Two days before your third birthday, you looked up at me from whatever mess you were making (have I ever happened to mention that you possess the most beautiful blue eyes that I ever have seen?) and declared "Mama, I don't want to turn three. I want to stay your baby forever".
I had been holding it together so well. You have a habit of doing that, by the way- totally disarming me. As tears blurred the edges of my vision, I told you that as much as I wanted to freeze time, to keep you just as you are-you were already growing into a beautiful little girl and before I knew it you would be an amazing young woman.
Last year, I wrote to you telling you the story of the day you were born. Now- you can tell me all about it. You tell me that you grew in my belly when you were a tiny tiny tiny baby. You kicked and squirmed and danced while you grew. And that one day, you decided it was time to come out. So you were born, and you made Mama and Daddy so happy and you made Mimi and Grandpa cry. And then you list off the people who came to the hospital to see you and love you- and if I tell you someone that you say wasn't there (such as Dakota, the dog), you become insistent. So I let you believe what you want. And you always finish by saying "And that was the day that I became the best thing to happen to my Mama". This abridged version, told in Gracie speak, never fails to warm my heart.
We have weathered a lot together in the last few months. Lots of change, the trials of potty training, the fierceness of your desire to be independent in all things that you do, growing and bending and stretching to fit this new reality we find ourselves in, together. You have been my constant throughout all of the changes. Right by my side, reminding me to laugh at myself, abandoning whatever you're doing to run up to my side, hug my leg and tell me you love me- always at the most needed moment.
Gracie- you are extraordinary. Our constant mantra is this- that you are kind, beautiful, funny and smart. But the truth is- you are so much more. You are unbelievably compassionate. You have decided that when you grow up, you would like to be a nurse, just like Mimi. When I broke my foot a few weeks ago, you rubbed my knee as you told me it would be OK, because you were there with me. You are the funniest person I know, without even trying- and once you realize you are making people laugh, there is no stopping you. Your facial expressions make up for whatever words you don't quite have yet and much like your mother, all of your thoughts, pleasant or not, show up clearly on your face (sorry about that).
You have quite the fan club of young twenty-somethings, given the fact that you offer none of the usual friendship benefits such as chipping in for gas money, playing wing-woman at the bar or sharing a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese (oh wait, that one you've got under control). You have "aunts" and "uncles" that love you as if you were their own, and probably more so because you are not. You have charmed your actual family as well- with one of your cousins delivering you a bouquet of pink tulips to you on your birthday. Quite franky- you enchant just about everyone you meet, regardless of their age or possible relation to you. We FaceTime on my lunch break every Tuesday and Thursday and the therapists that I work with all rush to say hello to you, because you make everybodys day that much brighter.
You have become your own little person, making choices and preferences separate from me at an alarming rate. You love motorcycles (where I am petrified of them) and the color pink. You are constantly playing in the dirt and then, in the next breath, asking me to paint your nails. You love music, but are quick to tell me if you don't like a song of my choosing and protest loudly until I find you something more agreeable. We have dance parties in the kitchen, in the car, in the aisle of the grocery store. You sing along to the radio, with invented lyrics that rival your Mimi’s in their hilarity. You love guacamole, squash, ranch dressing and above all- pink ice cream.
If there is one thing I ask of you on the brink of your 3rd birthday, it is to fight like hell to remain true to yourself. Sooner than either of us would like, you will start to feel the pressure of squeezing yourself into spaces that don’t quite fit, becoming what other people might expect...but the person you are right now? The person you have created of your own design? That girl is awesome. And I will remind you of that, every day. You are everything I might have imagined my daughter to be- but better. Often (more often than I’d like to admit), I find my breath catching in my throat as I marvel in the fact that you actually belong to me. As the days go by, I still see so much of Daddy and I in you- but more and more, it is your own self that is shining through.
Baby girl, I would love to spend the rest of my days being the buffer between you and the real world. Protecting you from the people who will hurt you, making your choices for you and having a kiss and snuggle from me be all you need to quiet your tears. But at just barely three, you are already showing me how capable you are to stand on your own. How proud you are going to make me. I worry constantly about how the choices I make will affect you. I wonder if I am doing the right things, teaching you by example.
Everyday, your smile...your kindness...your unflappable sense of humor. They assure me that, if nothing else, even on the days when we eat cereal for dinner, dishes are piled in the sink and the living room looks like fisher price threw up all over it- we’re doing alright.
And G, do you want to know my secret?
You’ll ALWAYS be my baby.
So go ahead, keep getting older and breaking my heart.
I love you to the moon & back,