Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sylvia, Three Years Old

My dear sweet Owlet,

I can't believe it's been three years since you wiggled your way into the world, in the middle of an otherwise-entirely-normal August night. I can't believe it's only been three years that our lives have been so much richer, and full of so much more sunshine, for having you in them.

You're a person all your own, and you always have been. You are fiercely, fiercely independent. Everything you can do by yourself, you do by yourself, and woe betide anyone who tries to do it for you. You don't frustrate easily, and you'll try and try until you figure something out. But once you're "too tired" or once you've decided you want help, woe betide the world if it doesn't rush to your aid. You're loud and emotional and your tantrums can be pretty intense. You feel deeply, happy and sad. You're not really prone to mood swings--you live at a pretty gentle level of content--but when you feel, it's real and strong. You're completely okay with being told no--most of the time--but you need your moments of sadness and you need to live in them for awhile before you move on.

You don't like feeling controlled and something as little as making you stay in time-out past the point you feel remorse and are ready to say sorry will make you react like an animal in a trap--panic and misery everywhere. But on the flip side, you have immense quantities of self control and almost always choose to do the right thing. Aside from the occasional timeout-as-holding-zone when one of your tantrums has gotten out of control, I've rarely had to discipline you with anything other than the question, "Are you going to do this yourself or do I need to do it for you?"

But for all your independence and fierce little core, your capacity for wailing loudly, your occasional quickness to take offense, your deeply intense scowl that I positively dread seeing on you at age twelve, your heart is tender and you are so very kind. No matter the cause, you can't stand to see anyone sad. Your brother can be throwing a fit, or fighting with you, and yet, if you perceive him as sad, you will drop everything--even your cause, your side of the fight--to try to "feel him better" as you say. If he falls and hurts himself, you spring into action immediately, rushing to his side with kisses and hugs and all of his monkeys at once. You have no hangups about saying sorry, and if you hurt anyone, anywhere, you apologize and hug and kiss and sympathize with all the owies. You notice everyone's bandaids and blood, and this is how you make friends, because every small child wants to be friends with someone who actually cares about the progress of their paper cuts and knee scrapes. Whenever you hear a child crying in a store, no matter how obviously tantrum-ing that child is, you will look up at me with your big liquid eyes and say, "Somebody is sad!" You have such a deep little heart, Owlet.

And for all that you will grab a power struggle and hold on like a ferocious little bulldog, you don't like fighting anyone you love. You hate knowing anyone in the family is unhappy with you. You hate sinking yourself into situations where you have to perpetuate a conflict in order to win. Give you an out, a graceful way to save face and go back to everyone being okay with each other, and you will take it, any time. Ninety percent of the time, you are just happy and content, following me or your brother around, dragging an armload of your favorite toys with you, sunshining your way through life as you always have, wide-eyed and scowly and sweet.

People describe you as being friendly and outgoing, and most of the time I don't see it, because your brother blows you out of the water. But you are very comfortable socially, in a way I don't see in a lot of other children. Probably because Peregrine is always there for you, setting a shining example of friendliness and sociability. He sees nothing to fear in school, strangers, or conversation with adults, and therefore neither do you. You quickly adapt to leaving me, carving your own little space wherever you end up. You love school and thrive there, possibly because you are so independent of the rest of us, and you can have your own spot where no one else paves the way for you.

But for all that, you're very reserved in public. There are very, very few people, even among close family and friends, who see the whole of you. You're not shy, per se, you just keep a lot back. You're like an onion, with layers and layers. No one sees a false side of you, but not many people see everything. You give your compassion freely, but you hold your trust very close.

You are happiest when you're following me around, doing whatever I'm doing. You're incredibly good at housework--way better than a just-turned-three-year-old ought to be--and it constantly amazes me what you're capable of. You have a combination of swift efficiency and effectiveness that is quite possibly inherited from your beloved aunt Boodeedee, because it certainly didn't come from either your dad or me. And while you love the daily chores--laundry, unloading the dishwasher, making the bed--you really, really love it when we do something exciting and different. You can't even contain your excitement when we clean the bathrooms, or mop, or switch out all the toothbrushes for fresh ones. When you are bored, instead of destroying things like your brother, you will follow me around saying, "What can I help?" You helped me pack our old house, and unpack into our new one, choosing that over playing with your toys almost every time.

You have a very strong need for touch, despite your dislike of carriers as a baby, and despite your refusal to ever sleep touching someone, and despite the fact that you crawl in bed between your dad and me every day and then complain that it's "too tight" and that we're squishing you. You climb into my lap daily, pretty much every time I sit down and you're otherwise unoccupied. You don't want to talk or do anything, you just want to be there. Sometimes I tease you when you're cranky and tell you you haven't had enough Vitamin Lap-Lap. But that's what it is. You need it like a nutrient.

You still carry things you love around with you everywhere, and if you're not in your own home, you find things you love and carry them with you. You are like a magnet, and you have an incredible capacity for attracting anything pink or purple or green or blue or sparkly, having to do with Frozen or Minnie Mouse or Hello Kitty or house maintenance or babies or sheep or owls or winter clothes or vets or doctors. The other day we were in a thrift store, and I looked up, and suddenly you were there, sitting in a giant kid-sized pink jeep, dressed in some ridiculous Elsa-themed winter coat, and next to you, like it was no big deal, were situated a huge talking Olaf, a small piano, and a Minnie Mouse vacuum cleaner. You make me laugh every day, Owlet, whether it's your eclectic collections, your still-excellent mimicry of faces and voices, your strange little expressions of mischief or embarrassment, or your sharp and hilarious observations about the world. The other day, we were walking down on the beach, and a woman passed us walking some huge Saint-Bernard-Chow-whatever-else mutt, huge and white and fluffy with a black mask around its eyes, and you laughed, and said, "That dog is a sheepy with a raccoon face!"

You're obsessed with all things Frozen and will take any opportunity to sing Let it Go. The halls at school, any stage you see anywhere, or simply a blank space where you have nothing else to do. You'll announce it solemnly--"I'm going to sing Let it Go now"--and then you'll proceed, with due gravity, always beginning, a little hesitantly, "Snwows gwows white on da mountain tonight..." and then speeding up until you can stamp your little foot and sing, "Here I STAAAAANNDD!!!" and ending with, of course, "Cold's boddewed me anyway!" I have far too many videos of you doing this, but I know one day you'll be too cool for school, and princesses, and letting it go, so I'll treasure this while I've got it.

You love your princesses and your sparkles and your twirly dresses, but you also love climbing and playgrounds and bikes and adventures. You've been acing fireman poles since before you were two and a half. You gave your teachers heart attacks, but bless them, they let you do it since they saw how competent you were. You know your limits, and you don't like to fall and get hurt, but you love to climb and slide and use your strong little body. You are so confident in your strength, and I love it so very much. You launch yourself onto some pole or bridge or rock hold, and casually throw back at me, "I am strong. God made me strong." I know your body will change. I know you'll have to deal with hips and breasts and changing proportions and things getting in the way of the strong body you live in and know. But I hope you weather that. I hope I can help you learn to see those things as part of your strength, not hindrances to it. I hope you can always hold femininity and strength together, and never, for one moment, think that you have to choose one above the other.

My sweet owlet princess, my quirky, daring, sensitive, tender, fierce, strong little daughter--it is a joy to raise you. It is a joy to have a little woman by my side, growing more and more into a woman every day, trying on Elsa dresses and rock climbing shoes and nursing bras alike. You are more than I could ever have dreamed of and you are such a delight. I hope this year is full of joy and growth for you. I hope you settle into your new school and make good friends and carve another little place to be you. I hope there is minimal threenager, but mostly, I hope you grow in grace and truth and love as you grow into the beautiful, strong woman God created you to be.

I love you, Sylvia Gabrielle.

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