You are three.

Written for Ali on his third birthday

Dear Ali,

Today, you turned three. I have tried to write you a letter every now and then since the day you were born, mostly describing how I feel about being your mother, about you landing in my life and helping me find my feet. I have hoped that one day you will read these and get to know the life and times of your mother with you. But this letter is going to be a little different. This day, I want to talk only about who you are—at three, in this particular moment in your hopefully long and lustrous life.

There are things that are no surprise; simple evidence of your being a) a toddler, and b) happy. You laugh with your entire being—starting with the telltale twinkle in your eyes, to the helpless shaking in your shoulders, to the gleeful electricity in your feet. Laughter doesn’t just evaporate off of you; it engulfs your entire being. You are hilarious without trying, honest without putting on, and loving without reservation. And you are, of course, relentlessly curious like only a three year old can be, impossible to ignore.

But there are also things that are lovely indications to the person you will one day become.  When you are older, I hope you read this list and can relate to some of these traces of your younger self.


First things first. You love the birthday song, but you have no idea what a birthday is. Your dad and I have been trying our hardest to explain to you, and you just give us a good natured grin, and redirect your attention to more important matters at hand, like the cookie monster song.

You love touch. You love to hold, and to be held, and have no qualms about giving unsolicited hugs. Among the first things you learned as a baby was to return a kiss. Of all the things I have taught you this far, that one makes me the proudest.

You are an excellent judge of when a touch is loving and comforting, and when it is meant to quiet or thwart you.

You are very sensitive to the latter.

You are scared of being alone. Even though you are an only child, and accustomed to imaginary friends and games for one, you like to be in company at all times—awake or asleep.

You are terribly afraid of water. You are not getting on any water rides or swimming lessons any time soon. I worry you get that from me. Sorry.

You are incredibly sensitive to sound, ever since you were born. You hate vacuum cleaners, loud music, the sound of electric razors, and most kinds of noise—unless it is a train whistle.

Your biggest hero in the whole wide universe is not Spiderman, or Batman, or even Thomas the Tank Engine. It’s your dad. You are his shadow, and he is the love of your life.

You want to be Thomas the Tank Engine when you grow up.

You are strangely diplomatic for a three year old. Whenever you hurt yourself, and I do the old kiss and heal routine followed by asking very hopefully if it made you feel better, your answer is always yes—regardless of how much it still hurts.

You have an amazingly short memory for the things that matters less (like the time I completely lost it when you ran across the bedroom carpet peeing, or all the times I fall asleep before you while reading to you) but a really sharp memory for those that do, like names of every character in every book I’ve read to you.  You have no idea how many times I have thanked God for your selective retention.

You are an incredibly good sport about the fact that your parents work full time jobs and are, on most weeknights, just too tired to be better prepared for your time at home. Whether it’s your inexplicable love for Dr. Who that gives you a chance to spend quality time with dad, or for cuddling in the bed with a book to spend quality time with mom, I truly believe you are wise beyond your years.

Best of all, darling boy of mine, you are a gentle soul. I see it in your impossibly long-lashed eyes when you measure every stranger upon meeting for signs of genuine interest in you before bestowing a smile. I see it in your avoidance of all things ear-piercingly loud. I see it in your love for books, and weird science fiction characters, and hugs. I see it in your all-engulfing laughter.

Soar. Grow. Fly. But please stay the same.



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