As is now becoming traditional I am writing you a letter on your birthday. I want you to know in the years ahead what a joy it was to be around you at these precious ages, while I still know everything about your life. It won’t last forever, so it seems all the more important to remember all the things that will inevitably get lost with the passage of time.
This year we celebrated your birthday at the beach. We have no idea how many times in your life you will get to enjoy your mid-October birthday this way, so we figured we should make the most of it while we can. So we transported you and all your friends down to the aptly named Playa Hermosa where we celebrated your birthday and your friend Antonin’s with a gorgeous poolside party in a little rancho. We ate barbecue, we had a fabulous Black Forest cake, we smacked around an Elmo piñata, and you barely left the pool from dawn until dusk (at which point you had to be forcibly removed and put to bed). At this point you are swimming just like a little fish, your lovely lean body slipping through the water like a torpedo, and the only part of it you haven’t quite mastered is the bit where you come up to take a breath. I think you really should have come equipped with gills, but seeing as you didn’t, watching over you in a pool can be a nerve-fraying experience. The only person who is never frightened is determined, fiercely focused and fearless little you, and you are so so close to being an excellent swimmer, just like your dad. Anyway we had a wonderful weekend, despite the strong earthquake that greeted us on arrival, that rattled our house on stilts in a sickening dance. At this particular moment in our lives we are blessed with an incredible group of friends, and it was just perfect to celebrate with them all and you had an absolute ball.
So what are you like in general at age 4? I hardly know where to begin. As you already were at 3 you are still acutely intelligent, astonishingly perceptive, wonderfully sociable, full of joy, curious and interested in everything. You are also still breathtakingly beautiful, deeply loving, loyal and devoted to your family. You are funny too, you say so many priceless things each day that Dad and I have a session each evening where we make each other laugh with the latest of your wonderful observations. The adults who count themselves among your friends also love hearing your take on things. Walking to ballet the other day with a good friend you pointed out that the blue of the sky was in the shape of a horse. “The clouds are so clever,” you marvelled.
But if this makes you sound like an extrovert, there is far more to you than that. At times, you are incredibly quiet and thoughtful. You have an amazing ability to concentrate – you are a real film buff and you will happily watch an entire movie and, if you’ve really enjoyed it, ask to watch it again. You also adore drawing and colouring, and this is another activity which you will lose yourself in for hours at a time. You are a deep thinker and you pick up on things that kids far older than you would miss. Just last night I read you a story, and it took you less than a half second to realize that there was a moral to this tale, and it was that it was good to share with your friends. Earlier in the day I had watched a teacher tease this conclusion out of an entire class of six year olds over the course of five or six minutes. But then, this shouldn’t surprise me. On the whole, sharing is something you do naturally; which is probably why you are an effortlessly popular playmate and friend.
You still adore your little sister, and the feeling is definitely mutual. You have several times announced your intention to get married, even exchanging rings and practising your first dance, at the end of which you always kiss and have a long-sustained cuddle. It’s only since your Dad pointed out that, since being sisters already guarantees you the ability to be best friends forever, marriage is unnecessary that you have actually given up on the idea. It’s no wonder it occurred to you though. I can’t imagine two people more compatible – you love the same things, but at the same time your differences and strengths complement each other perfectly. Of course you also have your disagreements and stand-offs, but then what married couple doesn’t? You also have quite a fondness for baiting her. At two and a half she is tantalizingly easy to wind up and you never miss your chance. But you also understand how it feels to be this age, after all it wasn’t so long ago, and sometimes if she is really melting down about something, you’ll concede even if there’s no reason why you should. Take your princess spoon – it’s yours, it’s always been yours, and yet sometimes C gets it into her head that it’s hers. You’ll stand your ground a little bit, but when you see her heading into a rage spiral, you’ll just hand it over. You even donated several of your birthday presents to her this year, and you made it look effortless. This is the kind of heroism no-one would expect from a four year old, but you do it regularly, and Dad and I are eternally grateful.
This speaks volumes for your absolute dedication to your sister, and to family harmony in general. If you feel that Dad and I aren’t being nice to each other, you’ll come in and tick us off, and you won’t leave until you’ve raised smiles or even supervised the hug and kiss that you’ve insisted on. You believe in being loving and demonstrative at all times, and you even manage this via Skype, on which you’ve been known to tell people they look beautiful, announce how much you love them and even blow kisses.
You are so appreciative of the good things in life – you often tell us how happy you are, how much you love a present we got you or a day out we had, all completely unprovoked, and it makes our day, it really does. This is why it was hard for us when we realized we’d missed the mark on your birthday. You told us you wanted a play kitchen several times but we didn’t get it for you, thinking you wouldn’t notice. You did though, and it was written all over your face. I guess we must have looked a little crestfallen when we realized what we’d done though, because that evening you took Dad’s hand and said: “I love all the presents you got me, Daddy, really I do.” Because this is the other thing about you – you are strong and you always look on the bright side, and nothing makes you happier than knowing the people around you are happy too. (And incidentally, you’re getting the kitchen for Christmas!)
On your third birthday I wrote about how we were struggling with your tantrums and how I hoped that they would soon pass and wouldn’t you know it – without my even noticing, they have. I won’t swear that it never happens, but you have found different ways to make your frustrations known. You are so articulate these days (in two languages) that you don’t need to resort to these kinds of methods anymore, and this has had a huge effect on family life in general. Even when I went back to work and wondered whether you would struggle to adjust to spending all day every day at kinder, you remained your calm, practical self and supported your sister through a period of transition without a single issue. I can’t even tell you how much I admire your courage and independence, and how much I miss your company now I have the pleasure of it so much less.
So this is four year old you – brave, intelligent, perceptive, charming you – you with that irresistible twinkle in your eye, you who tell me I smell of flowers because you know it makes me smile, you who so carefully brush your teeth twice every day, you who are so long and skinny that no pair of trousers in the world will fit you, you the wonderful actress, you with bruised legs beneath the hem of your favourite fairy dress because you are the perfect combination of princess and tomboy, you who loves your ballet lessons, you with the dirty laugh, you whose favourite film is Kung Fu Panda, you who thinks earthquakes are funny, you whose hair I must smell every night before I go to bed, you who are unequivocally the best thing that ever happened to me by a country mile.
My precious girl, you are my reason, my hero, my inspiration – and even now you can count so very well you will never be able to count the ways in which I love you.
All my love