Yesterday you turned 3. To think it was only three years ago that we were in that dimly-lit special care nursery, watching your oxygen levels, thinking that you would be stuck in that little plastic crib forever. Now, that baby is a stranger to me. I cannot imagine how this little girl who jumps and sings and giggles and swims came from that tiny caterpillar who slept for hour after hour in her plastic crib. You are a butterfly now, utterly transformed.
Let me think ... what are some of my favorite things about the 3-year-old Mia? I love the way she sings all the time. Every situation gets wrapped into a song, new words set to the tune of an old favorite. (When your grandmother arrived at our house last night: "Grammy in the dell, Grammy in the dell, Hi ho the dairy-o, Grammy in the dell.") She is also a great maker of medleys, slipping from one song into the next. ("Old McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-Oh so bright.") I love the way she shouts "Yeah!!!" with an expression of pure glee, and sometimes a little jump, when I ask her whether she wants to do something fun. At this age, all it takes is the offer of a quesadilla at Moe's or a popsicle at Locopops. I love the way, when she wants someone to do something for her, she says, "Do dat!" I love her enthusiasm for books, so intense that she can sit through long books intended for third-graders. Sometimes I think I could read from a tome of Lincoln's collected speeches and she would sit rapt for as long as my voice held out.
We have so much fun with you in our lives. We have spent virtually every weekend this summer swimming. You have learned how to kick all the way across the pool in your inner tube. You have enjoyed the rites of summer with the kind of gusto we had long forgotten. You gobble down fresh blueberries and peaches like they are the world's most precious treats. You love popsicles more than life itself. You beam with joy every time we push you in a swing. You rejoice in ocean waves. You love to help me water the plants and, when you have to pee while we are outside, you yank off your clothes and go in the yard. The other night, I told you we would take cupcakes to school the next morning. When you woke, you immediately wanted to see the cupcakes. "Wouldn't it be great," your dad said, "to wake up in the morning and the only thing on your mind is cupcakes?"
You have spent much of this summer looking forward to your birthday. For weeks you've been waking up asking, "Is it my birthday?" I felt so much pressure to make this birthday as great as your fantasies. You had homemade cupcakes, and a pool party with your friends, and a giant play kitchen to tear open when you woke on your birthday. I hope it was everything you dreamed of, and now I'm glad it's over.
I would like to see this birthday as a fresh start. In addition to all your deliciously cute qualities, you have also developed a knack for pushing my buttons. When you're in one of your difficult moods (usually at the end of a day with no nap, which is most days anymore) you twist away from me when I try to put on your underwear, run away when it's time to get in the bath, generally do everything you can to make things harder for me. Probably your worst trick is to pee or poop in your pants, minutes after you have sworn that you didn't need to go potty. In the past few months, this has happened more times than I care to remember. Sometimes I am so frustrated that I want to scream. And do you know what you do when I yell at you? You laugh in my face. It's enough to make a person understand child abuse. But as I head into your fourth year, I want to learn to be more patient. I want to gaze calmly at your twisting, wriggling, giggling antics. I want deal with your limit-testing and poopy underwear without anger or resentment. I want to try and remember that there's only a very short window in life when you get to run naked and giggling down the hallway, your mind dancing with visions of cupcakes and baby dolls.
Enjoy it while it lasts, honey, and wish me luck. I'm going to need it.