To My Daughter on Her Third Birthday

Dear Penny,

Somehow, you are 3. You’ve been telling people you were going to turn 3 for months now, always carefully holding down your thumb and pinkie to proudly display your 3 middle fingers, and on the morning of your birthday, when we asked you how old you were, you didn’t miss a beat. You were clearly ready to be 3. I, however, was not.

Since your birthday was 2 days before our move, we debated over how we would celebrate. A part of me felt like we should still throw a party, but with everything in boxes and so much still to do, we decided to ask you what you wanted to do instead. Your requests were to go to the children’s museum, eat cake with your family, and have balloons. We were more than happy to fulfill those requests.

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On June 29th, you woke up to find doughnuts and presents waiting for you, and the sugar overload continued from there. After lots of playtime at the children’s museum with some special friends, you oogled the display of cupcakes at the cupcake shop. A sprinkle covered Fourth of July themed cupcake first caught your eye, and you repeatedly insisted on that one, even as I tried to tell you about all of the other offerings. Your out of character choice surprised me, but just as I went to place your order, you quickly announced, “Actually, I want red velvet!” Just as I suspected, you would always end up going back to your favorite. You generously shared your treat with Lucy, and somehow managed to nap even with the excitement of the celebration still to come.

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After a long rest, we piled into the car and met our family at Taco Boy, the ideal festive setting for feasting on chips and queso to your hearts’ content. You were greeted with hugs, kisses, princess crowns and balloons, and shyly blew out the candles on your enormous slice of Tres Leches birthday cake before retiring to the patio for coloring and dancing. It was a perfectly intimate birthday, complete with your favorite people, places, and desserts, just as it should be.

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Since that day, it seems as though you have become a big girl overnight. I frequently chuckle with surprise and amazement at the clever and amusing things you say. You love to test out new words and phrases, and almost always use them correctly. You’ve added transition words to the mix, like also, because, and actually, and insist on not only speaking in complete sentences, but making sure that those around you do as well. Heaven help he who tries to get away with an “uh huh” or an “uh uh” when conversing with you. You also like to express your feelings, squealing “that makes me feel silly!” or sadly whimpering that something makes you “feel so sad” (being told no or getting hurt being the main culprits there).

You love pretending, putting your stuffed animal friends down for naps or reenacting scenes from Frozen. I find evidence of your imaginative games all over the house, and they always make me smile. You are incredibly caring and considerate, putting a blanket on Charlie when he is napping or leaving a little pile of Toby’s food beside him on the bed.

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One of my favorite things, however, is watching you embrace your role as a big sister. You have recently begun to appreciate what a special role it is, and enjoy Lucy more and more every day. The instant she turns fussy (which happens a lot lately, because, as you often remind us, “Lulu’s got teeth coming in”), you promptly retrieve her puppy and paci and shove them into her tiny hands. You refer to the two of you as “we,” informing us that “we need a snack” and “we don’t like broccoli.” You make each other giggle all the time, often with as slight a provocation as shared eye contact, and you insist on holding her free hand when we go for walks in the evenings. Recently, we have begun to put you girls to bed at separate times, due to the fact that you would have such a ball in your room together that neither of you was getting adequate sleep, and your tears and protesting cries of “but I need my sister! I need my baby called Lucy!” were almost too heartbreaking to bear.

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So much about you has grown, from your personality and communication skills to your long legs and cascading curls, and yet so much of you has stayed the same. You are still overly cautious, preferring the gentle thrill of the swings to the intense dips of the big kid slides. You have recently started going down the smaller slides, but only because you were motivated by your thrill seeking baby sister, who took to them immediately. You still adore books and music, just as you did as an infant, and can happily sit for hours crafting and creating art.

I see so much of myself in you, from your shyness and caution to your love for creative activities and the English language. I know that our similarities will be both a blessing and a curse, as I will understand you more than anyone else ever could, but will also inevitably find frustration in the things I see in you that bother me about myself. I want so much for you, but most of all I want you to be just as present and happy as you are right now. Watching you inspires me to be the same, and I will strive each day to simply be here and enjoy this moment, this life that is being your mom. You have taught me so much since the day you made me a mother 3 years ago, and you will continue to teach me and help me grow as a parent just as I watch you grow into the unique individual that you are.

Happy Birthday my special 3 year old. May you savor every moment of this time, and may you be in no hurry whatsoever to turn 4.