Today you turned five. FIVE. A lot of it has been a blur, but when I sit down and think about it, it happened so slowly and quickly all at once. You were just in my arms looking up at me over your incredible rounded cheeks, which have gotten less round over the last five years. You were just sleeping soundly in your crib, just learning to crawl, just trying (and hating) oatmeal…and avocado…and eggs. You still hate eggs, and once a month you’ll try them just to make sure. You don’t like eggs and that’s your thing and that’s cool. You try them once a month anyway because somewhere along the last five years, you’ve become an adventurer. You’ve become brave and stoic and strong. You look so much like me that sometimes it stops me in my tracks. But you’re cooler than me already and so much more tough. You can keep a secret as good as anyone I’ve ever met and you know when it’s the right time to tell the truth. You love hard and with your whole being and sometimes you get so excited that you positively vibrate with enthusiasm. And sometimes you just have to jump. Or twirl. Or dance. But you haven’t chosen to just twirl in skirts and dresses like the other girls. You’ve chosen to twirl and dance in your super-special light-up Spiderman sneakers that, you’re right, are not just for boys. They’re for you. They’re for everyone. You choose to be Iron-Man, and Spider-Man, and Max. You choose to be you. And you do you better than anyone else I’ve ever met.
Yesterday was your last night being four and you asked me to tell you, “…about when I was borned.” So I did. I talked about my round belly that kept you safe and where you became you for nine months. I told you about how you decided to show up just a little bit late, which is still your MO. I told you what I was doing at that exact time five years ago, which was waiting not-so-patiently for an epidural. You were born around six hours later and when you came into the world, you were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. You asked where you came from. You asked if Daddy and I knew when we first met if we would have you and asked if we felt like parents when we first met. I explained to you that when grown-ups meet, they have to spend time together and learn all sorts of stuff about each other before the love starts. But that when you made me a mama that night, I never had to learn anything about you before I loved you. “Because you already knew me?” you said. And the lump in my throat made it near-impossible to say, “Yes, darling. Because I already knew you.” I know you. I know your heart as well as I know my own. “You know what?” I continued. “I wasn’t a mama until I knew you. I was just Virginia and then you came and made me a mama. And that makes you so very special.”
You are my light. You are my heart. I climb into your bed with you in the morning when your alarm clock goes off for you to get ready for school and you say, “Mom? You want to snuggle?” I hit snooze on your alarm every day and say, “Yes. For just a few minutes.” And we hold each other. Sometimes you’re as wiggly as a worm because you’re just so excited to start a new day that I can’t help but get a little excited, too. I watch you as you bound out of bed. Get your clothes out. Get dressed. Brush your teeth. Doing the same things I do every day with a zest for what’s about to unfold for you throughout the day that is absolutely riveting.
So much has changed about you since I first knew you. You’re taller, your cheeks are smaller, and you know way more words and have figured out math. You can sometimes solve a Rubik’s cube. You have a brother who you love more than anything else in the world, so much so that you handed him some of your birthday presents this morning because you knew he liked them. But the smell of your head hasn’t changed. Underneath the sweat and the syrup and my lotion that I rub on my hands before I stroke your head throughout the day, your baby smell is still there. I can smell it even if it’s in my imagination. But I don’t miss the baby days for you because I am so excited to see what’s next for you. We did good, you and I. Mostly you.
I love you, my darling. My heart beats for you. Your breath is in my veins. Your soul is my soul. Happy Birthday, sweetheart. Thank you for making me a mama and most of all, thank you for being unabashedly, uncompromisingly YOU.
All good things, darling.