Ruby Susanne, it is the week of your birthday. You are three. Your hair is a perfectly highlighted blonde with no discernible part, which make your hairstyles wild and unpredictable. Your eyes are wide, deep cerulean seas, framed by the darkest, thickest lashes. You are a long-lean-string-bean with skin as porcelain as your mama’s—“I have tender little skin,” you say. But that’s not all, of course. The electricity in your brain is practically visible as a corona around your head as you learn and practice new skills—jigsaw puzzles are your new favorite and you are shockingly adept at them—and your heart has been forged to a high-polish gold, from your fiery and passionate personality.
You are bold and unafraid in ways I couldn’t have conceived of when I was a child. I was scared of everything. Not you. You confidently stride up to kids at the park or library and introduce yourself and ask them to play. You can be shy with adults but warm up eventually and share your colorful world with them, too. You are a mix of spicy and sweet, my favorite combination.
Darling, you are everything I dreamed of, and then some. You recite from heart all of your books, plus any of the library books we have in rotation at our house. You love to help bake or cook, or have tickle fights after dinner. You love to inhabit the worlds of Tumble Leaf and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and you love to pretend that you are Ryder from Paw Patrol and I am SuperWhy. You tell your dad and I once when we ask why few girls inhabit your imaginary world: “I love boys because they can be awfully fun!” You are not afraid to ever say you can save the day. You told your dad the other day that every girl needs tools, and that you can fix stuff.
At night, after you are supposed to be asleep, you stand in your crib and talk to your animals by the light of your Twilight Turtle. The other night your dad reminded you that it was time to lie down and close your eyes and go to sleep. “Sometimes I have to talk about it,” you responded. And how could we argue with that? You are already therapy-ing your way through life, laying out all the ways in which we have told you no during the day, but also hitting some of high notes, and explaining your way through big concepts that you are struggling to understand. (A recent favorite: “It’s hard to wait, when you are waiting for morning.” Truth, girlfriend.) It’s a fascinating look inside your brain as I strain to hear you while I am rocking your brother to sleep in the other room.
Speaking of your brother: He is 19 pounds of delicious, sweet, juicy baby, and on that we agree. Thank God. He is made of Velcro and is glommed on to me at all hours if he has his way, which means that sometimes you have to be extra independent or extra understanding that you have to share me. You rise to the occasion, mostly magnanimously, certainly far more than I think can be asked of a 2-now-3-year-old.
You rose to the occasion of becoming a big sister so dang beautifully that sometimes it makes me weep. You hand your brother toys and Puffs. You sing to him when he cries, an off-tune, off-kilter rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle” that brings down the house. One day without prompting, you wrap your arm about his shoulders and say, “Remy, I’m going to keep you forev-oh.” You hug him so hard you grit your teeth. You don’t pronounce your Rs or Ls , but much of your toddler talk has evaporated into the ether.
In fact, the other day you asked me to arrange Cooey, your favorite doll, which you named, underneath your shirt. You stepped back and admired the belly, rubbing it, then getting up on the couch next to me and crossing your legs, hiding a shy smile.
“Mama, I have to talk to you about something. I am growing a baby in my belly and you are going to be a big sister soon. I have a book you can read about it,” she says. I struggle to keep a straight face and play along. I feel like I see you imitating me and also being 30-year-old you, all at once. I wish that you can always come to me, sit down on the couch, and tell me what is in your heart.
The passage of time makes me ache. I tearfully pack all your too-small clothes every time we need to sort them out of your dresser drawers, even though I know that each stage of your life has brought me immeasurable joy. You can put on your boots and feed the dogs their dinners and wipe off the coffee table when you spill. And yet, you will still sometimes fall asleep in my arms, on my lap, in the rocking chair at naptime. I take a photo each time you do, because I wonder if it will be the last time you want to do that with me.
Ruby, it is my greatest hope that no one ever dims your light, dulls your sparkle, makes you doubt yourself. You are capable already of so much. I see so much of your dad in you—problem solver, industrious worker, fed by some unending spring of energy that actually makes you hop in place all day long, always thinking and thoughtful. It has been a delight to see parts of me, too. But to see you come into your own personality—you are not me, or your dad, and I never get that confused—has been a thrill and a privilege.
You came flying into life, confident in many ways and independent and loving, and helped me realize so many things about myself—primarily, how much I loved being your mom. That’s why January 17 is your birthday, but I’m the one who got the greatest gift. Happy three, my baby-baby.