year three

Dear Olivia,

In the blink of an eye you've aged from two to three, and all I can do is wonder how this past year snuck by so fast. It was a blur, and yet I know I lived through it because I have good memories, bumps, bruises and a handful of mediocre blog posts filled with obscure pop culture references to prove I was there. Yet I still don't understand how having you around has somehow pressed fast forward on life and made time even more of an enemy than it was before. Are the two of you in cahoots somehow? The logical part of me knows it's foolish to think such a thing is possible. But then there was that one night where I turned on the nanny cam after we had put you down to bed and I saw you there in the dark, jumping to the left and stepping to the right. Perhaps my suspicions are not so far from the mark.

The past year came with a number of firsts in your professional career as a minor league human being: first airplane ride, first sleepover at a friend's house, first (and hopefully last) case of head lice and your first time campaigning to be the mayor of New York City. I still think your stance on later bedtimes for toddlers was a bit too progressive and that may have been what tipped the scales in favor of de Blasio, but what do I know. You've done a great job of transitioning from sleeping in a crib to a toddler bed and we're getting reports from daycare that you're finally catching on to that whole potty training thing. I'm really thankful that we have their help on the potty training, because it just doesn't seem like we're effective in that area. We'll ask if you need to go and you'll say no, or pretend like nothing is going on. I hate to tell you this, but both your mother and I don't believe you when you say you're not pooping but you're grunting and hunched over, face all scrunched up, while it looks like a tail is mysteriously growing in your diaper. What's even more contradictory is that when you're done you'll sometimes refuse to have your diaper changed and then we'll have to try and convince you to let us do so. After minutes of negotiating and convincing you that you really did do a number two, we'll get you on the changing table and you'll demand to see the evidence. Once we suit you back up and show you what you've done you'll let out a big, "Ewwww!" and run off with a big smile on your face and a sense of accomplishment. Rightfully so because I'm still baffled as to how something so big can come out of such a tiny person. 

The communication gap that challenged us so much in the past is shrinking more and more each day as you continue to develop. Your vocabulary has grown so much, and it kind of makes me sad that you don't call chicken "kicken" anymore because it was so adorable. You still have a tendency to say "yeps" for yes, "teap" for tea and "peep" for pee, so at least we have those to hang on to. These days you've taken to talking so much, in fact, that there are times when it's just plain exhausting for the both of us. You'll want to know what we're doing at all times, ask why we're doing it and then start that process all over again repeatedly. One day in particular that involved lots of non-stop chatterboxing and asking us questions your mom simply exclaimed out loud. "I hope you use your energy powers for good and not evil, kid." The gradual realizations that you have an impact on your world have also been fun to watch and hear you verbalize about. Some of my personal favorites include:

- "Mommy, I 'elping Dada!"

- O: "Dada!"

  Me: "Yes, Olivia."

  O: "I did it!"

  Me: "You did it?"

  O: "Yeah!"

- "What doin' Mommy/Daddy?" (roughly 500 times a day)

- "Daddy awesome!" (This is something your mother tricked you into saying to try and take the sting out of you disliking me for so long. At that point I took what I could get in terms of affection from you.) 

Lastly in regards to communication, I cannot forget how much you've taken to singing in the past year. For a while there we'd put you to bed and you'd sing the same few songs over and over again until you finally passed out about an hour or so later. What began with "Happy Birthday to You" slowly evolved into "If You're Happy and You Know It" and eventually wound up with songs from 'Frozen,' which will forever be a part of your DNA and ours (whether we want them to be or not). Regardless of whether I've heard the songs a bazillion times and they pop into my head out of nowhere, I still love hearing you sing and I wonder whether that will be something you do for fun or as a profession someday. Either way, I'll be there ready to listen. 

Your growth has also had its challenges for us as well, as we saw a shift from merely keeping you alive and out of harms way to having to discipline and guide you. It's an ongoing process and something that I'm still messing up and trying to figure out, which is both frustrating and humbling at the same time. I've had to come to terms with the fact that I tend to be the bad cop/disciplinarian most of the time, which means you generally favor Mommy when you get in trouble or want something. I don't care what people say about how it's my job to be the parent and to be strong so that you'll learn, it has definitely hit me like a sucker punch when you avoid coming near me, deny affection or curse me out in toddler speak because I give you a time out or deny you something for your own good. Then there are the other times where it's just you being a toddler, throwing a tantrum for no good reason and just being straight up crazy, and I do my best to ride out the storm and not take it personally. You'll get in moods where nothing is right and nothing we can do will help you out. I can't tell you how many times you'll get upset when we want you to eat dinner, refuse to eat, then get upset when we try to take the food away. We've quickly learned that situations like this are brought on by your lack of napping that day, or if one of your favorite television shows gets canceled. Remember your favorite show 'Smash?' So do we, and I still have PTSD from the day you learned that Katharine McPhee would no longer be singing her heart out each week for your enjoyment on our television. Never forget.

You've grown a lot in the past year, which also means that you've seen your fair share of growing pains to go along with it. I generally associated the term with the cheesy 80's TV show and never really thought they were that bad, but boy was I wrong. Lately it seems like a lot of your irritability has stemmed from your body's growth, and I can only make this connection because you have the body of a 3 year old but the feet of a 39 year old woman. I hope you even out, or else you're going to be dressing up as a Hobbit at Halloween for a very long time. You're sleeping in more and more, which in turn has also made you very difficult to wake up in the morning. In the past I used to combat this by bringing in a prop, toy or piece of raw meat to try and get you distracted so I can get you clothed and ready for the day, but not so much lately. There have already been a handful of times where you've outright refused to have your diaper changed, clothes put on or go into daycare. It's gotten to the point where we'll just put your things in a bag, carry you out the door kicking and screaming, walk down to daycare and on the way try to calmly ask you, "Hey Mr. Hyde, can you bring back Dr. Jekyll please?" Once we get you inside you'll calm down enough to resume some sense of normalcy, then run off and begin playing with your friends like nothing ever happened. It's times like this where I'm not sure if I should be grateful or frustrated by your short term memory. 

I'm also happy to report that you're slowly starting to like the idea of having me around in your life. It's taken a lot of time, patience and bribery to get you to this point, but at least you've turned a corner. It used to be that if I woke you up in the morning the first words out of your mouth were, "Where Mommy at?" If she was gone or not coming in to pick you up, you'd turn away and raise hell if I tried to get you out of bed. Now, as I mentioned above, you'll give us both hell for waking you up in the morning. I'm not sure if that's supposed to make me feel better or what, but at least things are starting to feel a bit more fair around here. I've done my best to be a goofball around you and do more of the physical play with you since your Mommy's arthritis won't let her do it. It seems to be paying off too, because you love it when we do things like riding on my back like a horse, easy gymnastics moves and pulling cars with our teeth. I love hearing you laugh when we're playing and being silly together, and I look forward to seeing more of that side of your personality show itself. 

The past year has made me realize just how amazing, complex, frustrating, exhausting and joy inducing parenting can be. You are a living, breathing reminder that my time here is finite and that I need to make the most of it while I can. I need to make every moment with you count, from the ones where we're laughing and playing together to the ones where we can't see eye to eye and we disagree. I need to cherish every moment we have together, from the big to the small. Although honestly, I'd rather forget the times where you've been upset with me or refused to be near me for whatever reason. I'd rather remember moments like when you were still sleeping in your crib and I'd have to pick you up to put you in. You'd reach up to me, I'd lift you up and then there would be this moment when you'd bury your head in my shoulder and get comfortable. At that point I would close my eyes, time would stop, and there we were in the stillness of the dark just connected to each other. I'd think about how lucky I was to have you in my life and how incredible you are. Then I'd remember those three little words that your Mommy and I say every so often when we're amazed to have you in our lives: "We made that."    

Happy birthday, baby girl. No, you're awesome.