Not sure when this happened -
but today our Jolie turned nine.
From a parent's perspective, I think nine is the most monumental childhood birthday, because it means we are halfway done raising her. Nine years ago today, she was born. Nine years from today, she will be an adult. As I told Jack, to put it in his terms -- The clock has run out on the first two quarters. Today is halftime.
Like any committed coach, I think halftime should be spent reviewing the early plays of the game, and contemplating strategy for a victorious finish. So here goes -
Jolie first joined our team as the most difficult player ever drafted. Colic, allergies, reflux, chronic ear infections. She spit up buckets, never slept for more than three hours at a a time, and screamed so often she was constantly losing her voice. Some days we didn't know whether to call the pediatrician, or an exorcist.
By age two she completed her physical training by outgrowing most of her ailments, and was ready to be pulled from the bench and onto the field. Her helmet took the form of perfect blonde ringlets. I treasure my memories of Jolie's first quarter, because all the coaching was one-on-one. Jack and I were living a simple student life, and it completely revolved around our firstborn. We marveled at every play she made, and cheered on every step she took down the field. There is no counting how many hours we spent reading her books, pushing her on the swing, or following behind as she splashed along the Santa Barbara coast.
At the end of the first quarter and into the second, Jolie was selected as team captain, as we drafted 3 new players into the league -
#2, Leah Jane -
#3, Calvin James -
and #4, Eddie Jack -
This forced her to take a salary cut, and her personal training hours were scaled back significantly. But, she quickly and naturally took on the role of star defensive player, always guarding and protecting the younger three.
Jolie calls the plays instinctively. In the mornings, when she hears Eddie cry, she scoops him out of his crib and entertains him while I take care of the others. When it's time to get on the bus, she helps Leah up and down the giant step, then walks her to class and won't let her leave without a kiss goodbye. After school she sits at the table with Cal and helps him practice his letters.
Not a day goes by that Jack and I don't wonder what we would do without Jolie in the league. As team owners, we have a hard time saying no when it comes to contract negotiations. Without even the help of an agent, her demands are almost always met - whether they be staying up late to watch Wipeout with Dad, signing up for hip hop lessons, or money to buy her own pink lemonade at Cafe Rio.
As we run toward the tunnel to celebrate her birthday, if a sideline reporter were to stop and ask how I'm feeling about the second half, I would say I'm optimistic, and a little emotional. Then I would go on a rant accusing the scorekeepers of speeding up the clock, because there is no way it has been 9 years already.