Dear Cricket,

Last night, as we wound down from the day, you crawled into my lap and looped your arms around my neck. I hugged you tight and told you, “I have loved four-year-old Cricket. She is so smart and creative and passionate and strong. I will miss her, but I can’t wait to meet five-year-old Cricket tomorrow morning.” You looked at me and grinned for a second before becoming very serious and replying, “Don’t worry, Mama. Five-year-old Cricket is just like four-year-old Cricket, just a little bit bigger.” 

Every year it seems impossible that you have grown another year older, but this year it feels way more intense. I don’t know if it’s the pace at which this year passed or that I’ve been totally naive to how quickly you’re growing up, but I literally don’t think you’re five. In my mind, you’re still three, actually. That seems about right. 

Buggie, above all else, you are BIG — your heart is big, your emotions are big, your voice is big, your imagination is big…and not to mention that you are literally big. In fact, you’re about two inches and two pounds away from out-growing your almost-seven-year-old sister. You’ve been wearing size 5 clothing for a year now and have outgrown it even before your official fifth birthday. Your poor belly hangs out of the bottom of too-short shirts; all your dresses are pretty much tunics; your pants are all too tight (particularly around that booty of yours!). Much to her dismay, you and E.V. wear the same size — meaning that her closet is yours (and this is a constant source of arguments #flashforward). And I don’t even dare comment on or try to influence your styling choices: You have very distinct ideas of what you want to wear, and no one is going to derail you (in fashion or in anything in life!).

You have your own sense of the world, and our daily conversations reflect all those big, complicated thoughts you have. You are curious about everything, asking the best questions. “Why” seems to be every other word out of your mouth. And, quite frankly, that’s saying a lot considering that you say a lot, all the time, to everyone, anywhere. I try not to tune out too often, but my gosh, child! You are constantly chatting, haha! It’s a source of great joy (because I love hearing your innocent, wonder-filled perspective on the world around you) and great tension (because you get frustrated that I’m not hanging on your every word). Daddy and I are trying to teach you how to not interrupt (ahem) and how to filter your thoughts to see if they’re necessary to say out loud. (Let’s just say it’s a work in progress.) Daddy is always reminding you to quiet down because you have no volume control (sorry, you get that from me). Your vocabulary is crazy good, which makes my heart soar. The other day you asked me what “resistible” was, and now you are throwing it around like an SAT-prep tutor. However, out of the hundreds of thousands of words you’ve spoken this year, my favorites have definitely been, “Right, mama?” which you say so often when trying to make a point stick.

It’s so interesting to see how similar and how different you and your big sister are — people often comment how the three of us look so similar (it’s the long brown hair), and both of you love your friends deeply. You are both smart and highly creative. But, you, my lovely girl, are way more headstrong. SO. HEADSTRONG. I always say that if you don’t become a singer/actor/director, you are bound to be a lawyer (and win all your cases). This makes you wonderfully determined and outspoken, but also intensely moody. We always say together that your “heart is as big from your head to your toes, but sometimes it’s gold and sometimes its black.” ;) We are constantly trying to get that heart back to gold. Take, for example, your recent room update: I chose a wild, colorful wallpaper for your room. It took forever to put up and I just *knew* you’d love it. But you walked in, burst into tears because you did NOT like it and then started trying to claw it off the walls in frustration. However, when your aunt came to visit a few weeks later, you pulled her upstairs, eager and excited to show her your beautiful, new wallpaper. Sigh. I suppose I should just start battening  down the hatches for when you’re in high school. I do love that you’re not afraid to verbalize your anger and sadness and excitement, I just pray that it evens out in the coming year(s)— or else God help us come teenagehood! I’ve eagerly awaited your fifth birthday to be able to get you into some acting classes, because every time you fluctuate between those high-highs and low-lows, I think, “Someone get this girl a stage and a microphone.”

One of the things you’ve been looking forward to most about your birthday is because “I’ll be one of the big girls finally.” This is your constant struggle in life— a desperate desire to be part of E.V.’s big girl friends. When you said that to me, I didn’t have the heart to tell you that you’ll always be littler than them, just like I haven’t pushed the issue when you’ve declared how excited you are to “be in E.V.’s class next year in kindergarten.” How do you explain to a child how time marches forward for EVERYONE and that there is no way of ever catching up? The root of your desires, though, is to be best friends with Emma Vance. You love her, admire her, desire her attention so deeply that it sets you up to get hurt very easily. Thankfully your sister is a kind and patient girl, but everyone has their limits. And you are like white on rice, wanting to be at her side, in her space, hugging her and cuddling her and talking to her CONSTANTLY. God bless both of you, and me for having to referee it all!

You love to be the center of attention for sure, girlfriend. You have not a shy bone in your body. The thing you have looked forward to most about your birthday is opening gifts in front of everyone. You love anything cheesy, girly, messy and trendy. Your obsession with LOL dolls is still going strong. (I’d definitely say that’s your #1 favorite toy right now.) You love flip sequins and rainbows and blind bags and baby dolls and play dough and slime. Oh, and you LOVE anything gross, like talking about poop and toots. (Let’s hope you grow of this phase sooner rather than later.) I often find you digging around my makeup (even though you have your own). The other day I found a damp, lipstick-stained towel balled up in my bathroom closet, and when I asked you about it, you just sheepishly grinned, shrugged, and said, “I put too much red lipstick on, so…” (At least you had the sense to know what qualified as “too much.”) You LOVE to be read to, especially Ivy and Bean and Elephant and Piggie, and are always eager for me (and anyone else) to engage in dramatic and imaginative play with you. (Overall, I’d say on a scale of 1 to 10, chill to caffeinated, you are a 13.)

One thing I really love about you, Crickie, is how adventurous you are. You are always eager to try new foods, and actually have a pretty adult palette. You adore steamed broccoli and Asian foods. You steal sips of my iced chai every time we go to Starbucks. You love to make up random concoctions in the kitchen (and actually eat them, even when they make me turn green) and will give anything a taste at least once. You seek out excitement in everything you do. You always up the ante, bringing an extra element of fun to every activity you do. You dream of doing so many things — and believe you can! I love that about you, my eternal optimist.

Cricket, you are my world. It’s a world filled with ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change you if I could. I love knowing that you will always challenge me and help me grow just as much as I hope to help you grow. I love knowing that in this world, you are going to be great on your own. You will have no trouble fending for yourself and your beliefs, and I can’t wait to see it all come to fruition. (I also CANNOT wait to meet the man who gets to marry you—because he is one lucky guy who needs all the luck he can get, haha!) You are a beautiful, passionate, independent, loud, fun, intelligent girl, Cricket Ann Shove. And I love every inch of you.

Happy fifth birthday, Lovebug. I can’t wait to see what amazing things are in store for you this coming year.

Love,

Mommy (and Daddy and E.V.)