02 .03 .16 To My Daughter On Her Third Birthday

Dear Emerson,

You turned three a few days ago. You’re a big girl for your age—tall and solid and strong. You also have a big head of bouncy curls that I’m learning to cultivate. You are absolutely and totally adorable, body and soul. I love how the backs of your hands are still padded in baby fat and how your round cheeks squeeze your eyes shut when you smile that great big wide open smile of yours. Your laugh, the giggly one that seems to have a little motor behind it, the one that comes out when your dad helps you jump “super high” on the bed or when your big sister acts so silly you fold into hysterics, shoots through my ears and injects such joy through me, I almost have no words for the pleasure of you.

You say “I love you,” unprompted when you wiggle in to sit next to me a lot. That started a few months ago and it really took me aback because it took your sister a little while longer to speak. For such a little person to have latched onto those words and given them back to me so sweetly and so true, in only the way a very small person can, with the slight impediment on the “L” sound and the sweet, shy smile, discovering the power of your voice, slays me. I love you, too. Oh, how I love you.

I love how you tell me “Mommy, look how strong I am!” when you sit on the couch and use the coffee table to hold yourself in a plank position. Or push your bed half way across the room. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure you continue to grow to love your able body and discover all the things it can do. It’s going to be exciting to watch.

We’re having such a good time with you these days. But I know being three is also hard. I see you struggling between wanting to be “big” like your sister but also a little afraid. You are, as they say in the parenting books, quite “attached” to me and you’ve had a challenging time “separating” from me this year as you started nursery school. And you know what? That’s okay sweetie, you take your time. I know how brave you are when I leave that classroom and I see how steely you are on the inside—even if there are loveys and pacis still on the outside. We’ll get there. I promise I wont hold you back but I also won’t rush you. You have the benefit of me having done this before so I know better than to worry about these small details.

I want you to know that this struggle between wanting to move forward but having to practice and gear up the strength, is a struggle that will take many forms as you grow up. This is truly your first real life challenge and I think you’re doing a great job finding your way. I watch you find joy in the nooks and crannies of life everyday. That’s going to serve you well.

I know these days are precious because we can afford for them to be slow. Collect your leaves as we walk, go on and stare at the colorful movie posters on the wall, stop to pet all the dogs. And yes, we can get that cookie in the window. This is our time and I know it and I cherish it.

I’m so proud to me your Mom. When I look at you and see that twinkle in your eye, I know your lights are on and I bask in the bright wonder of you.

Happy birthday my sweet, lovely girl.

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