The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Happy 4th birthday, Julia

Dear Julia,

It was so easy to write your birthday letter last year. I knew just what I wanted to tell you and how I hoped to convey my love for you. I hate to say it, but I think I might have blown my wad on that one. It's not that I don't feel every bit as much love and amazement watching you turn 4 as I did when you turned 3, it's just that things are, well, more complicated this year.

You're growing up, kiddo. Sometimes, that's the highest compliment that I can pay you. You're increasingly self sufficient and self aware and self directed, and you're finding your way in this world better than I could ever have hoped or dreamed. At just 4, you are completely your own person, and the person you're becoming takes my breath away. You are thoughtful and intelligent and silly all at the same time and the dozens of friends who surround you most of the time only reinforce the fact that I'm obviously not the only one who thinks you're great.

At the same time, the fact that you're growing up means that you're challenging me more, pushing my buttons and testing the limits as you feel your way. Worded like that, this sounds so wonderfully mature and developmentally appropriate of you, but in reality, it just makes me want to strangle you half the time. Becoming your own person means testing me and pushing me away, and just because I understand and appreciate that doesn't mean I'm ever going to like it one bit. As I look ahead to the future, I'm realizing that things are only going to get more complicated between us as you get older, and that frankly scares me to death.

This age is full of contradictions. You hug me tight and beg me to sit and snuggle with you at home, but you won't even let me kiss you goodbye when I drop you off at school. You read all sorts of things I didn't expect or necessarily want you to know about, but then refuse to sit down and actually read an Easy Reader book to me. You show remarkable maturity in caring for your younger brother when I'm not around and then yank a toy out of his hands when you know I'm there watching. You take school bullies and playgroup dynamics in stride and then collapse in tears when I tell you that your pink socks are in the laundry. You're mature and wise way beyond your years and you're just a little girl, and the way those two sides of you coexist is the most amazing and maddening contradiction of all.

Your growth hasn't felt as dramatic this year as in the first few years of your life, but upon reflection, I guess it kind of has been. This year, you learned to dance (sort of) and to read (sort of) and to swim (sort of) and to speak up among your peers (loud and clear, that one). You've figured out how to deal with minor bullies on your own and how to put clothing on tiny little Poly Pockets dolls on your own and how to zip your coat on your own. You've got a firm grasp on some big concepts like negative numbers and the existence of God, but you're still charmed by the idea of Santa Claus or magic socks that can give you good dreams. Oh, and you've definitely mastered pushing my buttons. Did I mention that one already?

When I think of you at this age, I'll always picture your gorgeous head of curly hair and the sweet toddler-esque tummy that still protrudes a bit over your ballet tutu. I'll remember your awkward way around adults and the way all that awkwardness magically disappears when you're alone with your friends. I'll remember your unending devotion to your best friend Brianna and the elaborate 2-sided conversations you hold with your imaginary friend Gofo. I'll remember the way you appear in my bedroom at exactly 7:30 nearly every morning and the fact that if you miss that time, you force yourself to wait in your room until 8:00 so that you get up on a round number. I'll remember the fact that you only eat about 3 different foods, but you enjoy all of them with gusto. I'll remember how protective you are of your brother and how you love to teach him new things. Do you think it's possible that I could remember all of these wonderful things and still manage to conveniently forget how maddening you can be?

Last night as we snuggled in your bed, I told you the story of your birth. When I'd finished, you held me tight and looked at me in a way that made me feel like you completely understood what you mean to me. "Thank you for making me a Mommy," I whispered as I hugged you back. "You're one of the best things that's ever happened to me." I felt so lucky in that moment, with my arms wrapped around you and yours around me. And then I watched your eyes turn from understanding to calculated as you assessed my level of sentimentality. "Can I have an extra glass of water, then?" you asked me with a smile. You've got my number. And call me a sucker, but you got that extra glass of water, too.

I love you more than I ever dreamed possible, you know... manipulations and all. Maybe that's the problem. Happy birthday, Julia. Please go easy on me this year, kid.



At 4:02 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

Happy Birthday, Julia. You go right on pushing your mom's buttons. She needs that in her life more than she realizes.

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Steph said...

Happy 4th Birthday, Julia!!! Your mom has done a great job here of capturing just who you are as you turn four. You're a pretty amazing kid! Have a great birthday and a wonderful year! Just give your Mommy a break every now and then :)

At 5:55 PM, Blogger chichimama said...

Aw, you made me cry.

At 10:47 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Happy, Happy Birthday, Julia. Four is, simply, fantastic. You know that already - tell your mommy that she sees only glimpes of it now. The best is yet to come. It's an amazing process and we mommies are so very lucky to be first-hand witnesses. Happy Day!


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