Well, my dear, you’re turning four today, and I can’t believe how much you’ve changed this year. I look back at photographs from a year ago, and it seems like you were just a baby then. Now you’re a little girl.
Even as I write those words I can hear your matter-of-fact little voice in my head correcting me. “Actually, Mom, I am a big girl, not a little girl,” is what you would say. I love when you start sentences with “Actually, Mom,” like you’re thirty instead of three. Or when you say that something is ridiculous, except you pronounce it “ridicoolus” as only a precocious 3-year-old could. Or when you scold me for saying bad words as if you were my mother and not the other way around.
When I think about your year as a 3-year-old, I’ll remember how you spent hours upon hours swinging in our backyard. Your face lights up like an angel as you fly back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes, in that moment, I have this feeling that I want to stop everything and remember that look of pure joy forever. Some of our happiest moments have happened in this backyard: you and Daddy sword-fighting like pirates or kicking the soccer ball, chasing Josie so that she runs circles around and around, and sitting on the swings talking, just the two of us.
I’ll remember how you wore a princess crown nearly every single day. Some days it was just the crown. Some days it was a vast, mismatched collection of necklaces and bracelets, too. Many days, you emerged from your room at 7 am to display an outfit only you could put together: leggings under a skirt under a tutu with fairy wings or a fancy dress in which you would twirl around and ask, “Mom, am I beautiful?”
Your favorite toys that have occupied hours and hours of your time are your sea animals. You line up your dolphins and sharks, turtles and stingrays and talk to them as if they’re your babies. You tell them to be quiet and obey or they will have to go to time-out. You rock them to sleep and sing them lullabies, and each time you leave for school in the morning, you give strict instructions as to how your babies should be cared for in your absence. Without fail, as soon as you get into the car after school, you ask me, “Mom, how did my animals behave today?” and often you scold them for not taking their naps. Peeking into your room and watching you play with those animals when you think no one is looking is one of my favorite things to do. You love being their mother, and I love being yours.
Your motherly instinct isn’t exclusive to your sea animals, though. Often, you act like the Mom to most of your friends. Miss Sara and Miss Erna tell me that each afternoon at naptime at school, you tuck each of your classmates in for their nap. You speak for the younger ones when they aren’t understood by the teachers, and you love to scold anyone and everyone (including your Daddy and me) when we haven’t done something right.
There’s no one you love to mother more than your new little brother. You told me once, “Mom, I will be Everett’s mom, and you can be the grandma, okay?” You love him so much that sometimes we have to pry you from him to give him room to breathe. You sing songs to him, cover him in blankets, and put his pacifier in his mouth (even when he doesn’t want it). You also love to tell everyone else how they should take care of him, including me.
You have had Miss Sara and Mrs. Erna as your teachers for the third year in a row, and school is one of your happiest places. Every day lately, you’ve come home to tell me what letter you learned and all the words you can think of that begin with that letter. You talk about letters day and night. In fact, you pretty much talk about anything and everything day and night. There have been many times this year where I wondered if perhaps it wasn’t my best idea to invest so much time into teaching you to speak. When we drive in the car, there truly is not one moment of silence (unless we play the quiet game which you are surprisingly good at). I’ve been known on more than one occasion when I’ve desperately needed some quiet to compromise with you and tell you that you can talk all you want to as long as you don’t ask me any questions for a little while. Oh, the questions! Sometimes, it just feels like they will not end.
What I hope I’ll remember most about this year, though, is the sound of that little laugh- when I tickle you in all the secret spots that only I know, when Daddy makes the monster sound and you run and hide, or when you jet out of the bathtub and streak across the living room naked. That laugh has brought me four years of indescribable joy, and I can’t wait to see what our next year together will bring.