Monday, November 17, 2008

Four Years

Dear Harper,

Today you are four years old. We spent much of the past weekend celebrating your birthday with close friends and family. Your dad and I were worried that you would be disappointed with today, the actual day of your birthday, because your party and gifts would be behind you, and because you kept insisting that even more people! were coming over to celebrate today. Instead we climbed in your bed to wake you up by singing to you, then you got to eat a cinnamon roll for breakfast, you took little goody bags to school, Nana and Dziatku picked you up and took you to lunch, and Daddy and I surprised you with a trip to the movies tonight. So I would say your day was pretty special despite the absence of a second party. Oh, and you got to eat the whole vitamin today - an entire cartoon character. Such a thrill after two years of eating separated heads and torsos to supplement your nutrition.

You had a ball at your birthday party. You were funny and charming and appropriately thankful for all the wonderful gifts you received. Once all the gifts were opened you got to play and play and play. I love the way you throw yourself into your play. At one point you had your stuffed dog and your Fancy Nancy doll arguing over whether or not ice cream could be purchased from a My Little Pony. As the evening wore on you invented a game called driving lessons where you stuck pretend keys into your corn popper (yes, it's a baby toy that you still love to play on), "paid" with a credit card, and had one of the adults tell you where to drive to and what obstacles to avoid. When Aunt Meaghan's boyfriend, Stephen, told you your card had been declined you asked for clarification. He told you there was no money left on that card. "That's okay!" you declared, "I have another one!"

We had an early afternoon meal the day of your party, with gifts opened promptly afterward. You had hours to play with your new things, but still protested bedtime, crying out, "I only played for one second!" The days are just not long enough for all the fun you hope to have.

Three was an interesting age. In the beginning three felt a lot like two, I have to say there were a lot of months during which you failed to exhibit any resemblance to a reasonable human being. The good news is that the closer you grew to four, the more the unreasonable parts slipped away leaving a whole bunch of delightful behind. The age you are now is one of my favorite yet. You are such a distinct personality. You are sensitive and funny and smart - too smart for your own good I sometimes fear.

We still have plenty of oil and water moments, you and I. I don't know if that is a mother-daughter thing, or a result of our stubborn oldest-child personalities clashing. We exasperate and frustrate one another, but we also laugh and dance and sing and hug. I know you know you are loved, and that is one of my proudest accomplishments as a parent.

You life has been turned upside down in the last year. One year ago, as you turned three, we announced to our family that we'd be adding a brother or sister into the mix. My pregnancy grew complicated and I ended up spending the better part of a month in the hospital and on bed rest. It was a scary and lonely time and it was awful being away from you. I hated knowing that I wasn't there to fix your pigtails and read to you and hear your stories and make your dinner. And even after Michael was born he was in the hospital for a month, a month that I spent recovering from surgery and getting sick and pumping milk and visting him. It was almost like having another month away from you and it was one of the most difficult times of my entire life. You weren't even able to meet your brother until he was almost a month old. We were so fortunate to have family and friends who dropped everything to fill in the gaps and lovingly cared for you when Daddy or I couldn't. How strange it must have been for you, that I suddenly disappeared and sometimes Nana was there and sometimes Mugga was there and then there was this brother that you heard about but couldn't touch or see. I'm sorry it happened that way.

Good things have happened too, this last year, because despite all the difficult times, you became a big sister and there is no one better suited for the job. You love your brother fiercely. And he loves you, too. In fact you are fond of informing us that Michael loves you best because you can always make him smile. I think you might be right. You play with Michael and sing to him and kiss his pudgy cheeks. He is a lucky one, that Michael, lucky to have a sister like you.

In the last year you also started school and you are flourishing there. You love being with other children and you come home just bursting with songs and stories of play dough and paint. It was an excellent decision, sending you to school. You were ready for the world outside our walls. I am so proud to watch you making your way. You amaze me Harper.

Being your mom is both the most difficult and the most rewarding job I have ever had. It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of our days and move from one thing to the next without stopping to appreciate each other. But I want you to know, for the record, that I am honored to be your mother. I am pretty sure I already learn more from you than you do from me. While it is a little scary, how fast these years fly by, it is thrilling, too, because I so enjoy watching you grow.

I love you Harper, maybe more than you'll ever fully understand. I can't wait to see what your next year will bring.



McMolten said...

So... every year you write a letter to Harper on her birthday and every year, I forget.

I open up the blog and see a longer-than-normal entry, and realize what is in front of me.

I know what will invariably happen... I'm going to bawl and this year was no exception.

Thank you so much for sharing these intimate thoughts with us. You make me so proud to have you as a sister.

I both you and Harper (and Michael) more than I will ever be able to convey. Leaving you all behind is at the very top of the most difficult things about moving back to Wisconsin.


Erin said...

I was selfishly very much looking forward to this letter. It is so perfect, as always.

(And Jamie's comment? AS IF I WASN'T ALREADY CRYING.)

Laura said...

I'm crying now... I'll have to get back to you about how much this touched my heart.

Hillary or Ryan said...

I'm crying too. I want my baby to arrive so that I can start writing him letters next year. Kelsey--you are an amazing mother!

Mommy Daisy said...

Happy Birthday Harper!

I love reading this letter and seeing what might be in store for us in the next year and a half. (Zachariah turns 3 in March)

bluedaisy said...

This is so precious and beautiful. What a wonderful snapshot for Harper to have of herself at 4. I had to stop eating lunch so I could have a little cry- Thank you for sharing this beautiful letter! Despite your struggles, your family is truly blessed.

MamaK said...

I'm with the criers (sniff, sniff)

Laura said...

Okay, after my second read to comment again, my eyes are brimming (once again) at how much tenderness and affection you are able to convey in your words. Your birthday letters to Harper are nothing short of amazing and I've always loved the way that you are able to capture such perfect moments in time and share with your beautiful daughter of what her third year has meant to you. Your love for her will always be the most important gift you will ever give her. It's beyond compare.

You're a beautiful mother Kelsey.

Anne said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HARPER! (And you, too, Harper's mommy, on your own and on your daughter's. I suspect our children's birthdays are a bigger deal for we mommies than as our own.)