My round faced, wide eyed, Middlest: you, dear, are turning three. Mark and I sat across the table from each other a few nights ago, while you were tucked into our big bed, singing your heart out even though your lights had been out for nearly an hour. He said to me, “Can you believe she’s going to be three?” And I said, “Yes.” Emphatically, yes. Because you haven’t been a two year old for a long time, now.
No, you weren’t long to stay a baby. That’s not because you were rushed out of that cozy part of life, but because you just stood up and took yourself right into the fun parts of being a bigger kid. Even this week, in the hallway of school, walking with your big brother and a classmate of his, you refused to be left out of their giddy laughter and silly boy banter. While the classmate’s younger brother clung to his mother’s hand, you dropped mine in order to run in the circles of the big boys. This year was your first to go off to school. You walked triumphantly into that classroom on the first day, never looking back. Your enthusiastic chatter when I pick you up is musical, and the world is glorious through your eyes, your words. I’ve never mourned the fact that you are not a baby any more because it is just simply too much fun to watch you grow up.
If last year I was delighting in your imagination, this year I am even more awestruck with the way your brain creates. You have grown past the need to imitate the life you see around you, and though what you witness certainly informs your play choices, you take command of your world of play with fresh creativity. Some days you demand that I call you Christopher, short for Christopher Robin, and when I may veer off course and slip, accidentally referring to you as Renee, you call me to task. Often you will assign me a new persona: sometimes I am Owl, others days I’m Rabbit.
More recently, you want to be called Wilbur, and you’ve been asking for a little pig for your birthday. And, boy, it can be hard to say no to you. Though we haven’t had a cat for about a year and a half now, you still pray every night for our kitty cat.
You are a caretaker, always. At home, often you want me to tuck one of your guys into some baby carrier to be held close to your body, or teach you to swaddle one of them up tight. At school, you have taken sweet Thumper, a stuffed bunny, under your care, and are sure to wake him up, dress him, and tend to his needs while you are there. At Romae’s, it’s Pooh Bear that you push in the shopping cart, making sure he is well fed (but not before you get glammed out in your jewels). I’m pretty sure that when your little brother was born, you thought he was a gift just for you. You still beg to hold him, though he will hardly sit still for even a kiss.
You wander around our house in whatever shoes you can find. Sometimes you shuffle around with daddy’s slippers on your feet, other times you pull my boots up to your thighs and you look like you’re walking on the moon. Even when friends come over, leaving their shoes near the door, you like to slip those sneakers that are not yours.
And, sweet one, the faces you make! Your face is so expressive, those eyebrows saying more than most people can with words. You’ve taken to creating and demonstrating your faces: happy, sad, sleepy, surprised. While I was nursing the Littlest recently you sat across from me and showed me your “stormy face.” How I love that stormy face! We’ve called you a walking cartoon. True to your character (I would expect nothing else), you will not perform those faces on any command other than your own. Our family pictures this year will testify to that.
You are a collector, of things great and small. Rocks, sticks, flowers, stickers. I tried to foster this by giving you a box for your special things, but one box quickly became two, and I became a vigilant curator of your collections. Our hikes are more meandering explorations of the world than they are fitness endeavors. You remind me to slow down, check things out. Some of my favorite moments this year have been walking hand in hand with you down a crunchy path, my eyes forward, only to have my entire being yanked backwards and down because something caught your eye and you refused to let go of my hand to get a closer look. Your dad says you are not to be trusted with stickers. Though it is true that for weeks after any particular incident I can still find remnants on the bottoms of shoes or the underside of water bottles, it brings me joy to see you covered head to toe with stickers, telling me an elaborate story to go with your creation.
No, I’m not sad that you are growing up. My heart is bursting in all of the ways that I know you now that I didn’t know you even just a year ago. Dear one, I am honored to celebrate three years with you. We will light the candles on the vanilla cupcakes of your request, sing our loudest joy, and praise Him who created you.