We were at the beach recently padding along on the soft sand when I noticed you ambling slowly along beside me. Your dark brown eyes sparkled like the sun shimmering on the sea. Golden wisps of your sunshine-kissed hair had escaped your ponytail and were delicately framing your face. Everything about you at the moment reminded me of sunshine – you were all warmth – and all I wanted to do was hold you, take it all in – the sweet warmth of you. So I stopped, crouched low to your level (but not so low as I used to have to crouch; you are inching up all of the time), and I hugged you. You smiled. And if you were shining before, now you glowed, radiating goodness and happiness and gratitude for the simple embrace of your mother.
I’m starting to think your love language just might be physical touch, and I’m going to make more of an effort to give you unexpected hugs, spontaneous kisses, to hold your little hand, to give you a gentle squeeze, to make you aware of my ever love for you.
You’ve been so excited about your birthday. You’ve been saying for a week or so, “I can’t believe I’m going to be four.” Nor can I. It doesn’t seem like so long ago that I showed up for a prenatal visit at 37 weeks just when I’d been freed from the bed rest sentence and Diane, my midwife, checked a few things out and then asked, “You ready to have a baby today?”
I was. Very. You love to hear your birth story. How after Diane told me I was over five centimeters and should just walk around and get ready to welcome you into the world, Gaba, Madeline, and I went to a mall nearby, had ice cream, bought Madeline a new, big-sister outfit (a red checkered dress that Mary Elizabeth now wears), and then we headed to the hospital. Daddy met us there when he could sneak away from work, and the two of us walked together around the hospital corridors.
I never really had too many strong contractions. With just a few pushes, you were in my arms, a small, red bundle with a head full of dark, dark hair. I always tell you how easily you came into the world, how you were the only baby so far who I didn’t really feel like I had to labor much to get you out into the light and into my arms. It seems fitting that your labor was as easy-going as you are.
My sweet, sensitive, soul, you’re a child who needs time outs, not as a punishment but as a respite, because you need space to dawdle and dream without others’ interference. However, I will say you’ve started to come out of your shell more in recent months and love to talk and share what you’re thinking.
Your preference of colors has changed, too. You long loved green, but now you say, “I like green and orange and all different kind of colors.” You like the rainbow. You like life. Contemplative, you notice the little things like how some bushy plants outside with their variegated shades of green remind you of a raccoon’s tail. A poet in the making perhaps.
Just recently, though, you told me you wanted to be an at-home mom who gardens and does ballet, too. To hear you say that – to hear you say there’s a part of you that wants to be like imperfect me – was the greatest emotional return of investment.
I’ll tell you, dear one, that this job called mothering means long days and sometimes short, short nights, but it blesses you abundantly. It gives me moments like spontaneous hugs on the beach, hot sand between our toes, sun in our hair, sea salt on our skin. It gives you birthday celebrations for a girly-girl brimming with all the pink puffery your sweet 4-year-old desires and chocolate cupcakes topped with buttercream frosting, strawberry ice cream, and fizzy, princess-pink punch. It demands slow and steady work that isn’t showy but with time and grace and faith, little by little, someone beautiful emerges, a daughter who makes you so proud, and your throat catches when you see her comfort her little sister or whisper words to the baby sibling still safely cocooned in her mama’s belly.
Motherhood has given me you, a sweet girl who loves dresses, trying on Mommy’s shoes, Knuffle Bunny, getting tickled, story time, fairies, baking, picking up rocks, acorns, and leaves, and offering them to me as gifts.
I love being your mama. I love watching you grow and bloom. I love your dark, brown eyes. They’re intoxicating; they melt me. I love the flowers you pick for me. Most of the time, I even love it when your arm flies across my face in the middle of the night just because you want your skin to be on my skin, to know Mommy is close by night and day.
Happy 4th birthday, Rachel! I look forward to another year of fun, adventures, new favorite colors, gifts of leaves and rocks, stories shared together, muffins baked, giggles, hugs, and moments to witness your tininess grow into bigness and goodness and beauty.
You are a real princess – one of noble birth and grace because you are a daughter of God and a daughter who brings your mama great joy.
I love you!