Today is Grace's birthday and I feel so happy to have her 3-year-old self in our family. It has been a big year for Grace with lots of changes-- moving to a new house, starting "school" for the first time, and becoming a big sister. Grace herself has changed a lot this year as well. At her 2nd birthday, she was just stringing a few words together, but now she chatters away in sentences and paragraphs and soliloquies, albeit often they are tipsy-sounding, ramshackle ones. She's changed a great deal physically as well, her body changing from an unmistakably toddler one to a child's body with long, skinny arms and legs. She has grown a thick black fringe of eyelashes and although she still hasn't had a haircut, her curls are thicker and longer and more, you know, not invisible. This year she has started pretending and imagining, constructing little scenarios where we are all a family of frogs or we are riding imaginary bicycles around the house. (The latter is very physically challenging, by the way.)
It has been a year of huge leaps in her independence. She weaned, potty-trained, and learned to sleep through the entire night in her own bed. She has developed a very independent attitude in general, often happy to engross herself with toys or books or crayons with busy single-mindedness. She runs onto the playground or into the nursery at church or her classroom at Mothers' Day Out with confidence and without the slightest look back. She has a strong desire to do things for herself, from buckling herself into her car seat to dressing herself to cooking, and gets frustrated when her actual abilities don't match up with her desires. Although she is independent, she is also really empathetic and nurturing. She is full of overflowing affection for Violet and desire to take care of her. Crying children stop her short in her activities as she turns to observe or try to help them; her teachers at preschool have even commented on it.
When I talk to other moms I often hear notes of sadness about children growing up and not being babies anymore but I don't experience that with Grace. I think this partly is that I expected to have (and now have) at least one other baby so I never thought, "This is my last time to ________". I think another part of it is that the parenting decisions we made let me hold Grace as much as I could, rock her to sleep without guilt, nurse her for a looooooong time, and so forth. I don't miss Grace's baby days that much; they were overwhelmingly wonderful and I enjoyed them but I feel sort of, well, satisfied with how they went and then came to a close. But I think the biggest part of not having that sadness for me is that Grace in the present has always been so amazing and wonderful and delightful that there isn't much room for nostalgia for Grace from the past. I don't really miss Grace as a baby because Grace as a toddler has been such a fun, remarkable person. Standing at the brink of her 4th year of life, I feel a lot of enthusiasm for who she is right now and thankfulness that she is part of my life. She is so funny and sweet and exuberant. For example:
- She uses "bring" when the more appropriate word is "give". She offers to "bring you a hug" or asks me to "bring me a kiss" when she bumps her head or arm or back.
- She really loves our kitchen timer as a way to change activities. Anything from eating dinner to taking a bath to getting dressed in the morning goes remarkably smoothly if we set the timer and tell her what we will do when the timer goes off.
- She likes to feed Abbey, specifically to give her "one more", by which she means one more little pellet of dog food. She takes forever to fish one more pellet out of our dog food bin, put it in Abbey's measuring cup, and then put it in her dish.
- Her language has developed by leaps and bounds this year, but there have been lots of delightful mispronunciations: "kikwi" for kiwi, "quorn" for corn, "gool" for "school", and "gog" for "dog".