumi

    Aww! Happy Birthday Chickadee!

  12. Karishma

    happy birthday, chickie. this year will definitely be better for you.

  13. Megan

    true love expresses itself in hex! Happy birthday Chickie – 11 is a magical age (Just ask Harry Potter)

  14. Anna Marie

    Happy Birthday Chickadee!

  15. Beachgal

    Happy Birthday Chickadee!!!

  16. RuthWells

    Aw. My baby is turning 11 in a few weeks — it is an interesting transition. May your and Chickie’s path run smooth.

  17. Kirsten


    11 is a GREAT year…

    And thank you, Mir, for making me sniffle just a little ;)

  18. Erika

    Happy Birthday Chickadee!

  19. Alison C

    Happy birthday, Chickadee!

  20. Meredith

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee! You will never be so old that won’t be your mama’s baby.

  21. Kim

    Happy birthday, Chickadee! May 11 be all that you dream.

  22. just beaux

    Sending great Birthday wishes to you and Chickadee!

  23. StephLove

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee!

  24. Deva

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee. May this year bring you lots of laughter, joy, wonder, and new experiences.

  25. Lucinda

    Happy Birthday! 11 is a great age to be.

  26. just beth

    Happy birth-day to YOU, Mir. You have a glorious, empathetic, brilli..ant daughter, and you have obviously done a fantastic job at raising her as such. I don’t know about you, but I am always flooded with the memory of how I brought each of my little darlings into this world… so I say good work to YOU, mama.



  27. Em

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee! 11 is when the fun really starts! Enjoy your day and all of the great times 11 will bring.

  28. Dawn

    Happy Birthday, Chickadee! 11 is gonna rock!

  29. Melissa

    Happy Birthday!!

  30. Lady M

    Happy Bth Birthday!

  31. Loth

    Happy B-irthday Chickie!

  32. sassymonkey

    Happy Birthday Chickadee!

  33. MomCat

    All the double-digit years – 11, 22, 33, 44 – were fun! Happy Belated B-day, Chickadee!

  34. BethR

    Belated but heartfelt: Happy birthday Chickadee! I sure hope 11 is a much better year for you.

    Oh, and here’s a secret that even your mom knows, but she might have forgotten to tell you: when you’re feeling really grumpy and you don’t know why, a single little piece of chocolate does help soothe the weird hormones. Maybe this is the time to have a mother/daughter bag of something tucked into the cabinet? It helped me and my mom :-)

  35. Amy-Go

    Happy Eleven, Chickadee! Jack sez to tell you it rocks! ;)

  36. Erin

    Happy birthday, Chickadee! :D

  37. Scottsdale Girl

    Happy Belated Birday Chickadee. Hexiwhat?

  38. Kailani

    Happy, Happy Birthday, Chickie!
    Eleven is glorious, 11 is amazing, 11 is fantabulous, 11 is a palindrome!

  39. Shannon

    I love how you write — absolutely captivating! I call my little girl Chickadee, too. Among other names like Tooter-tot, Sugar Lump and Sweet Sweet Girl.

  40. Cele

    Happy Birday Chickie – and welcome to the tween’s

  41. Julie

    Love it that Chickadee and my darlin’ little boy share a birthday. He was 12, and what a fabulous 12 years it’s been. Hope 11 is even better than hoped for.

  42. mama speak

    Awww! Mir, you remind me constantly why it is YOU who gets paid to write and not I. You’re amazing! No wonder you are raising such amazing kids.

    Please pass on a belated b-day wish to Chickie from from the Speak household! I remember 12 as being an especially hard year, so maybe Chickie is just an early bloomer on some fronts.
    I think, that the fact that she was able to look at the last year and the issues she had implies that 11 will be eons beyond better.

  43. Tracy

    Happy (Belated) Birthday, Chickie! I hope you’re day was a special as you and your mom. And like Mama, I know now why YOU get paid to write and I get everything else for reading. Happy (Belated) Birthday, again!

  44. Kelly

    Happy (belated) Birthday, Chickie!!!

  45. bob

    I hope Chickadee had a very happy birthday – I think that I’ve known (of) her for half of her life? Or something close to it. She is a credit to her mother, which comes as no surprise to me.

    Many happy returns of the day, Chickadee.

  46. Andrea

    Happy Happy belated birthday Chickadee! I hope you get to have a week long gala celebration of this new (and better) year!

  47. Burgh Baby

    Happy birthday, Chickadee!

  48. Sheila

    You know, I’ve always wondered if you called her Chickadee at home, or if that was just her “blog identity.”

    I hope eleven is a great year for all of you.

  49. TC

    So sweet!

    11’s been a pretty good year here, too. Tough in places, as my girl finds her feet as, you know, not so much just a girl anymore. But lovely, too, in the ways our relationship has grown and matured just like she has grown and matured.

    Here’s hoping the same for you and Chickie.

    Happy birthday, Chickadee!

  50. Katie in MA

    Happy belated birthday, Chickie! I hope you always know how many people you have rooting for you. Yeah, we might all be strange, but we’re rooting for you just the same. :-)

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