dear julian: on your third birthday.

my dearest, sweetest, big boy:

i will never forget the moment we first met.  both of us naked, crying.  strangers.  my body was your home, and as you were placed on my chest i immediately felt as if i'd been holding you all of my life.  but who was this little baby?  i had no idea.  what would you be like?  what would your strengths be?  what about your sense of humor, or your interests?  at three, i feel like i am finally getting a glimpse into the answers of those questions.  and it feels as if you've been like this all along.  

you are sweet and sensitive.  you notice others' feelings, especially in your family.  if i'm crying, you'll comfort me.  you've actually gotten out a tissue and wiped my tears away.  you've patted my leg and told me not to cry.  if your brother is crying you'll tell me what he needs -- 'i think he needs some milk!,' or, 'baby needs you, mommy!'  you can communicate with your friends and your brother when there is a disagreement.  'can i have a turn?'  you're always the first one to try and trade toys, or redirect to a new activity.  it's when i'm most proud of you.  at three you make conversation and ask questions.  you ask what the best part of my day was, or my favorite part of a special weekend.  you even ask your brother.  the other day as you climbed up on my lap as i peed, and you declared it the best part of your day, already, at 7:15 in the morning.  at three you've been sleeping in your own bed over a year now, and your baby monitor is no more.  if you need us in the night you run right into our bedroom and climb over daddy, right between us.  or, sometimes, prefer to cuddle with just him, right at the edge of the bed.  at three, you're potty trained, and accidents are surprisingly few and far between.  you have all your teeth, sleep through the night every night, and eat a shocking variety of foods (likes include smoked salmon, kale, scrambled eggs with spinach, salt & vinegar potato chips -- dislikes include red meat, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese).  at three you know your limitations, and tell us what you aren't ready for.  as your birthday approached, you told me you'd visit the mummy exhibit at your favorite 'dino museum' when you were three.  we've visited a preschool and think we've found a winner for this fall, and you're eager.  you're ready.  at three, we are supposed to have you off your schnuller, but we've put it off one more month, and you know it's coming.  you'll be ok, i just know it.  at three you are shockingly intelligent, methodical, and deliberate.  everything you do is for a reason.  

the biggest change this year has been your words.  you're talking, about everything, constantly, way above your age range.  we said goodbye to your beloved speech therapist three days before your third birthday, and she told me you were speaking at the level of a 5-year-old.  it's a dream come true.  you don't remember nearly any of the signs that were second nature to you, but you're learning once again as we teach your brother.  and not only are you talking now, but over the last week you've been singing.  we got an amazon echo for the kitchen and you know how to ask alexa to put on your favorite songs (she rarely listens to you, though, which makes you feel self conscious and ask me to do it), and sing along.  at three your favorite songs are yellow submarine, octopus's garden, and strawberry fields forever, all by the beatles.  you also enjoy the songs of daniel tiger and dinosaur train. 

DINOSAURS. oh my gosh, the dinosaurs.  you've said goodbye to your obsession with trucks (thank you!) and hello to the world of prehistoric creatures.  and in true julian fashion, you don't just know about stegosaurus and triceratops (though of course you know about those), you can tell us all about pachycephalosaurus and parasaurolophus, the difference between protoceratops and pentaceratops, the different eras they lived in, and which were carnivores or herbivores.  i'm constantly impressed by you.  at three your favorite show is dinosaur train, but you also love to watch episodes of planet earth.  sometimes there are scary parts, i think -- when the lions are circling the elephants at night in the savannah, and you ask me to skip this part.  you don't like when people are hurt or upset or crying.  it doesn't interest you and you want nothing to do with it.  

i surprisingly said to your dad the other day that i really enjoy spending time with you.  not just in a mommy-and-kid kind of way.  i really, genuinely enjoy getting to hang out and play.  you ask thoughtful questions, you listen.  you're one of my favorite people in the world to spend time with, whether we are reading a story, watching a show, or wandering around the zoo or dinosaur museum.  you're thoughtful and poignant sometimes, making observations about things i've stopped noticing long ago.  you make me think, you make me slow down and feel.  you make me a better person.  

i told you the other day that you made me a mommy, and you gave me your shy smile and hugged me.  you're making this life better, every day.  

oh julian, i can't wait to see what this next year brings.  your third year was our best yet, by far.  and i have a feeling this next one will be just as good.

i love you the most, you silly goof.

your mama.