Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A birthday letter to Little Miss Four-Year-Old

SmileyPrincess2
My dearest Little Miss,

Today, you are four. I can’t believe you’re actually, finally here. It seems like you’ve been three for the longest time. Before you even turned three, with friends about a year older than you, it felt like you were already there. And when they turned four, you did in our minds too, for some reason. Yet, you were only three.

But now you’re four, “for real,” as you would say. I’ve been a little afraid to write this letter, not trusting my own stream of consciousness and where it would take me. Because, to be perfectly honest, this past year was difficult. I’ve written about my struggle with you and my shortcomings as a parent when it comes to dealing with a headstrong three-year-old who seems hell-bent on living her life on the contrary.

I acknowledged that I know you don’t mean to be difficult. I know you’re just being, well, three. Boundaries are meant to be tested – at least at your age. And that means sometimes we have spectacular days. Sometimes, not so much. But every day, we try. And I love that we do.

I also love that from you, I learn forgiveness. As mad as you get with me from the heat of the moment, your anger dissipates as quickly as it rises. It’s all tulips and roses with us again, even before the tears dry from your face. And you don’t begrudge me my decisions. You just forget them. Conveniently.

From you, I also learn patience. Actually, I fail at that quite miserably a lot, but your capacity to forgive makes it easier for me to keep trying. And perhaps someday I will be better, because I want to be, so desperately, for both your sake and mine.

You know what else I love? Your smile.

SmileyPrincess
Your bright, beautiful, sunshine-y smile. Its cheeriness only made more brilliant by your white, baby teeth - even the one that’s slightly chipped, reminding me to always caution you against playing in the bathroom downstairs, the offending area in which you lost that miniscule part of your front tooth when you fell from the stool and hit the sink.

But one of the best things I love about you is how you proudly wear your role as big sister. We were at a new play area one day, and the first thing you did was to pick out toys you knew your sister would enjoy. “Look, Thumper, a choo-choo!”

Then you found other toys and taught her how to play with them.

“This is how you cut the pizza. Can you say pizza?”
“Beep-Pa”
“Good job, Thumper!”

A mom nearby admired your ability to think of your sister first before plowing into the toys that interested you. It’s not new to me, of course, but it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who notices.

I’ve always felt I could trust you, even at three (and now four), to look out for your sister, which is why I don’t hesitate to leave you two to play together in your room, behind closed doors. My instincts aren’t perfect of course, but then again, what is? I still need to give you the chance to succeed, and more often than not, you’ve proven that you’re up to your big sisterly tasks.

And that makes me so incredibly proud of you.

SistersInJammies

The fact that you’re a four-year-old who eats just about everything we place before you? Bonus. You are still a slow and distracted eater, but never picky. Words like dim sum, shrimp, injera, dosa, parsnip, rainbow chard, sushi and clams are all in your vocabulary because you have consumed them. Sometimes with glee.

ConeDosa

For someone who loves food as much as I do, it’s a wonderful thing.

I started off this letter with some trepidation because it felt like the rough year we’ve had would darken the hue of this letter. Yet when it comes down to it, those were mere moments of anger and helplessness. They were not you. Writing this is a good exercise for me, because it forces me to see that.

Despite those less-than-stellar moments, the you whom I love still shines through. I don’t always see it when we’re swimming (drowning?) in the muck, but I see it now. Clearly. Unequivocally.

I see the girl who is torn between wanting to stay little and being a mommy’s baby, and wanting to be heard like a big girl, demanding our attention with big words and exerting your influence on your sister (a.k.a. bossing her around). “No, Thumper, do it this way!”

I see the girlie girl who is a blur of pink and princesses (despite our best efforts to steer you away from this phase). A courageous girl, undaunted by novelty, tearless on your first day at the new preschool this year. A sentimental girl, who misses your friends from your old school despite swiftly making new ones at the new place.

On some days, my heart aches for the girl who used to be this tiny little bundle.

LittleMissTinyBaby

But I console myself with the fact that there is so much to look forward to with you. So much for you to discover. And in the process, grow and change. I could dwell in the loss of the little girl I once held in my arms, or I could celebrate the girl you are right now.

Today, to commemorate your birth, I choose the latter. I’m excited for the person you will become, but I want to savor this one right here in front of me. One who’s sassy, smart, sweet, funny, obstinate, goofy, and every bit as lovely as you are loving.

Happy birthday my not-so-little-anymore Miss. I love you fiercely and completely, and I am, as always, so honored to be your mother.

With all my heart,
Your mommy.

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