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When S turned 1 I wrote her a letter, beginning what I hope to be a long birthday tradition.

Dear L on your 4th birthday,

I can’t believe you are 4 today! That sounds like such a big boy. Where did the time go? When I look at you, you are clearly a big boy now, no trace of the baby you were. Lately you’ve grown long and lean like a kid rather than round and pudged like a toddler. Only a few remaining mispronunciations remind me of the toddler you came from.

I am so proud of the boy you’ve become. I’m especially proud of your kindness and empathy. This is something born in you. You rejoice in the success and good fortune of others. You are so excited when it’s someone else’s birthday, or when someone masters a new skill like riding a bike. You burst with happiness for them, as if their accomplishment or special occasion were your own. I love that you can feel so happy for others. You also naturally sense others’ sad feelings and do your best to help – with a hug, bringing a favorite toy, even sharing your own treasured cookie or sweets. These are things I did not teach you. This is who you are. And I love it about you.

Recently I got to see a side of you that surprised me. You had to get a cast on each of your legs to help you walk on flat feet instead of on your toes. The casts were big, heavy, itchy, uncomfortable, cumbersome and annoying in a million other ways. But you didn’t complain. From the instant you got them, you just figured out how to walk and went on about your life. You still climbed and played and were your happy self. I’m amazed at your resilience.

If you had your way, we would play all day long. You’re like a puppy that way. Unless you’re asleep, you’d like to be jumping, wrestling, tickling, running, dancing, and giggling. I know I sometimes seem annoyed at all of this, but really, your playful nature is delightful. I’m just not always a good match energy-wise. I wish I were! Your energy will serve you well for your whole life and I’m glad you have it. I’m sorry that I get annoyed sometimes and I’ll try to be better about that.

Seeing your relationship with your sister is just about the best thing in my life. You are (mostly) kind and gentle with her. You always look out for her and try to make her happy, protect her, play with her, etc. You also are insatiably curious about her tolerance and threshold for pestering and wrestling. You always manage to find it and pass it. But then when she cries you usually do too because you feel bad for hurting her. You give her a hug and a kiss and apologize and then the two of you are on your merry way again.

You have a clear sense of what you feel is right and you are not afraid to assert yourself. Although this can frustrate the grown-ups around you, it’s actually a trait that will take you far in life. You just have to survive through your childhood first. (We all do.) Which might not be easy for you. All along the way you’ll come up against grown-ups who you will have to listen to, even when you think they’re wrong. I will do my best to support you and help you navigate through these frustrating relationships. Even with me.

Your spirit, exuberance and sense of wonder make me smile every day. I hope you keep them as you grow up. And I hope you keep your wacky sense of humor, which I think you will, since it’s exactly like your Daddy’s wacky sense of humor.

Being your mom is certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the most rewarding. Seeing you grow and change, and witnessing the emergence of the wonderful, individual person you are has been amazing. I have the highest hopes for your 5th year. I think you’re going to have a great year making friends, discovering new skills, and bringing joy to everyone who is lucky enough to know you. I love you so much!

Happy birthday!

Love,

Mom

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I always had the age 35 in mind as the age of a real grownup. A 35-year-old is someone who is in charge. The person caring for her children and her parents. The responsible person with savings, investments, and enough cash on hand to fix the rear wiper motor on her car. A person with important places to be, important things to do, and appropriate clothes for any occasion that might arise. Now I’m about to turn 35. How did this happen? And why do I feel like an impostor?

I remember when my own mother was 35. She was mom to three kids ages 5 (me), 7 and 10. She ran her household like she was born doing it. She managed her kids, bills, nightly dinners, etc like it was nothing. She was a real grownup. So here I am, my mother’s age. (Sort of.) At what point will I feel like a real grownup and not like a kid myself?

I still feel like a person trying to figure it all out. The only way that I know I’m no longer in my early 20’s, and therefore excusably clueless, is that I don’t get carded. I never get carded. Once upon a time I thought that would be a great thing. Turns out, not so much.

My kids are not yet 4 and not yet 2. I’m still new at this whole kids-thing and still dealing with baby problems, naps and diapers. I’m not a seasoned mom carting my kids and their friends around like my mother did so skillfully. (Remember riding in the way back?)

I can’t believe I’m about to turn 35. When I was a kid, if you asked me what “middle-aged” meant I might have said 35. My next big birthday will be my 40th? I can’t even type that with a straight face. I’m nowhere near 40! Right?

Aren’t I supposed to have it all figured out by now? I have 2 1/2 weeks before my birthday. I better get cracking!

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Yesterday baby S turned 1. It’s a mixed bag of emotions for me. I’m so happy with who she is that part of me beamed with pride watching her shove cake into her mouth wearing her little party hat. I can just see the little person she’s going to grow into and part of me feels this weird maternal gushy feeling when I think about it. Another part of me wants to just stop everything right where it is. She’s perfect now. I don’t want to ruin it by her growing up. Then there’s the part of me that knows that my baby days are over. And that part is a sad, hollow feeling. That part is ruled not by my mind at all. My sensible mind knows I don’t want any more kids. But my inner-animal-hormonal-crazy-person wants more babies. Wants ’em bad.

We had a small family party which S mostly slept through. L had a wonderful time playing with his cousins in the yard, on the swings, in the wading pool and sprinkler, and eating as many tomatoes out of the garden as they could. It was one of those times when the kids were all running around happily and mostly independently and the grown ups just got to sit back and watch. One of those fleeting moments when I think, “This is why people have kids. It’s wonderful to have all these kids around. This is the life.” I don’t get a ton of those moments, so I have to soak it up when I do!

L has been looking forward to S’s birthday forever. Whenever I mentioned it, he double checked that he’s going to get to blow out the candles since S doesn’t know how. I reassure him that he will, and his excitement for the big day grows and grows. He was so beside himself with excitement, just for the candles thing as far as I could tell, that I didn’t even tell him about the party until about 1/2 hour before when I brought the balloons up from the basement and started decorating. This is when I worried that L’s exuberance and excitement would actually burst through his skin. Can a kid die of excitement? Because if it’s possible, L would be in danger. The phrase “bouncing off the walls” makes so much more sense now. I always thought it was an exaggeration, a metaphor. But it’s not at all. My poor walls.

Back to the party. S wakes up in time for pizza and cake. L’s big moment has finally arrived! Imagine his shock and bitter disappointment when the wind blows out the candles before I even make it to the table! His face crumbles as we’re singing the last notes of Happy Birthday. “Noooooooo!” He pounds his fist on the table, and falls backwards onto the ground in a rage of hysterics. The unfairness of it all is too much to bear. Luckily, I have a book of matches and the day is saved.

All in all the day went remarkably well. Naturally, S had no idea what was going on, but liked it. L was in heaven and aside from the candle/wind disaster behaved very well. And now it’s behind me and I’m left with my growing-up daughter who I can’t stop from changing. And a bunch of baby clothes and toys that I have no future need for. Funny, I can’t part with the clothes. Even the baby stuff I loaned to my sister for Nephew, I got back. So my basement is full of containers of baby clothes. That’s inner-animal-hormonal-crazy-person’s doing for sure!

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