These letters are becoming something of an annual tradition, and one that I’m happy to keep going for as long as I can.
On the eve of your first birthday, I wrote a letter of advice for the future.
On your second, I wrote a letter reflecting on the changes of the last twelve months.
Now, we are about to celebrate your third birthday.
Three feels like a major milestone. Three feels like the shifting point from toddler to pre-schooler and, in a way, from toddler to child. I call you my baby girl, but you’re far from a baby. You’re growing up quicker by the day. Sometimes I find myself feeling surprised mid-conversation, realising that we’re actually having a back-and-forth. Sometimes it doesn’t quite make sense, like when you’re telling me that I need to “mega-evolve” (a little too much Pokémon is to blame for that), but a lot of the time I actually get you.
Over the last few days, I’ve been reminiscing – the usual “this time three years ago”. I remember the anticipation I felt; the excitement – and the fear – as your arrival approached. You turned up a little earlier than anticipated, taking us by surprise, and you haven’t stopped doing that since.
Every day with you brings new surprises. You point-blank refuse to be potty-trained, and yet you learned the British Sign Language alphabet in a couple of days. You can scream the place down and be smothering us in kisses five minutes later. You’re a typical toddler – unpredictable in every way.
But, my beautiful girl, you are anything but typical. Anything but ordinary. “Ordinary” vanished from our vocabulary the day you came into the world. Every day you astonish us – sometimes in good ways, sometimes not so good! – with your compassion, your kindness, your temper, your attitude, your intelligence and your confidence. You know who you are (and you’ll announce it to anyone who will listen). Your mind is your own, and woe betide anyone who tries to change it.
Big changes are coming, baby girl. School beckons, and the thought of seeing you in a school uniform, swinging a book bag as you head for the school gates makes my heart swell with pride. The “responsible parent” part of my head tells me not to mention that it also makes my heart ache something fierce, but I have to be honest. School is a huge step towards independence; a massive change in your life and ours.
I can’t promise you much, because we’re flying blind too, but I can promise you that we will be there. When you tell us about your day, we’ll listen. When you enthuse about your new friends, we’ll feel excited too. When you’re worried or scared, we’ll reassure you. Independence doesn’t mean doing it alone. It means trusting the people you love to both let you spread your wings, and to carry you when those wings need to rest.
Even though the future seems unclear, we will be together as a family. If you ever feel scared, slip your hand in mine and squeeze. I’ll squeeze yours too, so you know you’re never alone. Change is exciting, and there’s a lot of it coming. A new house, a fresh start, new opportunities for us that will lead to a better life for you. I feel like the last three years have been spent growing up alongside you. As you’ve started to find your feet in the world, I’ve been preparing for the stabilisers to come off. This year will be the big test, for all of us. Adult life beckons me, and new adventures call your name.
I’d say “we’ll face it together”, but that’s an understatement. We’ll do what we always do. So take my hand, and we’ll run headfirst into this next stage, like we have done with every stage before. There will be scary times, but I am by your side, and your Daddy is too. You’ll never be alone.
Three years ago, when they handed me my tiny, newborn daughter, I vowed to protect you. This year, you’ve taught me that I don’t need to protect you. You are strong and fierce and ferociously independent. Instead, I’ll be there to cheer you on when it all goes well, and hold you close when it doesn’t. Either way, I’ll be the proudest mommy in the world. In fact, I already am.
All my love,