Wait, didn't I just write your 3rd birthday letter? Has it already been a year?
And yet, when I look at you I can see the changes this past year has wrought, imperceptible at first from one day to the next, but looking back I wonder where my baby girl has gone.
To start with you are taller, and you are slender, barely any baby fat is left. You've suddenly started doing things independently, emerging from the bathroom wiped and washed and clothed. You've started wanting to stir your own yogurt and choose your own outfits and do your own "school work", and make your own bed, meticulously. I feel a sudden twinge whenever you come out of the bathroom as I realize that in the past month you have suddenly grown up in one more area without me saying or doing anything, besides not running to wipe you the instant you called. You got tired of waiting until I was finished whatever else I was doing before coming to help you.
You can pronounce the letter l now. Sometime this year you stopped saying Yike and yook and now you say like and look like everybody else. You still have a little tiny soft voice though, unless you are in the middle of a meltdown. And then, drama. If I nudge you just a little bit to the left when you are ready for a melt down you will throw your whole body down onto the floor as though I threw you there and wail for hours. Or if you run up to me and need a hug and I have guck all over my hands and I move around you to wash them so that I can hug you with clean hands you respond as though I've taken your little heart and stomped on it until it's bloody. In these ways, emotionally, you are still a very little girl. And I'm fine with that. It's sometimes irritating but I don't really want the time when all you need to feel better is some time on mommy's lap to end.
You love to bake and help me cook. You run to put on your apron and climb on a stool to "help me" whenever you notice I am cooking. Most of the time this is fun, but not when mommy is in a rush. Mommy needs to get even better at not being in a rush so that we can have more time to spend together in the kitchen, and with you on my lap. I think I've only got a year or so left to enjoy it before it starts to disappear. One day when you are all grown up you will finally understand the balancing act that mommy's endure, and maybe I'll have some advice for you by then. In the meantime, you now have a complete set of cookware, kid sized of course, so you can cook whenever you want.
You are a good older sister. You talk to the Baby and make her laugh and play with her and carry her around. And yet, you are the classic middle child, feeling as though you are caught in between the oldest and the baby, often feeling ignored, and demanding that I pay attention to just you. Which is good, keep on demanding it, you'll get it more often that way. Not that every single time you want something you'll get it, but you are hard to ignore though you may not know that yet.
You live deep in a pretend world of mommy and daddy and baby horses, where dinosaurs are friendly and share porridge with teddy bears and puppy dogs, where there are always princesses and dragons can be defeated with a stern talking to. You love having independent activities to do. You are a perfect mimic doing things exactly the way I show you to, the first time. I'm still in shock over that. I wonder if it's because you are a girl, or if you're just in an extremely absorbent learning stage right now. Whatever it is, I'm going to try and cram as much as you can learn into it. Alright?
When you are not tired or close to a meltdown, you are funny. You are relentlessly silly and cheery. You won't rest until you have gotten a laugh. The thing is, unlike so many kids who do this, you are often actually funny. Or maybe we're just blinded by your cuteness when you are laughing and so we just think you are funny, it's hard to decide. It's such a cliche but you really do make me think of the sun breaking through clouds when you laugh, your blue eyes sparkling, your white hair streaming around your face, your cheeks flushed pink with excitement.
You may feel, stuck in the middle as you are, that I could forget about you, that you are less special than your older brother, who gets to do all sorts of cool big boy stuff, or your younger sister who is still a baby and still gets to act like one and be carried everywhere. This is the farthest thing from the truth. In fact, in a way it's probably perfect that you are framed by other siblings because if you were an only child I think you would be completely spoiled. Your daddy and I would just remain in awe of the golden child who stormed through our lives, melt every time you smiled, and give you a pony or three just to see you smile again. We would still give you a pony if we could afford all that that involves. (Actually, this is a big secret, but you can't read yet so I'll let it slip. Your granddaddy is thinking about buying a pony that you could ride and keeping it at his house. He says it will be for all the kids, and he says it's so that it can stomp out gophers or something in the lower field, but we all know that it's really because he wants to buy you a pony and watch you ride it.) The point of course is that you are too brilliant a child to be left behind or lost in the family milieu, whether you know it or not. You are somewhat unaware of the great lengths that people will go to for you, to make you smile. This is probably a good thing. We wouldn't want you to be drunk with power or anything. Only use your power for good young lady, or to score front row seats.
I keep reaching for words that will capture how deeply in love with you I continue to be, but they keep slipping through my fingers and the words I'm left with sound trite, used, and inadequate. So, I will just end by saying how much I love you. Without you our little family would be far more dull than it is now.