Happy Birthday, Sweet Meredith!
You’re three. It’s amazing you’re so big. It’s amazing how you changed this summer from my baby to this crazy kiddo I’ve got living in my house. The pictures from this month tell a lot of the story. It’s pretty crazy how much we packed in, and how far we came: A month ago I was still mostly convalescing on the couch with our newborn and you were hanging out most days with Maddie, my 11yo helper who spent much of the summer at our house. Along the way we’ve 100% moved out of our old apartment, 100% moved you into your room in the basement, and even had a week-long visit from Gramma & Grampa. No grass growing under these feet!
It’s becoming apparent that all the transition is a little more than you know what to deal with, and you are pushing some buttons around here and getting yourself into a little trouble. It fascinates me how differently you manifest this kind of upheaval in you little heart from the way your moody, obsessive, introvert brother does. For you it looks like getting into all kinds of mischief with your people, and by people I mean mostly The Baby and The Dog. I’m constantly nagging you or rebuking you or restricting you about how you treat these two defenseless subjects. I can hear it in your voice and see it in your clenched jaw when you’re feeling a little crazy towards them, and in these moments I have to un-invite you from touching them at all, pointing out to you how your body is feeling. It’s not consciously spiteful, the way you squish Joshua or get in his face and the way you push on the dog or pull her leg. I can tell it’s your feisty spirit trying to reorient to this new world and its members.
But then sometimes you are downright mean, and I think that’s all part of the upheaval, too. The other day at the pool you were up in Joshua’s business and it was bugging him and me so I redirected you and told you to leave him alone. You’d also gotten his hat a bit wet and when I made it clear that I didn’t want it wet you grabbed it off his head and stuffed it down into the water as fast as you could, your whole body and soul engaged in this act of meanness. It made me feel really sad to see you poke at your people with so much spite. Moments later you pushed Jacob’s button and when he reacted to you, you slapped him right on the belly. (Child, you could be less cliche.) I made you go sit on the poolside chair for five minutes before you could play again. Tonight in the car getting back from church you were snarking at Jacob about something as Daddy was in the middle of calling you his pet name, “Goose.” He paused and remarked what a fitting name it is for you since you’ve got the same kind of mean streak as a goose.
You’re also relating to me and Daddy a little weird, swinging back and forth between clingy, teary, snuggly and downright combative. You completely ignore what I say often, choosing to move forward with your own wishes in direct defiance of what you’re hearing from me, and – what I find bizarrely cute – just looking right back at me and saying “No” or “I don’t want to” in response to an instruction. It’s not rude, it’s just you trying on your independence for size and being frighteningly good at it, and stereotypical in a way that Jacob never was. Apparently I have discovered which one is not my compliant child. The other cute thing you say is “Hey!” in a protesting reaction to things you don’t like – cute because you leave off the initial H.
But for the most part you are just growing one day at a time into this hilarious, darling, smart, fun, caring person. I love watching it so much. I love how confidently you demand to “nuggle” and how dependent you are on these precious moments. I love how you sing everything and anything. I love your incredible command of the nuances of the English language. I love more than anything the way delight flashes across your face at an idea you like and you shout “Yeah!” with your whole forehead raised to reveal your big round brown eyes shining. I love how long and beautiful your hair is and how you take initiative to put clips in it and how they make it stick up on end because you’re so bad it, and I love how you insist on having a pony tail instead of pig tails. I love what a big damn deal your birthday has been the last few weeks and how proudly and affectionately you move through each day never too far away from your new Eiffel Tower fleece, your first present, picked out one morning when Jacob was at school, after a year of promise that when you turned three you could get a big-girl blankie like Jacob’s Monkey Fleece.
Today was your birthday but we’re waiting till Friday to celebrate when we can involve the whole family for the whole day. This weekend was full since I was busy playing a wedding and a church service. You went with me this morning, still in your jammies as we walked into the sanctuary at 7:00 a.m. to prepare for the 8:00 a.m. service. They were your favorite Calvin Klein purple jammies – the same ones you decided all by yourself to wear all day long the other day as a jammie day. We’ve had a few birthday songs and birthday phone calls today, and one tiny present between church services, but we’re saving the real fun a few more days, and finally, finally, finally your dream will come true and, as you’ve been anxious for all summer, we will “go to BUGS for your present.”
There will be a lot of other good fun as well, and so very many presents, not least of which a lab coat and doctor’s bag of tools from Nana and Papa, inspired by our trip to the doctor last Friday for Joshua’s 2 month check up. Feeling that the honeymoon had worn off, so to speak, and that you were now seeing Joshua more as competition and threat than darling miracle, I thought I’d try to involve you, so you came along as my “helper” to the doctor. We had so much fun taking care of him together and you were a big helper. As we sat and waited you decided to pretend doctor, and we took turns being on the doctor’s stool and the exam table as we waited to be seen. Your 3yo check-up is actually on Friday morning, the day we’ll celebrate your birthday, so I expect you’re going to be pretty excited about this present from Nana & Papa.
Your baby is still your favorite thing in the world and you take meticulous care of it. It’s always around and often an important member of our expeditions. The other day you were sitting at the piano (brilliant child, you swapped the bench for your rocking chair so you could reach the pedals) and there in Joshua’s cradle beside you was your baby, whom you sometimes refer to as “my Joshua Levi.” I’ve given you a collection of newborn-sized onesies and you are constantly changing his clothes and I keep finding them mixed in with our laundry. Because obviously your baby’s clothes get dirty too…
You also love to color and play play doh and, the newest thing, cut with scissors and sometimes even play with glue stick. You’re starting to do more than scribble and I can’t wait to see what skills will begin to emerge in my tiny little artist. You were telling someone tonight who asked what your favorite color is that you like “all the bright colors.” That is so you, and so true. So for your birthday cake we are assembling mini cupcakes with white frosting in the shape of a princess dress and then we will decorate it with all the colors of sprinkles.
As I mentioned, we’ll be going to BUGS for your birthday. It’s the local gymnastics training facility and they open their gym to tots one hour each day. It’s not free but it fills your soul all the way up. We’ve set aside some cash to be able to take you and Jacob once a week this year, and I’m so excited to see you grow into this. Awhile back I was watching things waiting in my Netflix queue and came to the biographical documentary of Gabby Douglas, the young girl who won Olympic Gold a couple years ago. The next day I let you watch the performance sequences from the movie and you were in awe. Then you went over to the carpet and furiously danced and jumped and tumbled and somersaulted. I love cleaning up our play space and putting on loud music and letting you guys dance your little hearts out, and I love that it’s something you’re starting to take ownership of and choose on your own, and I love how you get the ribbon hand kites out and dance with them and take turns being the leader like I’ve shown you.
One of the most beautiful things you’ve been up to lately is singing. You sing to yourself all day long, your stream of consciousness coming out in these tiny tunes. The best part is seeing all our recent work to acclimate you to the Sunday morning liturgy beginning to pay off. The past year you’ve been disengaged in church a lot, kind of a loose cannon. The days we’ve paused for worship as a family at home have been few and far between and we’ve seen the need to cultivate that discipline in you. But we’ve been regular about it again in the last month and you are growing into it so well. You quote Psalm 127 by heart right along with Jacob – it’s the Psalm we’ve opened our worship with all month – and it’s so fun to hear you taking this whole chunk of text in stride, sweetly managing the tricky sounds like “anxious toil” and making Daddy and me look at each other over your head with such pride and joy. You and Jacob like to grab your tiny Gideon New Testament that sits on the shelf in your room and take turns “reading chapters” and I hear you talking about Abraham or Joseph or not murdering and it’s so adorable and funny and earnest.
Best of all, all day long I hear bits and pieces of the Gloria in your songs, and sometimes I hear you making up your own songs about God, often singing about how he is “Grace-iful.” Mostly this is just precious and profoundly meaningful, like today when we got home from church and I realized you were sitting at the organ in Daddy’s office having your own personal worship. But sometimes it is purely hilarious, like when I heard you sing to the dog, “Mocha lie down in the highest!”
One of the cutest moments this month happened at bedtime when we were all talking and snuggling in your new room in the basement. Your beds are next to each other and the space between them is no more than about six inches. Once we put the carpet down and build your beds back into bunks there will be more room but for now it almost looks like a massive wall-to-wall king-sized bed. So Jacob suggested that someday when you grew up the two of you will share a big bed like Mommy & Daddy share a big bed. “No,” we explained to him. “Merry is your sister. When you grew up you will get to choose your own wife, and Merry will get to choose her own husband.” “Yes!” you piped up, “I want Patrick to be my husband!” We grinned and tried not to laugh at you and I suggested perhaps you could call him and ask him the next morning. (Because he’d get such a laugh.) “OK,” you replied, “Can you call him on the phone for me?”
Last but not least, I have to tell you about the new wisdom you are learning. It’s a tricky concept – truth and lies – but I think you’re grasping it. A few times recently I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that something has happened even though you are denying it. Usually it’s a situation where you fear I will be displeased with you if you admit to something. Sometimes you’re right, but sometimes not, and it makes me sad to see you worrying that you need to pretend and lie in order to have my acceptance. So we’ve been talking about it. It’s hard to explain the difference between lying and true words to a preschooler but I can see you’re getting it because sometimes I watch the gears turn as I ask you an incriminating question and you catch yourself on the verge of a lie and, absolutely exuding bravery from every pore, you change your answer. Then I smile at you and you smile back and I think maybe things are off to a pretty good start with your little heart.
I’m so glad I get to be your Mommy. I think that almost every day. It’s interesting how you amaze me. There was enormous affection and gushy, motherly, warm feelings in the earliest days of both your brothers’ lives that was strangely missing when I first met you, and I worried about that lack of felt affection. But now it’s there in a way that i isn’t for your brothers: I’m used to them. I adore them and delight in them but they don’t really surprise me. With you it’s like I have my mind boggled all over again as I wonder to myself “I get to be that amazing person’s Mommy.” Daddy and I have been talking a lot over the last year about what we see our family looking like when all is said and done, and it’s a good possibility that this is it, the five of us. We aren’t ready to call it yet, but if this is how it ends up being, it would mean that you are our girl. End of story. And I just think to myself, “Why would I need two girls? This one is pure perfection.”
Happy Birthday, my perfect little person. I love you like crazy. Seriously, I can’t get over you.