Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Finally It's Official: You Are Three

Dear Berit,

You have been 3 years old for months. Today is your birthday, but you have not acted like a typical 2-year-old since the summertime. Somewhere between the last hot, sunny day and Thanksgiving, you grew in both inches and maturity. I remember I had just ordered you your fall clothes. I brought the dusty package in the front door and you, ever willing to help, fetched my (closed) knife to open it. Out came the adorable 2T long-sleeved tees and jeans I bought, mostly at full-price, because you didn't have anything warm to wear as the leaves fell and the air chilled. I washed them all and hung them in your closet, and felt satisfied that you were ready for the long stretch of cold that had started to envelop our region. The pants had adjustable waistbands and the shirts were tees -- even if you grew an inch during that time, surely they'd last you till spring.

And two weeks later, the jeans were too small. At first I thought it was just a defective size, but no, all the pants, then all the shirts, were too short for your suddenly long legs and torso. Again I turned to the online shops, and bought round two of the same clothes. 

Around the same time, you began to do the following:
Boss everyone around.
Push your sister.
Act out complicated dramas with your dolls.
Turn every game and activity into "house."
Jump higher, do somersaults, climb things at the gym, catch and throw balls with ease.
Read more complex storylines (Madeline, Dora, Belinda, Fancy Nancy).
Wear dress-up clothes over your everyday clothes every day.
Insist that you are Cinderella. 
Eat fewer foods, but eat more of the foods you like best.
Go up and down the stairs like a big kid.
Play by yourself upstairs and downstairs.
Run household errands (for example, fetching towels from upstairs to bring downstairs, or getting toys from the basement by yourself to play with upstairs).
Play and understand games.

Oh! So much more. It was like a lightbulb had gone on in your mind and suddenly you were three years old, well before your actual birthday. In fact, people assumed you to be four more often than two or three! 

Much of this comes, I think, from your serious nature. Now that we have Marta, we're learning that babies aren't always calm and reflective like you were. You were never very goofy or willy-nilly, and you still aren't today. You are sensitive, thoughtful, respectful, rule-minded, stubborn, caring, and insightful. You come up with complex explanations and make up stories about things that never happened (but are lovely and magical). 

You are dramatic. Not in an outspoken, florescent way, but more in your emotions. You are either very bored or very entertained (by yourself or others). You are very happy or very sad. You are very smart or very disinterested. You are always in princess character. 

You are sensitive. You are easily overwhelmed by emotions, sound and light. You don't like to be tickled but love a gentle back scratching. Your skin is like government radar, picking up the tiniest invader or itch. You scare quickly and avoid something if there's a chance you'll be moved to an unpleasant feeling about it.

You are completely yourself. No one has made you one way or another; you haven't become sporty and outdoorsy like your dad would have made you, you haven't become bookish and overly responsible like I may have done. You are just you. Wherever you go, you are yourself completely, and I absolutely love and admire that about you. 

I worry that you may overthink too many things. When carefree children play around you, you join in tentatively, and even when you're deep in play with them you still pause before chasing them or making a move, because you're assessing their ... what? I'm not sure. What their reaction will be, maybe, and if it's what you want to happen. You are desperate for everyone to be happy and calm, and if things are stressful you act out. You even become tense by your own acting out! As you throw things or push or yell, your mind is turning and I can see you thinking about what might happen. This causes your voice to raise or crack or you to run in anticipation but also in an effort to change the outcome of the situation for the better. You're not sure how, but you know you're wrong and you need to fix it.

And when you do act up, it doesn't take much to change your attitude. I simply have to explain things and you come around, with hugs for everyone when we invite them (though you'd be too hesitant to give them uninvited). We constantly try to show you that you can be openly loving, though I think it's difficult for you because the baby gets so much more hands-on attention, and you are still finding your place as a big sister and the eldest daughter. I hope this gets easier for you; I hope you find enjoyment in these roles someday.

We love taking you places and exposing you to new things. You thrive on exploration and discovery, though you aren't interested in simple things like collecting leaves or coloring. I wonder what kind of a person you are growing into; some parts of your personality are so evident and concrete, others are more seasonal and unpredictable.

We can hold long conversations with you about most subjects, and if we're discussing something that you don't understand we need only explain it to you and you weigh in. We love listening to your three-year-old ideas and often wish the world were so lovely and simple. 

Three years ago you became our reason. I left my career, in which I was thriving at the time. Your dad worked harder and stressed more. We bought a bigger home and car, and invested in the safest baby gear, a thousand baby books, a comfortable rocking chair and organic living. I became relatively obsessed with helping children in need (and still am today -- a passion I believe you and I will share, as you ask me about it regularly and often talk about ways to help children). 

Three years ago you surprised me by arriving with a head of blond hair and eyes of blue. You surprised me by not crying a peep when you were delivered, and only whined when the nurse took you to bathe you -- and even then you stopped when your dad recited the lines of a book he used to read to you while you were still in my womb. You surprised me because we did not bond instantly in the way all the books say we should have; I loved you unconditionally but they took you right away to the NICU to monitor your tiny heart, and I waited to get to know you better before falling deeply, deeply in love. 

Three years ago we became dependent on each other. I was regularly (though quietly) criticized for holding you constantly (literally, my dear), even through the night. You slept in the crook of my arm and all day long I rocked you, played with you, devoted every second to your fullest enjoyment of life. Even when you napped, I held you. 

When I was pregnant for your sister I worried that you'd feel abandoned, and I think you did a little. You and I were a team; we very rarely left each other's side for more than a few minutes. It is only through the grace of God that you love spending days and nights on end at your grandparents' houses, because for the first year of your life I barely even let them hold you. 

And today people have said, "Can you believe it's been three years?" And truly, I can. In fact, I can't believe it hasn't been more, because everything before your birth is a bit muddled, and everything after has been full of life and brightness. (This is, I'm sure, due to a lack of sleep, but also because my priorities have so changed since you arrived that I wonder who I might have become had you never come along.)

The world will be better because of you. Not only because you bring love and joy to those of us who know you, but because you have inspired us to give more wholeheartedly to various organizations that protect children and the unborn. Your caring spirit is also likewise dedicated to helping those who are less fortunate, even just by sensing another child's desire to play with your toys or share your snacks at church, and your mature shoulders already hold an understanding of the needs of children around the world from the letters we write to and receive from the child we sponsor in your name. 

And yet you are still just three. You love to play, and mostly to be played with. You love to be the center of attention and be swung in circles or danced with or read to. You are three and you are a child through and through. It is so sweet, so lovely, so innocent to watch you play dolls or music or blocks. My favorite times are when you lose your inhibitions and run and jump and act wild and silly. We let you jump on the bed and watch movies and choose your own snacks because you are a very good child and you deserve to be set free from your seriousness whenever it strikes you. We try to indulge your princessness and you wear your tutus anywhere and everywhere. 

I love that you're three. I'm giddy with excitement (constantly) about the possibilities of this age. I'm looking forward to taking you places you've never seen before and watching your mind work through an aquarium, zoos, museums, dances. Preschool starts this fall and you'll begin ballet next month. You have entered Big Kid Land and I think you've been waiting to be here since you were born. I can't wait to find out what you think of it all.

With never-ending love, from the heart you grew three sizes with your serious, quiet delivery three years ago...

1 comment:

Lori said...

That's so sweet Lisa. Happy 3rd birthday Berit.