A Love Letter To My Daughter On Her Third Birthday

51078369_10103073984926620_4062535618834464768_nDearest Hannah,

Every time I sit down to write one of these birthday letters I am conflicted. On one hand I am  overjoyed at having known you and loved you for one more glorious year. On the other hand, however, a piece of me grieves that yet another year has already passed us by. I know that the time we have together is finite, so I want to treasure each precious year for what it is worth: a priceless, fleeting gift. This was the only year in your life that you will ever be two; and for me, it is the last time I will have a child who is two. Today you turn three–THREE!–and together we will enter a whole new phase of your life.

I have noticed that more significant than the ages you are, you kids go through important stages. It’s easy enough to tell when you are in the throes of a stage, but the endings are somewhat more subtle. There’s Newborn Stage, marked by sleepless nights and endless feedings, and…well, that’s really all I remember because I think one of the defining factors of Newborn Stage is maternal memory loss. When you are in the middle of Newborn Stage it feels long and arduous and incessant, and then suddenly one morning you wake up and realize that you are actually now in Toddler Stage.

This was your last year in Toddler Stage as you learned how walk (and climb and run and jump and dance) and to speak (something you have learned quite WELL, my dear!). Toddler Stage was marked by daily new discoveries and growing into the little girl who we knew was inside that baby. And now, without hardly realizing it, you have shifted into the next stage: Little Girl Stage.

And what a remarkable little girl has emerged! You are perhaps the most persistent child I have ever met–once you set your mind to something you can not, will not let it go. You are kind. You are silly (you’re also the only girl I know who will have full-on “tooting contests” with her brothers while wearing a sparkly pink tutu!). You are incredibly smart and you have an uncanny ability to remember minute details (Thank goodness I have you to help me because I wold be lost without your reminders!). You love ballet and all things pink and your crazy big brothers and singing “Jesus Loves Me” and making espresso with Daddy and cleaning up messes and stroking your worn pink gigi when you want comfort. You are amazing. And you are you. And that is the best.

So now as we enter Little Girl Stage I can not wait to see who else you become. What will be your passions? What will drive you and what will make you stop in your tracks? Who will you choose for friends and what will you play together? What new places and new passions will you discover? The world will open up more and more to you each day, and I can’t wait to see the mark you make on it.

Our family and, indeed, the world has been better these last 3 years because you have been a part of them. Happy third birthday, sweet Hannah–and may this be your best one yet!

I love you always and forever,

Mommy

The Last Last Time

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When I was a new mom and I would think about what the future would hold for me and my babies, I always thought of the firsts. The first time my baby would smile at me. The first time he would say “Mama!”. The first time he would roll over. THE FIRST TIME HE WOULD SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT (Can I get an AMEN?!). Even now as we have entered the elementary school years, I can’t help but anticipate the other firsts that await us: Losing their first tooth, reading their first chapter book…and on and on with firsts until they’re even older than I am now.

The firsts are exciting. We look forward to the firsts and the new doors that they open. What I was’t prepared for, though, was the lasts. With most lasts, you don’t realize it’s the last time that particular thing is happening until it’s already over. By the time you realize your baby isn’t crawling any more, he’s already crawled his last crawl. By the time you realize your baby isn’t saying “pas-ketti” for “spaghetti” anymore, it’s too late to capture that adorable mispronounced word on video.

We have three children and our youngest, Hannah, is our last baby. Being our last baby, I am particularly aware of the stages that Hannah leaves behind because the last time she does something is, well, the last last time that I get to experience that particular thing with my own children. For the past 20 months I’ve been experiencing all of the firsts, and the lasts, for the last time with Hannah.

This past week I had one of my most significant last lasts to date: I decided to wean Hannah from nursing. I’d already nursed her longer than either of the boys (With David I quit nursing at 13 months because I found out I was pregnant and I needed a break, and with Jacob I quit nursing at about 15 months because he just decided one day that we were done and that was that.)–but with this last baby I wanted to hold onto that special bond for a bit longer. I told myself that we’d continue nursing until after our trip to Ireland so I could have that “trick in my bag” if she got fussy on the airplane or in the hotel room late at night, but after we got home it was time to cut her off.

This last would be different. It would be my last last. I’d already had my last time nursing each of my boys, but this would be my last time ever nursing a baby. It was significant. I knew that I was weaning her, and I knew when our last time nursing would be. I have spent approximately 4.5 out of the past 7 years nursing a baby and, to be quite honest, I was heartbroken that this stage of life was ending.

The precious, quiet moments alone with my babies, the snuggles, the soft sounds of their rhythmic breathing–the nourishing of their bodies and my soul. This thing that had been such a huge part of my life would soon be just memories, and I could hardly stand the thought of losing it forever.

And yet, it was time. When the day came to experience this last last together, I just took a moment to soak it in. I studied Hannah’s smooth face and her wispy hair and tiny hands resting on my chest. I prayed over her as I often did when I was nursing my children. I thought about the baby she was and the little girl she is becoming. And then, I let her go.

This stage was over for the last last time.

As my children grow there will be beginnings and endings and everything in between. There will be times when it will be easy to push them out (Like two weeks ago when I gave David a proclamation that I was done with the carpool line circus and now he was an official card-carrying school bus rider). And there will be times when no matter how hard I want to hang on to them, I will have to let them go (Like when they decide they want to drive a car or go out on a date or–I don’t know if I can even say it–move away to college.).

Parenting and life, as it turns out, is really just a series of firsts and lasts. How you handle those firsts and lasts, though, is what will define your life. So, I will embrace my lasts as I’ve embraced my firsts–with openness for what lies ahead. Because no matter how many firsts or lasts there are, one thing will remain constant: there is never a last adventure.  So today we embark this new stage of adventures together, another day older and another day bigger. And do you know what? I think this will be our best adventure yet.

Here’s to the firsts and the lasts, friends, and the adventures that lie ahead!

Love You Forever

I heard this saying recently, and it has really resonated with me: The days are long, but the years are short. As a mother of two young boys, my days are always long. Not in the sense that I get bored and have nothing to do–I don’t think any mom would claim that lie–but long in the sense that it is just one thing after another and never a moment to just breathe and soak it all in. But, at the same time, I look back at even a few months ago and I get nostalgic at how much my kids have grown and changed. The days are long, but the years are short.

Today I was having one of those “long” days. David was throwing an unbelievable temper tantrum over my refusal to let him accompany me outside in the freezing wind to scrub dog poop off of my shoe. I know, I’m a terrible mother. And when I came inside from my 3 minute foray with a scrub brush, his room suddenly looked like this:

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The screaming and the crying and the throwing of things was starting to make my blood boil. I could tell that we both needed to just calm down a bit, so after the screaming and the crying and the throwing of things subsided I invited David to cuddle up on his bed with me so we could read a story together. This is the book he chose:

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I’ve read this book probably a thousand times and yet, somehow, it still makes me cry every time I read it. I usually can make it until the last page before the tears start, but today was different. Maybe it was because Jacob’s been giving me the good ‘ol wakeup call at 5:00 every day for the past 2 weeks, or maybe it was just because I was emotionally spent from David’s last tantrum. For whatever reason, though, I opened the book and just started crying (confirming David’s suspicion that I really am a nut job).

You see, the book starts with this mother. She’s so in love with her baby boy. Every night she rocks him to sleep and as she does she sings, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” Sob.

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Then her boy grows. He gets into mischief and causes her grief (sound familiar?). But still, every night, she sneaks into her room and sings the same love song to her bigger boy.

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And that really got the waterworks going, because it so reminds me of my bigger boy:

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David insists on falling asleep with his bedroom light on so he can read books until he passes out. And every night I sneak into his room, pry the books out of his limp hands, cover him up, and kiss his sweet, peaceful face (I also usually snap a photo because he’s just so dang cute when he’s sleeping).

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Well, the book continues with the boy growing and changing and becoming a man–and still, the mother sneaks into his room at night and sings him her love song.

Then one day the mother is too old and frail to sing to her son any more. So instead, he holds his mother and sings the same love song to her. Gulp.

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And the story ends with the son returning home to his brand new baby girl, to whom he sings, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”

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Yes, indeed: The days are long, but the years are short.

When the story was over, David snuggled up to me and said, “I love you, Mommy.”

I love you, too, David.

I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.