I hope you enjoyed your birthday extravaganza weekend! I certainly enjoyed watching you. There's something about you now that screams "Big Girl" and it's not your big girl screams, although they are fantastic. There's something about the way you look and the way you act that make you seem like such a grown up, even though you're still so tiny. In fact, just tonight you asked me, "Mommy, am I a big girl?" I said yes. You said, "But I'm not all the way big." I said, no, not yet. You said, "I'm just a little bit big." Yes, honey, you're getting bigger every day. "But I'm still tiny."
How is it that you can seem so big and so tiny all at once? You are not a baby anymore and having Margot around just reminds me of that fact. You talk like a big girl and walk like a big girl, but sometimes you seem so, so small. I think you're starting to understand what it means to be small. Not just physically, either. You starting to think that small means scared. And small means sick. And small means I can't I can't I can't! That's why I introduced you to a wonderful new word recently. A word that fits you well, especially while you're still small...
You're learning that you need to be brave. You're learning that all kids do brave things. Like go to school. Or ride your bike. Or try that new vegetable. It finally dawned on me that you say, "My belly hurts!" when you're nervous or scared. I know what that feels like in my belly and it's weird and uncomfortable. But I also know what it feels like to be brave. To walk away from my Mommy and hop on a school bus. To paddle that canoe by myself for the first time. To ask that little girl if she wants to play with me and my friends. When I do those important things, the feeling in my belly changes. It starts to feel better and I start to feel happy. That's what I want you to do. Do brave things.
Sylvia, you asked me what brave means and I told you: it means that you do important things, even when you're scared. You said, "I'm not brave, Mommy, I'm scared." I tried to rephrase it in a way you'd understand, so I said, "That's okay! You can be brave AND scared, in fact, every brave person is usually scared, too. That's what makes them brave! They do things they're scared of!" It started to sink in. You asked if your favorite princesses were brave and I had to be honest. Rapunzel was brave when she left her tower. Cinderella was brave when she asked her stepmother if she could go to the ball. Tianna was brave when she kissed that frog and Belle was brave when she agreed to live in the Beast's castle. Ariel's not brave, she's an idiot. Snow White...I'm on the fence about her. And there's a new princess in a new movie called....wait for it...BRAVE! Can you believe that? I have no idea if she's brave or not because we haven't seen it, but I'm willing to bet she is.
The point is, I wanted brave to be more than a story for you. So, I told you how brave Grammy is when she invites everyone over for dinner. And how brave Grandpa is when he goes camping in the woods. And how brave Uncle Evan is because he lives far, far away. And how brave all of your friends are because they leave their mommies and daddies every day to go to school.
But what I wanted to tell you are the real stories of bravery in your family. These are stories you can't understand yet because you don't know what it's like to be afraid of dying. I wanted to tell you that Uncle Evan is fighting in a war, just like my Grandpa did. I wanted to tell you that G.G. raised six kids by herself after her husband died. I wanted to tell you that Mamie and Papi moved to the United States and Daddy had to go to an American school even though he couldn't speak English! Someday we'll tell you these stories, but for now, I just want you to know that....you can be brave, too. You ARE brave. It's in your blood.
We asked you where you wanted to go for your birthday today and you said, "The MOO ZEE UM!" So we took you to the Children's Museum and the Natural History Museum and you had a wonderful day. As we were walking through the cave, with its narrow pathways and dripping water and dimly lit rock walls, you asked if you could go in front. Daddy and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. We knew there were lots of steps and uneven floors, but we knew you'd be fine. We approached a corner in the cave that was very dark and we could hear the running water on the other side. I was holding Margot, so you asked Daddy to pick you up and he did. We stood there together as a family for a minute when I said to you, "Sylvia, are you scared?" You nuzzled into Daddy's shoulder and said, "Yeah...I'm scared." I said, "Do you want to walk around that corner by yourself?" You straightened up, smiled at me, and narrowed your eyes as if to say, "Oh YEAH! I know what you're getting at, lady - and I LIKE IT!" You didn't even say yes, you just lunged out of Daddy's arms and started to tiptoe toward the corner, giggling like a maniac. You jumped into the next cave room, a beautiful waterfall with stalactites and stalagmites everywhere. You shouted, "Oh, dis is COOL!!!" and you maneuvered your way through more tunnels and staircases. When we were out of the cave, I said, "Wow, Sylvia, you were a good leader in there, even though you were scared." I was hoping you would get the point, and you did. You shouted, "Yes, I WAS a good leader! And I'm BRAVE!" Yes, you are, my dear. You are totally brave.
So, as you drift of to sleep (actually, you're jumping up and down in your bed right now at 9:09pm which is quite brave of you because you know Daddy's going to come up there and he will NOT be happy!) please know that I'm sitting here soaking in the beauty of this third birthday. I'm trying to imagine my life before you, when I repelled off of cliffs and flew off to foreign countries by myself. But NOTHING has made me as brave, or as grateful, humble and proud, as being your Mama. You truly are my greatest adventure. Thank you for being you. I love you beyond words.
Always and Forever,
P.S. I'm all for you being a princess when you grow up, but you better be the kind of princess that serves the poor and takes in a ton of orphans. And you better buy me a BOAT!