year five

Dear Olivia,

Once again you've reached another birthday. Once again your mother and I are reminded about the day you came into our lives and how much you've accomplished and changed since then. Once again I'm compelled to reflect on all the ups and downs that have transpired in the passing of this previous year of your life. It has been a varied mix of good and bad, sugar and spice, roses and...guns. You've given us so many wonderful, heart-warming memories, yet also made sure to sprinkle in moments that brought us to our sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na knees, knees

Much like previous years, you've spent plenty of your time and energy letting us know how much you like to be in control. You are constantly reminding us of your need for it when we ask you to do things like try new food ("No. I don't like that."), go to the bathroom when we know you haven't been in a long time ("I don't have to go!") and when we ask you to wear pants ("Oh, hellllllllll no!"). 

Photo credit: Jodi McKee

You've tried to prove to us that you are big enough and can do various tasks, even if you're not quite capable yet. You'll want to bring your plate full of food into another room to eat, but your coordination isn't quite there and it all slides off as you're walking. You can reach the kitchen sink to empty your cup, but you'll get distracted in the process and empty half of it across your arm or shirt sleeve. You'll tell us you've finally perfected that showstopper for your Vegas magic show where you remove a table cloth without breaking a single glass or dish, and we smile and watch as the last of our dishes are flung to their demise. I know with time and practice, you'll get this stuff down with ease. But for now, maybe hold off on trying the sawing a person in half trick.

Over the course of the last year you've learned and developed certain skills that you'll use for the rest of your life. Sometimes you used those skills for good, and sometimes not so good. You started riding a bike, a scooter and a jetski motorcycle. You began developing your powers of persuasion to try and delay doing things like eating food when you really wanted to play ("I'd really like to eat this dinner, but first I have to remind you about the colors of all the food, plates and cups we're using."), going to the bathroom when you really wanted to play ("I'd really like to go potty, but first I have to tell Mommy about the fact that my hair is longer than hers.") and going to bed when you really wanted to play ("I actually really don't want to go to bed, so I'm going to pummel you with facts about how much the human head weighs, what animals smell fear and the kind of pets our neighbor keeps."

Photo credit: Jodi McKee

You've put a lot of time and effort into listening to your mother and me, as well as a lot of time and effort into completely NOT listening to your mother and me. There are moments when asking you to do something is the easiest thing ever. And then there are times when you fight tooth and nail over seemingly simple requests from us for things like: going to the bathroom, cleaning up your toys before bedtime and tying a sheepshank knot so we know you're a capable crew member when we need to hop on a boat and hunt giant killer sharks. Your mother complains that you have city hands and you're not up for the task, but I'll vouch for you.

Because of your stubborn nature, we've had to teach you about making choices and some of the consequences that can come with them. If you choose not to listen when we ask you to do something, then maybe you don't get to do anything fun for a while. If you don't like what we're eating for dinner, you can choose to not eat and go to bed hungry. You can make the choice for taste, which is obviously Taster's Choice, or you can pick some bullshit brand of coffee that no one else will drink and you'll be ridiculed by your peers. 

Photo credit: Jodi McKee

Speaking of choices, out of all the ones you've made this year I have an absolute favorite: you've chosen to start liking me for a change. I don't know what it was that started it all, perhaps when you made that right turn at Albuquerque instead of a left, but you actually want me around now and I can't get over it. It used to be that you'd spit on the floor and curse my name when I came home from work, but now you smile, say my name and sometimes even run over to give me a hug. That is unless you've been misbehaving or not listening to your mom, because I still have to be the bad cop in our household. When this happens I tend to get tears and hear you beg for a plea bargain involving state's evidence and a spot in the witness protection program where you get to live the rest of your life like a schnook.

I've been doing my best to strengthen this newly formed bond by doing and sharing as many things with you as I can. I love taking you to the comic book shop, the movies or the toy section of a store, because I enjoy sharing my affinity for geeky things with you. You've gotten more and more into music lately, especially The Beatles, and I love hearing you belt out their tunes. I also really, really enjoy just being silly with you. We make silly faces, use different voices and just try to have as much fun as we can. Sometimes, it's one of the few things that will break one of your sour moods or help wake you up in the morning when you don't want to get ready for school. So yes, I may look like a fool pretending to shave my face using your big toe nail, but if it makes you laugh and gets you smiling I'll do it. 

Photo credit: Jodi McKee

I cannot express just how proud your mother and I are about how far you've come in the past year, especially in school. You've learned how to write, your vocabulary has expanded and, last but not least, you're starting to read! I generally read you two bedtime stories at night, but now you're reading them to me. It's the most incredible thing to see these changes and I can't get over it. Before having you I seriously never thought a 4 (now 5) year-old would be able to do so much. I figured at your age it would be a lot of walking, talking and maybe some basic Microsoft Excel skills. Instead, you're a sensitive, energetic, strong-willed, clever, comical little girl who I look forward to spending time with every single day.

In just 5 short years you've managed to surprise, overwhelm and amaze me with all that you do. For all the worries and fear I've had about whether or not I'm a good dad, you seem to be turning out pretty good so far and I hope that I've had some positive effect on that. I must be doing something right though, because I've never heard you say, "I love you, Daddy," more than I have in this past year. Coincidentally, I've also never been moved more to the brink of tears because of hearing those words coming out of your mouth. You mean so much to me and I hope I show you how much I love you every single day. And like I always tell you: I love you when you're happy, when you're sad, when you're angry and, yes, even when you poop. Happy birthday, kiddo, from the bottom of my heart.