Dear Emma Vance,
Oh, my sweet girl. My first born. My best friend. You are the light of my life, and I love you. I cannot believe you’re FOUR YEARS old today, but time is a tricky thing.
I couldn’t be more delighted in who you are becoming, Emma Vance. (Whenever I doubt my parenting philosophies, I look at you and remember that it’s working, haha!) You are so very social: You love to meet new people. You make friends with everyone. You are kind to others, eager to share, and very inclusionary. Sometimes I like to just sit back and watch you doing your thing in a crowd — flitting about, talking to anyone who will listen, happy and full of life. My little fairy. It’s no surprise that you are a natural performer. You haven’t a shy bone in your body (which can be somewhat awkward when paired with your love of babies — and of touching strangers’ babies, haha!) and enjoy singing and dancing and telling stories. You think the most important personality trait anyone can have is to be funny, so you’re constantly trying to make jokes (which are, for being a preschooler, not too shabby but often have to be “rewritten” to remove the word “poop”). It’s just that you’re so darn smart! You’re very intuitive and pick up on things quickly, including phrases you hear adults say. Every once in a while you’ll be jabbering on (which you do constantly) and spout off something totally surprising — a vocab word or a deep thought. The other day we were at dinner and your dad joked to me, “I don’t know why you married me,” and you immediately replied, “Because she loves you!” (My heart about exploded at that one.)
I always try to thank you for being so agreeable in life, sweet girl. Really, honestly, most of the time you are a very easy child. If you disagree with me, we can usually talk it out and come to find a solution. We’ve been dealing with this issue a lot lately in regards to wardrobe. Over the past few months you’ve become very opinionated on what you want to wear, which is hard for me because I love dressing you. It started off by your helping me choose an outfit, but then it evolved into a frustrating event each morning as you hemmed and hawed and complained about your clothes. You began to have requirements for garments — no buttons, no zippers, no pockets, no “strappers”…and the list grew and grew until it drove me crazy. I decided to buy all your 4t summer clothes at once, abiding by your rules (mostly) and to make a big deal when everything came in the mail. It seems to have worked decently, but we still struggle with multiple outfit changes each day. Plus you pretty much always want to be in your pajamas (or bathing suit). You’ve also taken a liking to yoga pants (my bad influence) and rompers. Oh goodness you love you some rompers! ;)
Besides the clothing issue, though, you truly are a good kid. You are respectful to your teachers (although your independent, carefree spirit occasionally causes small mishaps) and listen to directions well. You love to please people, and I love that about you. You are upbeat and adventurous (you have jumped off of every piece of furniture we own!) and love a good scavenger hunt or game. You have the biggest heart of any kid I know; you are quick to apologize, eager to help those in need, and motherly in so many ways. You are happiest when surrounded by lots of friends or when snuggled in bed with our family. Most afternoons, when school and activities are done, you want to change back into your pajamas, climb in bed with a snack and a snuggle, and watch a show. (Many days I oblige!) We try to limit screen time, but most days you get the privilege of watching a bit of television while Cricket naps. We turn on PBS or Disney Junior (seriously, I’ve forgotten that grown-up channels exist!) or a movie and try to at least talk about the lessons we can learn from whatever we’re watching. ;) You also adore going to the movie theater, which we do every few months with Papadon.
The list of things you love is long. (The list of things you hate is short: veggies, bad guys and getting in trouble.) You love being called “Emma Vance” (but E.V. is so much easier). You adore animals — especially unicorns, cats and dogs. And, of course, you’re obsessed with mermaids and princesses, and mermaid-princesses named Ariel. You go crazy over Shopkins and Magiclip dolls. You love to mold Play-doh and do any form of art. You’re constantly making drawings and cards for people. You love to bake (and eat). As for foods beyond treats (ahem), you are always asking to have chicken nuggets, berries, pancakes, smoothies and bagels. We have a low-to-no fast food policy, but we’ve decided that for now Starbucks doesn’t count, so you’re always happy to drive thru and get a snack. (Me, too!) You LOVE Mellow Mushroom, which we get every time we go to the carwash. We drop the car off, then stroll down the street for our obligatory pizza. Last time we were there, I ordered us a small cheese pie and as the waiter turned around to put in our order, you yelled, “And don’t forget the pretzels!” :)
Your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world is to swim. I’ve nicknamed you “Little Fish” because you would be in the water 24/7 if I let you. A few months ago we started weekly swim lessons, but you weren’t learning fast enough. Over the past month you’ve taken all the basic skills you gained in instruction and practiced and practiced and practiced…and now you can swim! You are fearless, eager to jump in the deep end (or do a “canyon” ball) and headstrong enough to insist that you can swim back to the wall all alone. You are amazing! You also love being an “exercise girl” (i.e. going to the gym and doing yoga or running around), reading and riding your scooter. Most importantly, though, you really are beginning to understand and love Jesus. It’s amazing to watch, and I’m so happy that you love God already. Of course, the other day you told me that Jesus told us “to be polite,” haha, but overall I’d say you’re starting to grasp his message.
There are these moments where I’m terrified because you’re so mature. Sometimes it’s not a good thing — a huff of preteen frustration, an insistence that you don’t need help, a lack of understanding why you’re too little to do something. (I hear, “But I’m big!” a lot.) Sometimes it’s a good thing — an insight into your little heart, a thought on this big world, a commiserating comment when Cricket is crying. It’s like you’ve got 10% grown-up in you, and it’s a strange transition. You’re definitely not a baby or toddler anymore; you are a full-blown KID. A kid who gets crushes pretty easily! So far you seem mostly enamored with middle school boys (our neighbor and his friend, and a preschool camp assistant). Really, if a middle school boy gives you attention or is nice to you, you get all googly-eyed and giddy. It’s pretty adorable to watch…for now! ;)
Cricket is your BFF. You guys are so close in age that you are inseparable. The two of you love to play babies, dress up and Play-doh constantly. You are a sweet, sweet big sister and always watch out for her. On the occasion that Cricket gets in trouble and cries as I reprimand her, you are quick to comfort her with a hug and defend her to me, “You made my baby sister cry!” Oh, the two of you together is unbeatable! However, you don’t want her to sleep in your bed, and I can’t completely blame you because a few times she’s pushed you off the edge in the middle of the night, haha! And she’s a bit slower to wind down than you are. Since you don’t nap anymore, you are ready and eager for bedtime most nights. You love to climb into bed, draw in your journal, read, pray and then roll over to sleep. It’s a nice, easy process as a parent. These days you prefer Daddy to put you to bed because he does “that tickly thing” (i.e. tickling your arm and running his fingers through your hair and on your face). Once again, you’re a lover and a snuggler!
E.V., you are beautiful. You have these brown puppy dog eyes and cute button nose and round little face that melts me. Your hair, though, is your attention-getting feature. Your dad refuses to let me cut it, so it is loooong. Your hair is brown like mine, but we’ve been so sun-sprayed this year that the ends are blond. (Someone actually asked me if I had your hair dyed to get the ombre effect!) Like mine, it’s wavy but not curly and full of texture. Each morning you choose a hairstyle for me to do, and most days you prefer a topknot (because it requires less brushing out than braids and pony tails). I do have to say, your topknot is enviable. Women constantly compliment and drool over it. ;) It may always be in your eyes and may never stay as nice as it looks when we walk out the door in the morning, but it is so “you:” wild, free, beautiful.
Dear heart, there is a conversation we’ve been revisiting lately. In the dark of night, cuddled up together just you and I, we dream about what your future will hold. We talk about you growing up and becoming an artist, about you falling in love and having babies of your own — how many you’ll have, if they’ll be boys or girls, what you will name them. And then, somewhere at that point in the conversation, I try to plant a small seed.
“And then, when you’re all grown up with babies of your own, can I come live with you?” I have my motivations. ;)
“Of course you’ll live with me! When I’m all grown up, you’ll be a baby, Mommy. My baby.”
As we’ve run through this conversation again and again, each time my gut reaction is a bit different. It ranges from amused to saddened. The mind of a child, the logic and expectations of the world, makes me laugh. The reality that one day E.V. will need to take care of me in my old age scares me. I can’t imagine what life will be like with grown children, without my two little girls to tuck in at night.
And then I remember that you are YOU, Emma Vance. You and I have a bond unlike anything else, and no amount of time will change that. Sure, I expect the coming years will have their ebbs and flows, but you are a good one, my child, and I’ll love and like you through rough times and good times. There’s a reason I try to whisper to you everyday (no matter how tough a day we’ve had) how much I love you, how proud I am of you, how good and kind and smart and funny and beautiful you are — because I always want you to know what I think of you deep down. I never want the words spoken while teaching and correcting and parenting to ever be louder than those words.
Happy fourth birthday, Emma Vance. I cannot wait to watch you grow over this next year, over these next years, into the person God made you to be. I’m so proud of who you already are, and I already adore the person I know you’re becoming. I love you beyond words, beyond comprehension. We all do.
Mommy (and Daddy and Cricket)
(continuing our surprise balloons tradition…)