Four. My lucky number and now your age. I tucked you into bed last night, leaned down and inhaled your freshly shampooed hair, and told you this was your last kiss as a three year old. It’s so cliché; but honestly, where does the time go? As with every year, I wanted to share a birthday reflection with you and thank you for all of the happiness and chaotic joy that you bring to our lives. I know this is too long, but you’ve given me so much material to work with this year!
It’s been four years (four years!!!) since that snowy day when you arrived by surprise induction at St. Luke’s on 59th Street. Four years since those early days of sleepless nights and our epic breastfeeding battle. Four years of watching you grow from a very bald, very blue eyed baby to a bubbling, spirited four year old FULL of personality who never stops running, jumping, talking, and laughing.
It was a year of big moments–you finally (praise Jesus) conquered potty training, started a new school, and became a big sister. It was the year your baby nursery transformed into a child’s room. It was the year of your first sleepover, first time down a bunny slope, first trip to Disney, and first black eye (which resulted in your first scar).
It was also a year of big physical and emotional changes. Looking back on photos, I can see that your face transformed from that of a toddler to a young girl, your white blonde hair turned much darker, and you continued to grow like a beanstalk. It was a year of developing your voice, which to our chagrin included more sass and attitude than we’d like. Your hands found their way to your hips with lightning speed when you didn’t get your way, and your slumped shoulder pout, aka “the Charlie Brown” as your father coined it, has become famous in our house. You are very easily frustrated, partially because you want to be “perfect” at everything, which worries me. You still need major work on sharing and cleaning up; but hey, we’re all a work in progress.
It’s been a year in which you’ve grown independent, and it seems that you need me less. I receive shorter hugs and less hand holding and snuggling. Sometimes I can sneak the occasional back rub at bedtime, but lots of times you just want me out of your twin bed so you can have more room. I know I should be happy about this growing independence, but sometimes it stings that you need your space.
But along with the challenges this year also came pride as we watched you grow and change. You are brave–you are the only one at swim class who leaps off the edge of the pool without any concern for your safety, you have no fear walking up to older kids at the playground and introducing yourself, and you are always willing to try new things.
You are very adaptable–when your sister was hospitalized this past fall, you spent two weeks being shuttled from one house to the next, from friends to family. You even boarded a packed train with your uncle at Grand Central during rush hour–snack and iPad in hand–and rather than cry for us, you smiled about the adventure and went on your way. Earlier that month, you welcomed your new sister with open arms (frankly, we were expecting the worst). You altered your morning routine to tiptoe past her crib in the dark hallway en route to your breakfast (yes, your sister sleeps in the hallway). You’ve been flexible about the imbalance of time and attention that the new baby receives. You had a major life change and handled it admirably, and you’re a great big sister. You read stories to her, make her laugh, and like to show her off to your friends.
Though you are adaptable, you also thrive on daily schedules, plans, and routine–“what did we do today? What are we doing tomorrow? How many days til X? how many days until Y?” You learned all of your letters this year and love to try to read to us. Your love of books has only grown, and every night you negotiate to read “just two more”. Your vocabulary continues to amaze me. There was an entire month this past year when you began every sentence with “actually…” and another month when you used a crazy voice and finished every sentence with a long drawn out “funny” which sounded more like “funaaaaaaayyyyyy”.
You have a fierce love for hide and seek, kitchen dance parties, after school frozen yogurt dates, Eggos with “syriup”, pirates, tea parties, soccer, yoga, Anna/Elsa, and BINGO. You love making jell-o and pancakes (not together) with your dad, and playing barista every morning by adding sweetener and milk to our coffee (followed by intense stirring). You’re happiest painting masterpieces at the kitchen table, building entire worlds out of magnatiles, and “playing basement” in the ‘burbs. Your cousins mean more to you than anything else.
You are competitive. This is no surprise as you are a combination of your father and me, two of the most competitive people on the planet (he even continually tells me how much bluer his eyes are than mine), but sometimes I worry about this inherited trait. Everything is a race or a contest, even walking down the hallway or up the stairs of our apartment. Just the other morning on the way to school, you challenged a complete stranger (age 3 or 4) to a race from 79th to 80th street and then jumped up and down with excitement when you beat him by half a block. I simultaneously cringe, laugh, and feel a small amount of pride about this trait of yours. It will come in handy for your future athletic endeavors but for now I wish it was less about measuring everything and more about just enjoying it.
You love your city. You enjoyed living abroad last year but are happy to be back where the sidewalks are your territory, the parks are your yard, and the neighborhood restaurants are often your kitchen. You could be a tour guide at the Museum of Natural History. You have discovered Monet at the Met and the spiral ramp at the Guggenheim. You know the best sledding hill in Central Park and the coziest nook to read books at St. Agnes library. Your appetite is quenched by your local favorites: Shake Shack fries, plates of spaghetti (no sauce) at our local Italian place run by “the funny lady” as you call her, chick chick and milkshakes at Sugar and Plumm, and cucumber and rice at your beloved Sushi Planet. You love to get on the subway train and announce to the entire car “this is the 1 train, it’s LOCAL” or “this is the 2/3, it’s EXPRESS!”. You can point out stoops, brownstone, arches, and pediments like a pro. I love to observe you interacting with your city, and seeing your vision of it change as you grow older.
All of these moments, memories, and observations mean one thing: You are excited by life. And we’re so happy to be a part of yours. Happy Birthday to my daughter who loves to dance on the kitchen table with sunglasses on. May the next 12 months be filled with more growth, excitement, and happiness.
Past Birthday Reflections: