You are three today, and as usual, I’m not sure how it happened. I blinked, and you are here. Potty-learning far behind us, talking clearly to anyone and everyone who will listen – including grocery store clerks, strangers in line with us, waiters in restaurants. You are three going on twenty-three lately. When we leave for school each morning, you apply lipstick you steal from my bathroom, choose your own accessories, and grab a purse with a tiny toy cell phone and sunglasses. You request Katy Perry and Taylor Swift on the radio, and your dancing never stops. For all the times I swore I’d never have a prissy girl, you are proving me wrong. Determined to be your own person and reminding me everyday that you are an independent being separate from me and unlike anyone else I know.
I have a feeling I’m in for it, so to speak, when you enter adolescence. But in my view, my greatest goal is not to teach you obedience as your chief characteristic but to teach you how to really care for others in kindness and listen to your own voice above all the other noise. Your spunk is my favorite thing about you. It doesn’t always make our days easy, but if there is anything I’ve learned in the last year of my life, it’s that grit and determination will push you through the hardest trials. And though it pains me to say this to you now, there are hard things in your future. They are there for all of us, and the best you can do is plow through. For now though, I’m grateful to watch you enjoying the little things everyday, oblivious to the bitter or boring tasks of grown-up life. You have been such a comfort to me this year, food for my spirit even in my most exhausted moments.
Your joy is contagious, and your humor is unmatched of any other kid your age that I’ve known. You’re learning already how to time your jokes in a way that can make your brother laugh, and the two of you are a tight pair. Your possessive way of referring to him as “my Jude” makes me feel like I must be doing something right in my home. I worry a lot that I’ve been in such a mode of survival this year that I’ve forgotten about the art of mothering, so to speak. It’s been mostly just one foot in front of the other for me lately. But we’re emerging as quite the team, the three of us. There’s a lot of love here, and I’m grateful I get to watch you share it with us.
I’m not sure how much, if anything, you will remember about this time in your life, but I have no doubt that it still leaves an indelible mark. I’m trying to model for you the things I want you to know one day – perseverance and responsibility, honesty and vulnerability, love and loyalty, and most of all a joy that is not reliant on material things or outside circumstances. Happiness in the moment is fleeting, but true joy is something else entirely. You inspire that joy for me everyday, and I pray I can return that favor with the understanding and comfort that only a mom can give.
You’ve grown up so much this year. You love school and are a social butterfly with your little friends. You are beginning to better understand abstract concepts, and you have an amazing memory that is very inconvenient sometimes. I’ve learned already that if I promise you something in the moment, you will not forget it. Days or weeks can pass by, and you’ll still be reminding me I owe you something. It’s both impressive and frightening, and you don’t miss a thing. You have such sharp observations of the world around you, and your social awareness is extraordinary. You are blooming in your own little way so different from your brother or anyone else. It’s incredible to watch it happen.
You are honest in the most brutal ways these days, and though the usual toddler shouts or tantrums can wear me out, I feel good knowing that you feel enough safety and comfort with me to show when you are angry or upset or disappointed. I wish for us that it will always be this way – that you’ll tell me when you’re sad and why you’re angry and show me even the darker corners of your heart because some days they are there for all of us. There’s a lot of companionship to be had between mother and daughter, and I’m so lucky to have you. It’s tea parties and baby dolls and playgrounds for us now, but I know school worries and friend advice and broken hearts and all the hard stuff comes later. But know that our way of being together – my love and acceptance of you in your ugly toddler moments – that’s not going anywhere. Family is for helping each other move through even our ugliest times, and moms never stop catching you in those moments and feeling what you’re feeling. This is hard when you are sad or angry and I feel it, too. But to witness your joy and feel your enthusiasm is the greatest gift of my life right now. Everything else suddenly feels a lot less complicated or overwhelming when I’m in the simplest of moments with your brother and you.
You are so many things in your third year – independent but still attached and cuddly, sweet and soft but with a backbone of steel and an unbendable will, carefully observant but active and curious. Above all, you are simply Norah – in all your quirks and qualities. And I cannot imagine life in my little family of three without you. From the moment you arrived with such a special birth, you’ve been teaching me that I’m capable of hard things. You are doing that for me now as well. Any moment my confidence shakes or my spirit feels broken from life’s storms, your sweet smile reminds me why I’m here and how the simplest little moments can fulfill our divine purpose on any given day.
I love you, Norah. Life has great things in store for you. If there’s one thing I know for sure in all of life’s uncertainties, it’s that I was meant to be your mother. I’m so grateful your little soul made its way to my belly and through my body, and now I get the honor of watching you grow and move mountains in a way that only you are meant to do. Happy Birthday, big girl.
I write birthday letters to each of my kids on their birthdays to give them when they are older. For now, I also post them here as well. You can read my others here.