In a few days we will blow out your candles, open your presents and sing happy birthday at the tops of our voices. We will have a party and throw streamers and play games and eat far too much cake and celebrate all that you are.
But what you won’t know is that as I sing “Happy birthday to you,” I will have a lump in my throat and an ache in my heart. Because never again will you be three.
Never again will you say the little words that would make us laugh so as you were learning to speak–like “huggle” and “uppy” and “dink bubbles”–they have been ironed out now to something more sophisticated–more grown up.
You skipped off to school with your little blonde curls in bunches this morning. How long will it be before you decide this is “babyish”?
You wanted “one last kiss” at the classroom door before we said goodbye. How long before you’re embarrassed to have me walk you to your classroom?
I picked you up to give you a hug without a second thought. How long will it be before I can’t lift you any more? Or you won’t want me to?
At breakfast, I cut your apple into wedges and peeled off the skin. How long before you will simply help yourself to one from the fridge and bite into it like it’s nothing?
You choose how I’m going to style your hair every morning and say “ow ow ow!” as I brush out the knots. How long will it be before you sweep downstairs with your hair already neatly done?
You call me upstairs to witness how well you’ve brushed your teeth, stating, “Look how shiny.” How long before shiny teeth are no longer a virtue worth discussing? How long before you no longer seek my approval?
You greet strangers everywhere we go with, “Hello, what’s your name?” How long before you’re too self conscious to approach people?
You assume everyone is a friend. How long before the cruelties of the world disabuse you of that notion?
You give hugs generously and excessively. How long before you become more discerning with your affection?
You present me with pictures you paint at school and say, “That’s a really good one right, Mummy?” How long before self-doubt creeps in and you no longer have total confidence in your own talents and abilities?
You beg me, “Mummy, please can I just play a few more minutes?” How long will it be before you just want to stay in your room with your phone?
You run everywhere you go–never able to get there fast enough, play long enough, climb high enough. How long will it be before you start taking things at a more sedate pace, lose the need to squeeze every last drop of fun out of each moment?
When you are totally sure about something you state it with confidence, and then look up at me and say importantly, “Right mummy?”–as though I’m a font of knowledge that will confirm your convictions. How long before you work out that I’m just making it all up as I go along?
You talk in your sleep and call your daddy when you have bad dreams. How long will it be before he can’t make everything better with a kiss?
Your fourth birthday is coming and we will celebrate another year of you–of you making us laugh and making us crazy. Of you growing and learning and changing so much. Of you astonishing us every day with your kindness, your feistiness and your bravery. Of you coming into your own as a big sister, buoying our family up as we moved across the world, and taking everything you do completely in your stride. Of you being our greatest joy, our greatest pride, and our greatest first big love.
But I will mourn the passing of the days a little bit, too. Because never again will you be three.