I really never expected to be this head over heels for you. In fact, two years ago I was anxious and sad because I didn’t feel for you what I did for your brother in his newborn days. It’s a well-documented fact that mothers and babies bond at different times and in different ways. For some, it is strong and instant. For some it is a gradual process or a long time in coming. I guess I expected that the latter would also mean the bond wouldn’t be as strong or significant.
How wrong I was. It’s almost embarrassing how crazy I am about you, but I don’t mind. You are just an angel. You are crazy smart, sweet, funny, strong, tender, and really so stinkin’ easy. You have your dark side, manifested most obviously when you are with peers or little ones. This summer you liked to show your toddling cousin who was the biggest, and after church on Sunday nights you religiously raid your friend’s snack stash.
But mostly, you’re just a darling. I think my favorite thing these days is your need for cuddles. You have no shame about it, either. You don’t care who knows it, and you stop at nothing for a good cuddle. The biggest moment this comes out is at naps time, which have been tricky since we got home from our summer travels because you protest them, and then once you acquiesce, you are only happy if I satisfy your eager request: “Sleep with me!!” So I snuggle down with you for a few minutes and you hold my neck. Sometimes you take charge and put your arm around my neck and pull me right down onto the pillow. But then I eventually kiss you and tell you I have to go do my chores, and then you cry it up for awhile before settling in to nap. I actually wish I could just sleep with you each afternoon. While I was away, your aunties often did. I was surprised to hear it, because in my experience the presence of another person just leads to unending silliness. Maybe that’s just me, because, sure enough, you and Auntie Beck or Auntie Grace would snooze away most days, and they swore to me you’d sleep longer with a snuggle buddy than on your own.
In my absence, though, you have your baby dolls. You’ve grown quite attached to them, dutifully feeding them and putting them to bed and taking their clothes on and off. You prefer to co-sleep, so if they’re in their own bed when it’s time for you to sleep you get them and put them on your pillow. It’s darling to see you so attentive and affectionate to them, and sometimes I hear myself tell you what a good mommy you are for snuggling with your babies while you sleep and I realize maybe you are doing the math and that’s why you are so perturbed that I won’t sleep with you. Sorry I’m not being a good mommy, silly girl! 😉
Speaking of Auntie Beck and Auntie Grace, you came up with your first joke this summer as we were all driving back from the beach one day. You turned around and looked right at Auntie Grace and declared “Auntie Beck!!” There is a distinct way you said it, too, the middle syllable all but lost in the quick punch of the “Beck!!” The exclamation points (definitely at least two of them) are an obvious part of the spelling. Of course we corrected you, “No, that’s Auntie Grace, silly.” But you didn’t care, and it became a standing joke, you teasing Auntie Grace like that and then giggling at yourself.
You are a very particular little lady and that, too, I find darling and irresistibly fascinating. Jacob was easy to distract. But when you want to do bubbles outside and I offer for you to come help me wash the dishes, even though washing dishes (i.e. playing at the sink) is a favorite activity, you hold your ground, un-manipulated. “Blow bubbles!” you keep insisting. Sometimes you decide I need to come with you to see something or to help you. You call me and coax me, but if I’m talking to someone else or just not paying attention, you eventually get serious and walk over to take my hand. At that point it’s over for me and I have no choice but to come along or you’ll start to drag me with all your spunk. When I offer you something you don’t want, or when I make a claim you don’t agree with, it’s not enough for you just to say no. You start shaking your head back and forth just a little, this tiny, quick shake that’s almost a quiver. I find it completely hilarious, the earnestness in your big eyes and your raised eyebrows, the tight, round mouth as you say “No.” It’s like you don’t want me to misunderstand you, so you are placing great importance on adding in the body language.
You still sing “Rock of Ages” regularly, especially to your babies, and you often beg for us to give you time and space at bedtime to do your own baby bedtime, tucking them under their blanket and then hoisting your little butt into the tiny rocker beside, where you then rock and all but shout “Ah-Dee-Ay-Dez, EHFfffomeeeee…” You have another regular song now, too, that you learned at Gramma’s house. It’s your stock selection at any moment when you’re playing instruments or just trying to be full-on crazy. You shout-sing “I’ve been workin’ on the railroad!” And I just die laughing. Your other favorite song is the traditional Doxology sung in so many American Protestant churches to Old Hundredth. You sing the whole thing often, sometimes just in the background while you’re playing, sometimes to your babies, sometimes a full-on recital for our enjoyment. Whenever we ask what music you want to listen to or what song you want to sing for worship or bedtime this one is your choice, and the part I find the sweetest is that you have your own name for it: “Blessings Flow.”
You are constantly imitating Jacob, and you echo almost everything he says. If he asks for “five ice in his ice water” you do, too, even if you have no idea what that means. You just know you want whatever he’s getting, and you know if he’s saying something, there’s no reason you shouldn’t try the words on for size, too.
For your birthday in Florida Mommy & Daddy left behind a present for you to receive at the hands of your artist-Gramma, an easel just your size from Ikea, chalkboard on one side, white board on the other. We are delighting in how much you love to sit and color, and that activity entertains you for hours on end. I can’t wait to see what you grow into and I find myself wondering if you’ll have a knack and an eye for drawing as a child.
A child is rarely as lucky as you, getting three birthday parties in one year. But so it was, and after caterpillar cupcakes in July and an amazing cake made by your chef-Auntie in August we wrapped up the festivities last weekend with a butterfly cake, sharing a celebration day with cousin Hilary, who will have her actual birthday a week from today. We didn’t frame this celebration day quite so much as a birthday. Instead, it was a princess day. Daddy & Jacob got to be side-kicks all day and we four girls got serious, transforming my bedroom into a little spa for you and Hils, complete with fancy dresses, a full-size mirror, and bubble bath pedicures. Your nails had not just polish but little flower stickers. Your hair was perfect. After an early lunch and naps we played with bubbles outside and then watched Tinkerbell together as we prepared for a tea party, for which Miss Nicole & Miss Tabitha (your ladies in waiting) joined us. Auntie Kilby had proper English tea sandwiches on a tiered glass tray and we drank out of very proper cups at a table and chairs draped in white linen. After dinner you each had candles to blow out on your very own butterfly cake. It was a very good day.
This morning you were particularly precious. As I ironed shirts in the den down the hall from your room you came and went, happily playing. Just beside me you settled on the bottom step with your little puppy, diligently collecting all the supplies (blankets, a book) for a good cuddle. You read your book to your puppy with tender affection, obviously fully aware of the nurturing nature of this tender moment. And just as quick, you bounced back up to go join your brother in a round of fire-fighting. You were peaceful and content this morning and your best parts were shining through. I was not in the picture, silently watching, tickled to death, minding my business.
It made me think again about something that’s been on my mind often recently: How my dear friend talks about our presence in each other’s lives as “witness.” I wonder to think how this applies to my own children. I know you like no one else ever will. I understand your cuddly personality because I was the chest you insisted upon being draped across whenever you slept those first weeks. I will always know you to be affectionate since I watched you with that puppy. You just make sense to me, since I’ve seen all these things about you from their nascent days. I hope you always will. I hope when you are an inexplicable adolescent I will still be able to understand you, make room for you, provide safety and security for you, according to the categories I’ve witnessed all along. It’s an amazing thing, getting to be witness for the stories of your own children, and I hope I will measure up to the task – be worthy of the honor. Someday when your hair is long and thick I will be the only one who remembers that double cowlick front and center of your forehead on your hairline.
You are beautiful and strong, my girl. I love you.