You are three years old today. Three! And as I sit down to type this I am already in tears - not because I mourn the passing of your baby and toddler self, but because I am so gob smacked by the stunning little girl you have become. Sorry, big girl. You constantly remind me that you are a big girl, but just as often check to make sure you are still my baby. And I tell you that you will always be my baby, even though you can now dress yourself and climb ladders and tell stories with a beginning, middle, and end with characters and plot and dialog.
And oh, you are such a big girl. It seems some days that you can do anything. I am constantly amazed by how very capable you are. You can pour drinks and open doors and buckle yourself into your car seat. You can run the vacuum cleaner and brush your teeth and feed your brother his cereal. You can talk for hours and mostly make sense, you can explain your feelings, you can parrot my house rules back to me and remind me not to eat on the furniture or run on the stairs. You are, these last few months, an entire person who does not rely on your parents for your identity. You are no longer defined on any terms other than your own.
Your favorite things right now are many and varied. You like to dress yourself and then change your clothes, frequently without removing the first set of clothes. You like to play dollhouse and cars and color on your "weasel." You love pretend games, love to cook us meals in your kitchen or take your purse and shopping cart and go on errands for the things we tell you to buy. You enjoy puzzles and dancing and working in the yard and going out with Daddy every night after dinner to count your tomatoes. You love to read books, especially the new batch of library books we get every week. You love to sing, some days you seem to never stop and often sing yourself to sleep at naptime or at night.
You have your own friends now, not just the children of my friends. You are usually willing to play with anybody, but are very clear about your favorites. Your one true love right now is Carly. I think we could put you two together and leave the house for three hours and as long as you had access to snacks you would neither notice nor care.
Carly introduced you to princesses, and especially to Cinderella, and we now spend large chunks of each day playing princess. You love to put on your ball gown (really Mommy's night gown) and your tiara and glass slippers and whatever other accessories make you feel fabulous - generally my necklace or a bit of ribbon or maybe your goggles - and then we dance. When you get tired of dancing, you act out scenes from Cinderella, which you have seen only a few times but appear to have memorized. I resisted the princess thing as long as I could because I believe there are higher things to which you should aspire, but I also bought you a new princess dress and glass slippers for your birthday, because I believe you should be able to do the things you love, and you truly love it.
This was a major year for you, as I suppose they all are, but this one had a lot of external change. First we moved from Mia's Old House to Mia's New House, which you handled without so much as a peep. And then, Owen arrived on the scene. From the first, you have adored your brother. You love to hug and kiss him, to pat his head, to give him toys, to help change and dress and bathe him. As he has become more interactive, you have been thrilled to recognize his early attempts at speech and to figure out that you can do things that make him smile. You do sometimes ignore him when his presence doesn't suit your purposes, but overall you have made the transition from only to oldest, and told me last night that you didn't remember a time before Owen. That made me a little sad, because I treasure the time I had with just you, but also made me happy that he has become such a part of your life that you can no longer envision his absence.
This letter is the hardest so far to write, because listing your accomplishments and quirks no longer comes anywhere close to capturing the person you are. I can say that you still don't much care for food and live on eight or ten acceptable things, that you have taken to sleeping on the floor lately, that you love animals and invariably say "Awwww, look at the cute little" whatever when confronted with anything remotely fuzzy. But as long as I spend listing those things, they will never add up to you.
Instead, I'll take a crack at a few of your leading characteristics:
You are kind. Even when you are feeling grumpy or whiny of selfish, you cannot escape the basic kindness that is a major part of your personality. You are gentle. You are energetic. You are whip-smart and frequently outsmart both of your parents. You are curious. You are so brave. (When I tell you that I think you are brave, you often say "but Mama, I cried." I am trying to convince you that bravery doesn't mean not being afraid, it means doing it anyway and coming out the other end the same person as you went in.) You are loving.
Mia, you are beautiful and amazing and the joy of my life. You ask me often, after doing something or other, if I am proud of you, and I usually respond that I am always proud of you. And it always strikes me that I may never have spoken a truer sentence in all my life.
I am so very proud of you, Mia Bean. Happy Birthday.