E at five days old, napping on my arm
Tomorrow, my crazy monkey, you will wake up a four-year-old. Except, let's start over: Tomorrow, my princess, when you wake up, you'll be four. You've just asked that we refrain from calling you crazy monkey, that we drop the silly goose goose. You'd like to be known as our Princess.
You've been asking a million questions about when you were born, partly because of tomorrow's anniversary, and partly because you know your little brother is about to copy you in that act. You know that you were born the surgical way because you were sitting up inside of me instead of floating upside down, and you know that you're the only one who knew you were sitting up, and you ask me, laughing, well, why did Daddy put me in you that way? And I can only answer, laughing in return, "I don't know, sweetie, go ask him" because you're fuzzy on the details of conception, and appropriately so, though I don't know how many more years that ignorance will hold. You've never asked him yet, and I'm a little disappointed, because I love to watch when you and he enter into Serious Conversations together.
But sometimes in lighthearted moments like that your mood will suddenly now turn dark. Don't laugh at me!, you'll scowl, even though I'm not, I wouldn't, I'm laughing with you, or so I thought. This is new, on the eve of four. You're developing self-consciousness. You are more and more aware of the perceptions of others.
You are proud of the chores you have and you tell me that when you're four you are going to ask for less TV and start to be a helper to the grownups. You also tell me that when you're four you'll always wipe your own poops. We'll see, four. I'm keeping my eyes on you.
You are a generous friend and an extremely loyal sister and you are capable of lighting up a whole room. So, too, are you capable of ruining a room's mood. You are a summer cloud but we never know if you're white and fluffy or filled with static electricity until you embrace us with joy. Or zap us numb. They don't make E barometers, and that's a scientific breakthrough just waiting to be discovered. But you know all that: you know how you turn your big blue eyes upon us, how we watch to see if we'll be gifted or accursed. You know your power. It takes some girls and women years to know their power. You've known since you came out of me.
You are steadfast and determined and unswerving. You love everything purple and have now for more than two years, more than half your life, even though you move in a social world of pink-loving girls. You are never afraid to hold a dissident opinion, and to hold it strongly. You have strong opinions on clothes, on hair, on what to read and what to eat and where to sit and how my arm should lie across you when we snuggle.
The purple purse cake I made, per your painstaking instruction, upon your request for your birthday party.
Because Princesses must take their accessorizing seriously.
Seriously: for you, love, purple purse princess pound cake.
Your birth: your surprise breech position, my surprise caesarean section, for a long time I struggled with the disruptive way you appeared, the disruptive way I was entered into motherhood. This was not what I wanted nor how I wanted it. Then I hurt so much, and you were loud, so loud, so incessant. You weren't an easy baby. You were demanding, and I don't mean that casually. I don't hurt now, but you've never stopped being the loudest kid around, just like the OB declared when he tugged you out of me. Your birth, your infancy, they were hard. They challenged my notions as a capable human being, my very self-worth. But now that you've learned to talk (and oh, have you) and can express your needs (emphatically) to us, I look on your birth story as metaphor, as prophecy. My expectations, my hopes, my plans, my intentions, my assumptions: they did not matter. For you are a person who will face this world on your terms and your terms alone, and you've been letting us know since before birth. You did not allow me the grace of a learning curve. You set your expectations upon me with your will and I was not eased into motherhood, I was catapulted. But for that difficult lesson I now have patience, grace, resilience I never would have found within myself were it not for you. I know I'm a good mother. You made me so. Your sister, and soon your brother, they owe you a debt of gratitude for the way you formed me for this role. I will never doubt your convictions. May you always hold the courage of them gently in your heart.
To my understanding, nobody else is supposed to call you Princess. Not your grandparents; not your teachers. Possession of you is a gift you bestow carefully. You're our Princess -- Daddy's and mine. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
Happy beautiful birthday, my monster monster. I always call you that, and I do so with love. But maybe I should check -- am I still allowed to call you that? I love you, my first baby. Happy four.