A letter to Maggie on her fourth burthday
Happy fourth birthday my love, my girl, my hunnybunny.
I considered this morning that your birthday will always be most significant to me because your birthday is the day I became a mother. I don’t want to marginalize my love for your little “brudder”, because he is sweet and adorable and certainly less lippy than you. But Maggie, your birthday is especially specially special to me.
August 21st, 2004 brought me to a place where I became free to love with wild abandon and run around like the liberated adoring smitten mother that I am. It’s fun to love someone as much as I love you. I don’t care who sees me kissing all over you at Target, or gazing adoringly as I push your hair behind your ear at the grocery store. I am punch-drunk in love with my babies. And you my dear, were my first baby.
I didn’t know how to love like that until August 21, 2004.
You may find out someday that having a baby changes the way you look at the world. I say this not only because I really really really want to be a grandma someday so that I can play with your kids, hop them up on sugar, and then give them back to you. Then I will go home to my house where I will sleep all night, every night, for ever and ever amen. Only to be woken by the occasional bad dream and your father flopping around like a 200 pound walleye, but certainly NOT to be woken up by a preschooler who can’t find her blanket, or wants her pink pony, or water, or is scared to be alone, or who wants to writhe on the floor screaming at 1:30 a.m. for no discernable reason.
I also say this because you have taken to telling everyone who asks what you want to be when you grow up “I want to be mommy”. Which makes me run to the cupboard and hand you a bag of foil-wrapped chocolates.
Your head nearly exploded when I explained to you that you could be both a mommy AND a scuba diver. But not a scuba diver in the ocean, because oceans are far away from our small plot of land locked smack dab in the middle of North America. I would not allow you to move to the coast, I explained to you, because then I wouldn’t be able to make you dinner twice a week when you are a grown-up. You nodded in agreement and explained to me (as though I were stupid, mind you) that you would instead be a scuba diver in a POND. Being a scuba diver of ponds will conveniently allow you to remain in the Midwest and close to your mother and free meals while you start your family and climb to the top of the scuba diving in ponds field.
And none of this matters anyway, because you now want to be a singer, and definitely not a scuba diver.
So, you very well may understand someday that having children shifts the entire center of your universe away from yourself and onto another person. This might sound bad, but it’s not. Life with myself in the center was boring and consisted of a lot of time spent in bars smoking cigarettes pondering the meaning of my self absorbed life aloud to anyone who was bored or drunk enough to listen. Sadly, as a main character and center of the universe, I was not nearly as interesting as you are. You, Maggie, are much more fun to watch.
I love watching you in action, but stealth and secrecy must be implemented in order to observe you for any length of time. You seem to have an irrational fear of being watched, and when you catch me, you shriek “Ma-ma!!! DON’T LOOK AT ME!!” STOP LOOKING AT ME!!! I then raise my brows in a surprised expression and wander to a corner so I can pretend to chop tomatoes and continue to spy on you, only more stealthily. You act out dramatic social interaction between dinosaur friends, zoo animals, or “pretty pink ponies” (who aren’t even all pink, mind you). They say things each other like “Oh, we LOVE YOU!” and they all talk EMPHATICALLY to one another, and you basically create a world of fantasy where dinosaurs and ponies and creatures have nonstop birthday parties with cake-eating and hand-holding and disclosure of very exciting secrets.
I have to be honest though, I am not sure if I will miss 3. You turned three and became a bossy, fit-throwing Godzilla who had to be tiptoed around and spoken of in hushed tones and observed with nervous fleeting glances.
Every day, we have a struggle over something. I can not, to save my own life, figure out what it is that you get out of these scuffles. What is your motivation for seeking out nonstop conflict? For demanding that I choose the shoes you will wear to school only to reject every pair I pull from the closet. MEANLY. Sometimes you even thrown them and scoff. And when I give up in frustration and say “fine, you pick out your shoes or go barefoot to school!” you fall onto the floor pulling your own hair and screeching. Then I say “Fine! Wear these!” and you wail.
“NO! I DON’T LIKE THOSE!” You shout, with a pained, red accusing face. It’s as though by this exercise you communicate your utter frustration and resentment that I do not understand what it is that you need, and you need me to understand what it is that you need, and in not understanding what you need, I am failing you miserably.
Then I carry you to the car and pretend you are going to school with no shoes while you kick and scream in sheer agony while the neighbors all peek from behind their blinds to find out who is pulling the claws from the cat’s foot with a pliers. But I really secretly bring a pair in the car, which you obediently put on your feet as though nothing happened as soon as we get to school.
Also, for example just this morning you were so well behaved that I said you could have a treat in the car on the way to school. In an effort to not give you the WRONG treat (which happens often and is SO EMBARRASING!) I decided to offer you your choice of three. A starburst, a baby ruth, or a few sweet-tarts. You sat, buckled in your car seat and began to whine the moment I offered them to you. You didn’t want any of those treats. You wanted a different treat. I instructed you to choose one, and got in the car and began to pull out of the driveway. “Those are your choices, and you need to pick one” I told you.
Then you threw all three treats at the back of my head as I drove.
You quickly changed your mind and decided you did in fact want a treat. By this time, of course, you had a snowballs chance in Hell of getting anything from me. And then you cried and screamed and threw yourself on the ground outside of school as parents walked by and gave me sympathetic looks.
I do not know why you do these things.
Another example: this year we had a daily toothbrush trauma.
When asked to brush your teeth you inevitably refuse the first toothbrush I choose for you, demanding that I present you with another. When presented with another, you turn your nose up at THAT one. You scoff at “Thomas the Tank Engine” and God help the poor fool that offers you spider man. We repeat, and repeat and run around in circles until I lose all patience and tell you that we are done trying to choose a toothbrush and you are going to bed without brushing your teeth already to which you respond, screaming and sobbing, and tearing our your hair “I DON’T WANT MY TEETH TO TURN YELLOW!” Then you race into your room in a panic with red face, tears and frantic frenetic jumping to and fro.
This went on for nearly a year until we realized that if you only have ONE TOOTHBRUSH all this can be avoided. SEE! We’re not so dumb! It only went on for seven months until we found the painfully obvious and simple solution.
On the other hand, three was a lot of fun. It was amazing to watch you figure out the world. You understand the seasons, and you know how to make cupcakes, and you know to ask to lick the beaters every time, because I will always let you. You know to behave well when there are treats at stake. You know to ask Mommy for things that Daddy already said “no” to. When we ban treats for bad behavior, you say “but I am being good NOW!” with the same conviction one would use arguing, say, a supreme court case. You know that you are much more likely to get what you want when instead of simply saying “please” you give your dad a wide-eyed look and implore “Oh, please daddy?” while jumping up and down. You are no one’s fool. While I admire this about you, your intelligence presents some parenting challenges.
You seem to have mastered emotional manipulation at a young age. This started when you spread your arms as far as they could go, and said “I love Daddy this much.” Then you looked at me solemnly and placed your palms parallel to one another two tiny inches apart, and said “I love you this much”.
“So you love Daddy more than me?” I asked?
“Yes” you replied.
Later that night, when your father and I were going to bed, I was still bothered by this. “She’s MEAN!” I whined incredulously. This bothered me for several days until I found out I could confuse AND trump you by nodding enthusiastically and smiling every time you repeated this, and saying “OH! That’s wonderful sweetie”. This confused you so much that you stopped once and for all.
The strangest phenomenon of our growing family is that each of you seems to think I can carry on three conversations at one time. Just the other night, I was sitting at the kitchen table looking from you to Ben, and back to you, trying to decide if I should take you to both to the doctor to be checked for an ear infection. Ben was screaming for my attention with red goopy eyes and snot crusted nose. Your father was asking me for the 8th time if I REALLY needed to take you to the doctor. And you exclaimed “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” – these things all took place simultaneously – everyone loudly demanding my attention, but you called my name with such urgency that I stopped, looked at you and said
“Why to pterodactyls have wings?”
Other popular questions are “Why are the bugs in the world?”, “Why are there animals in the world?”, and “Why are reptiles reptiles and mammals mammals?”.
I love that you are so inquisitive.
You like reptiles better than mammals, even though you are a mammal and so is your whole family. You don’t care. Also girls are pretty, and boys are handsome.
You are also incredibly brave and tough. You recently had to get 2 shots at the doctor’s office, and did not shed a single tear. I nearly started bawling as you sat in my lap and that nurse stuck a needle in your perfect, precious little arm. But not you. You took it like a champ.
You make me very proud.
I will miss the time (and I know it’s coming) when you stop telling me on a daily basis “Mommy, you’re my BEST FRIEND.”
I hope you never stop calling me Mama.
You are a lot of fun.
You are so smart, it amazes me.
I love spending time with you.
You are really funny.
I love you.
Thanks for being you, for being four, and for letting me be your mom.