Dear Charlotte/Chucky/Cha Cha:
It doesn’t seem possible that my baby is three. My baby–my original baby–is certainly not a baby and barely even a toddler. I wrote in your birthday letter last year that we had changed from calling you “Baby Bee” to “Little Bee”. But now, big three year old, you are simply just “Bee” to us, or sometimes “Chucky”. (Though you hilariously called yourself “Sucky” for a few months until you could say the ch-sound!)
If the theme of last year’s birthday letter was all the changes in our life, the theme of this year has been independence. You are a highly verbal and talkative young lady, which has exploded since your 2nd birthday. So, here are some words straight from your own mouth. I hope that someday you’ll have a good laugh about the funny three year old you were; but also, that you’ll find some little glimmer or nugget of how you are then reflected so early on in how you are now. I know that each funny phrase or earnest admonishing you give me is a peek into the future Charlotte, into the teenager and grown up that you’re going to be. You are building your personality and your character with each passing moment, and we have the gift of watching the pieces evolve along the way.
1) While eating a kiwi the other morning, you told me: “Mommy! This fruit is kind of like an apple. They are both green. And sour. But this kiwi has a lot of seeds and the apple doesn’t really have a lot.”
Let’s move beyond the obvious here: that my barely-three-year-old can compare and contrast. Without prompting. The point evenmoreso is that you’re always thinking and talking about what you’re doing in the moment. You love to label things, talk about them, describe them, and give them voice. “I can hear the wind soaring through the trees” or “Oh! I can see the sunset is coming out! Look at that beautiful, beautiful sunset!” you’ll exclaim. You see beauty and interest in the every day things like fruit, weather, and the sky. Most of us miss it because we are too busy and moving too fast. This is what I love and will miss most about toddlerhood: the ability and the persuasion to just.move.slowly. You drink it all in, talk about it, observe it, and love it. You remind me to just slow down. How I wish I didn’t have to go work, and could just be slow with you!
2) “Daddy, I just want to have some privacy.”
You told Dad that you were going to use the potty. When he followed you in, you turned around and gently–but decisively–said he wasn’t welcome. You know your own mind, dear Chucky. I love you for being strong enough to say what you want. But you do it in a gentle way and with quiet persistence that we follow your requests. “I’m just not feeling like talking right now” is a frequent refrain when we ask about school. “Smile, Mommy! Be happy!” after I’ve just gotten upset with you. You’re kind, but insistent. Some may call it bossy. I say that bossy is a good thing for a girl to be.
While the above examples make me proud, they also make me pause. We’re finding that you need us less and less. You clear your own plate from the table, and you’re starting to serve yourself food. You hang up your jacket, help to feed Pippa, pick out your own clothes and can do your undies, pants, and socks…shirt will be coming soon. And now, with the recognition that we don’t need to help you with #2 on the potty, we’ve accomplished so many of the toddlerhood milestones. You just don’t need us in the ways that you used to.
I know that motherhood is all about this gradual release of responsibility. But it’s hard when you step back to look, and a lot has passed you by since the last time you were aware of it. In a strange way, time does not move linearly to a mother. As I wrote to you last year, the greatest gift you can give is to make someone feel needed. I know it’s developmental, and I know it’s normal. The ways in which you will need us are going to change hundreds of times in our lives. But something about the release of these tangible, everyday responsibilities is a hard pill to swallow.
3) You know 18 letters.
Nobody would ever believe me, but Betsy the literacy specialist is NOT teaching her 3 year old the alphabet. You have somehow learned 18 letters on your very own, just by picking up on environmental print, and reading as you so love to do. Your favorite activity for us to “play” with you is reading you a book. You’re diligent–we cannot skip a page! You’ll often jump in and read the story along with us, or supply the missing words. You are so in love with literature, but you’re starting to talk about how you “can’t read” or “don’t know how to read the words yet.”
Hear this*, Chucky: you will be reading in no time. Look at all the things you CAN do! You’re already doing the things that pre-readers do: retelling stories and predicting, you can rhyme and make up your own songs in rhythm, and sing word play games like ‘Willabee wallabee Waxter! An elephant sat on Baxter!”
(* “Hear this, Mommy!” is one of your favorite calls to attention).
4) “Can you put some music on Daddy?” and “That’s me in the corner!”
A new favorite activity lately is dance parties! You love to have music on, and it has to be fast enough for you to dance crazily to! Your current favorites are “That’s me in the corner” by R.E.M. and “Martha my dear” by the Beatles. You hear a song once, and you can sing it. You hear a song twice, and you can make up words that fit the same beat. Dare I say that you may have a musical bone in your body?! A hand-me-down from your mom, perhaps. (A dancing bone, not so much. You don’t appear to have your father’s gift for that…yet.)
You are growing and morphing into this wonderfully kind, introspective, curious, and outgoing little girl. Dad and I both love to take you out for “special Charlotte time” because we always have so much fun. I am so proud to be your Mommy, and I wish I could pause time to hang onto these toddler moments forever. They are my favorite. You are my best, best girl!