Dear Mary Elizabeth,
My sweet, sweet girl, happy (belated) fourth birthday. I’m not as quick at getting these birthday letters out any longer, but that’s just because we’re so busy enjoying life (and spending time out on the soccer fields watching your big sisters play)! You’re also very busy accessorizing. My goodness, you are quite the fashionista. Why leave the house with one sparkly headband when you can wear two or three?
The other day you told me that you didn’t like my hair. Later that same day I tucked it into a messy French twist of which you approved. “Now you can stay here with me.” Prior to that you’d wanted me to leave the house to take Rachel to soccer and have Daddy stay at home with you (you approved of his hair apparently). Sometimes, too, you’ll tell me that you don’t like my outfit, but most of the time you provide quite the ego boost for me. “Mommy, you look beautiful!” you’ll say. Or you’ll admire my shoe selection or a piece of jewelry I’m wearing.
Each morning you get yourself ready all by yourself (and you almost always match). In fact, if I try to help or gently guide your fashion choices, you become quite agitated. I’ve got this, Mommy! Now that the weather is turning warmer, you usually choose an airy dress and slip into your new flip-flops adorned with crocheted purple and turquoise flowers.
You’re a fairly easy-going kid, but a bad hair day is cause for a major meltdown. Seriously, if I don’t make sure all the bumps are smoothed out when I’m putting your hair into a ponytail, you throw a fit. Just recently I was watching you play on the playground while your big sisters were on the soccer field, and there was an older girl who was being a little rough with the younger set. At one point, she plowed over you as you were trying to slip down the twisty slide. Well, you popped up with a red, scrunched up face and stormed over to me. I expected to you say that she had hurt you, but you glanced in the direction with narrowed eyes and then told me, “That girl messed up my hair.” People ought to know better than to come in between M.E. and her hair!
But as much as you love to tap into your feminine side, you’re a feisty one who isn’t afraid to dig in the dirt for bugs or to get messy (very messy) while crafting or playing outside. You play hard. You’re brimming with joie de vivre. Life is fun and exciting, and the world is a beautiful, magical place. You’ll admire a bright green inchworm you discover in the front yard just as much as you take pleasure in the muddy earth after a hard spring rain.
You’re a very caring big sister to your little brother as well. Thomas adores you and especially likes to wrestle with you. You giggle when he collapses on top of you. Even though he’s more than two years younger, he only weighs two pounds less than you. He’s a tank while you’re a willowy, little thing. But you keep up with the big girls. You don’t let a skinned knee keep you down. You’re quite the speed demon on your balance bike. The grandparents are always impressed to watch you cruise quickly down the driveway with a wide grin spread upon your face.
You love rhinestones, wearing jewelry, having your nails painted pretty colors, reading books together, drawing, wrestling with Daddy and Thomas, playing house (you’re the mommy, and I trick you into putting your baby – me – to bed), baking with me, avocados, tomatoes, lollipops, telling me secrets (which usually revolve around nursing), spending time with your best bud Will, cuddling up at night and during quiet time (“Put your arm around me,” you insist every time), loving on Layla (recently, you tried to ride her. She’s a big dog but not that big!), singing and dancing, making goofy faces, and eating. “I’m hungry!” You say that at least twenty times a day.
Oh, and you’re quite the monkey. You’ve always loved climbing and can scale a tree quickly. In fact, a few weeks ago I was washing dishes after dinner when Rachel ran inside out of breath and shouted, “Emergency!” Now I admit I wasn’t all that alarmed because you guys tend to think a broken piece of sidewalk chalk is an emergency, but then when she told me you were at the tippy-top of a magnolia tree, I decided to take the situation seriously. I still thought she was probably exaggerating because the magnolia tree close by is a tall one. Well, I walked outside and there you were, waving down at me and beaming at the very top of the tree. My heart hammered in my chest, but I kept my voice calm because I didn’t want you to panic. I just kept thinking of Pollyanna becoming paralyzed after she tumbled from a tree. But I watched you skillfully and with surprising alacrity make your way down. Once your two feet were safe on the ground, we had a serious talk about the dangers of climbing tall trees, and I made sure not to mention how much your climbing ability impressed me. My goodness, you made it look easy, but you’re a little girl, not a monkey, so please be safe!
My darling daughter, I love everything about you. Your girly-girl ways remind me of how I was at your age, and I have a feeling you’re going to have quite a shoe-hoarding habit one of these days. But what I love the most is your chutzpah. I had plenty of that, too. Gaba says I wasn’t afraid of anything, which explains why I’d hop a huge horse and not think twice about galloping across an open field. Now that I’m a mom myself your fearless can make me nervous. You’ll be swinging from a branch, and I’ll say, “Just be careful. You could get hurt.”
“No, I won’t,” you say with confidence that quickly morphs into plain, old stubbornness as you continue to swing more quickly despite my warnings.
Yup, there are days when your fiery spirit drives me crazy – like when you throw a tantrum because I won’t let you wear a sleeveless dress (no jacket, thank you very much) when it’s 40 degrees outside or when you refuse to help clean up the ocean you just created by spreading out every single baby blanket we own (and with four kids, that’s a lot of baby blankets) on the floor even though your ship has beached itself for the day. Yet, I know your tenacity will serve you well. You’ve got plenty of sugar and spice, but you’re like the chocolate laced with cayenne pepper – sweet with quite the kick.
Four is going to be a magical year. There’s so much more to discover – and so many new hand-me-down dresses to add to your closet, you lucky girl you.
For your birthday we graced you with a crown, and you were a princess for the day. But even when there are no sparkling tiaras, pink cakes, or presents at your feet know that you are beloved.
I thank God for delivering your peanut self – all 5 pounds and 14 ounces of you – four years (and a few days) ago, and I look forward to watching you grow, climb trees, strut your stuff in new chic ensembles, and savor the good life!
I love you just the way you are, Birthday Girl!
P.S. Who makes the better princess?