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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Dear 3-year-old Owen,

*I write letters to my son often, here are a few past letters:

Dear Owen on your 3rd birthday, 

I remember when you first came into this world. 
Your arms were open wide, eyes squinted shut, screaming. You looked at that moment like you were here to embrace it all. And that is SO how you are now. You are off and running the second you wake up in the morning. You love life. You spent the whole first day of your life wide eyed and staring at everyone. We commented on how weird it was that a newborn didn't sleep that first day. I told everyone you were checking us all out, curious from the start.

This is you at minutes old, the first picture Dad took of you on his phone 
and sent to everyone we knew to introduce you! 

You are still curious about the world. 
It's your nature to love with your whole heart and laugh at every little thing around. You screech when you are excited. It's something we're working on. When people come in the door to see you at our house, your excitement literally boils over inside you and you cannot contain yourself from screeching at the top of your lungs with the largest grin I've ever seen on your face. I remind you, "Remember how we show someone we're happy to see them? Say, 'Hi Grampa, I'm so excited you're here!'" You just giggle and jump up and down when I say that.

We can't fault you for being super happy and loving. You adore your family, and your excitement shows through in all that you do. It's one thing I see in you that is all me. That energy, passion for life, smile-at-everything-because-it's-just-SO-amazing thing, well, I do it, too. I LOVE that we share that. We have Dad around to calm us down, thank goodness, otherwise we'd never stop!

I have really gotten to know you this past year. 
I know that may sound strange to say since we spent a lot of hours rocking you to sleep at night and waking in the night if you were sick, driving to and from babysitter's house and singing songs.

Yet this past year you became a little person. 
You turned into your own person, really, not just the baby I was toting around for a few years prior. You started to think on your own this year. You started to have ideas, reasons, opinions. And boy did you ever share those with me! It started literally a few days after you turned 2 years old when you said, "NO" to everything. That was a joy. Not. It was pretty challenging actually, having before had you nodding and smiling at pretty much anything we ever said, to now turn into this little defiant guy who had plans of his own that nobody and nothing could sway.

We had a rough patch this past year. Lots of ups and downs. It was the infamous Terrible Twos after all. I think we were all expecting it. You hit a lot the first half of the year. That was your way of expressing anger and frustration, excitement, etc. etc. who knows, probably every emotion that came to you was expressed like that. Many tears from both our end came over that hitting thing. And then months later, despite having tried everything, it was like finally you got it, finally you were ready to "use your words" and tell us how you were feeling. You told me you felt mad. We were playing in the bath tub a month ago and you didn't want to get out. You said, "I feel mad because I want to stay in the tub." I cried happy tears that wow, we really have turned a corner here.

You are growing up, Owen, and I'm understanding you. Nothing is better.

You have taught me so much this year, Owen. 
You taught me patience. I know now that a lot of parenting is just going through phases of frustration until our babies are ready to develop and grow into understanding. You didn't need the book I bought about no hurting hands to make you stop hitting. You didn't need me constantly reminding you to eat a snack so you were calmer and didn't take out your energy on someone else. You needed ME, and of course your Dad. You needed my patience, understanding, comfort, and compassion through those rough moments. I will keep this lesson with me the rest of your childhood, knowing that we are going to experience tough phases again, and no self-help book is going to make it better. WE are going to make it better by just being together through it.

You taught me that I'm here to be your advocate, supporter, and biggest fan, and that it's OK and necessary for me to put your needs first. You taught me that you are always learning, taking new things in, despite when I have asked you 10 times if you heard what I said because you are still not doing what I asked. You taught me that talking less is sometimes all you need, and that a huge bear hug always does the trick more than time outs.

You taught me the power of apology. I have said sorry to you a lot this year, for yelling or for not understanding what words you were telling me, or for putting you in your chair or zipping up your pajamas before I heard you say "I DO IT MYSELF!" You taught me that the light in your eyes still shines and you still love me even when I feel I am being mean telling you no. You taught me that you are still my little boy, like when you were sick and you cried through throwing up, "Mama, I need you... Mama..." and it made my heart melt, mostly to hear you say you needed me, because lately with all the "I do it myself" stuff I was wondering if you did.

You make me laugh like nobody else on this planet can. 
Seriously gut, to my core, soooo funny laughing that tears stream down my face. I said before that I really got to know you this year, and what I meant by that was I refused to get caught up in that Terrible Twos stuff. I tried so hard to appreciate you for who you were - ups and downs and all, tantrums, crying fits, throwing dinner plates from the table, not sharing issues and all. I tried to just say, well that moment is over, let's move on to the fun ones now. 

You had reason to be frustrated I'd say. You learned a TON this year! All of these new things happened this year. It was the most growth I'd seen ever from you. Crazy to imagine more growth than the first year, but it's true. You learned to drink from cup, count, ABCs, learned words to our favorite songs, put shoes on and off, get dressed, said goodbye to your crib and learned to sleep in a big boy bed, became big brother, learned to talk about feelings, ride a tricycle, and the biggest one - go potty, etc. HUGE year of learning. I am so incredibly proud of you.

I know you are ready to start pre-school next week. In fact, last week we went to visit for the first time and you instantly were off and playing with the toys. I told you a little bit later we had to leave to go back and pick up your sister. You refused to go, said you had work to do there, told me to leave. The teacher said it was fine, you could stay a little bit while I picked up your sister. So I left, tearing up as I drove down the road, thinking, "This is it, he doesn't need me like he used to... he's growing up." And you are. And it's entirely OK. I'm so proud of who you are. When I leave you, you smile as if to say, "I've got this, Mom, I'm good here." And that's how me and Dad said we would raise you back when you were kicking me in my belly and causing the worst heartburn ever. It's nice to see what's working.

Thank you for teaching me so many things this year. Thank you for learning to say, "I love you, Mama." I smile and fight back tears EVERY time you say it still, months later, because it's the best thing I've ever heard anyone say.

You are so not a little guy now. 
You are not a toddler anymore walking with the squishy diaper sound, or sleeping soundly like you used to with curly hair and thumb in your mouth. Although, you still do that. You still suck your thumb ( have since birth!) and when you are asleep and I kiss you before I go to bed that's when I KNOW you are still my little baby in there... despite that you're growing out of your toddler bed and need something bigger and people mistake you for a 5-year-old when you were only 2. You are still my baby. I know it.

(This was just this past summer in August that you slept this soundly with blankie 
and you still fit in the pack n' play ... )

Although you don't quite fit in the baby carrier like you did when you were a baby...


 Thank you for being a great big brother this year to Addisyn. She is lucky to have you. Everyone kept asking me those first 7 months if you had been mean to her, shown any negative feeling toward her at all, expecting that to happen between a 2-year-old and newborn. I was always happy to say, nope, just love, he adores her. Lately you pick on her in your funny way, not mean though, which we expect between siblings. And yet still, you have a high pitched voice you only use with her and a smile designated for getting right on her level and looking her in the eyes and saying things like, "You want to come play with my tools, Addisyn, yeah? You can. I let you."

And it melts my heart every time, thinking, yes, he survived this whole new baby in the house thing, we did give him the best gift ever in giving him a sister, all is all right in his world.

There is a song that's played about 1,000 times on the radio in the car when we drive together. It has made me think of you becoming a big brother to Addisyn, how you helped her and said shhh shhh to her when she'd cry, even the first day home from the hospital. It has made me think of helping you through this rough up and down year of 2, holding your hand and hugging you through those moments that brought you to tears. Me and Dad were there to pick you up, we always will be.

"Hold on to me as we go, as we roll down this unfamiliar road.
Although this wave is stringing us along,
Just know you're not alone.
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home.
Settle down, it'll all be clear.
Don't pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear.
Trouble, it might drag you down. 
If you get lost, you can always be found.
Just know you're not alone.
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home."
-Phillip Phillips

We are so excited for this third year. Your aunt called me today asking how I felt having a three-year-old. Was I sad? Disappointed you were so big now? I didn't even have to think about it. No, I'm not. I'm kinda happy that tough year of 2 is over. And honestly, you are so big and tall and independent and smart that you already seem 3 to me. I will admit it caught me by surprise when I finally realized this a few weeks ago. I had no idea that you had become so big now. I didn't realize all you learned to do lately. I even asked some friends what to call you now, after saying "toddler" for 2 years straight. (I hear you are now a pre-schooler. We'll go with that!). 

I am looking forward to all kinds of fun this year, seeing all the new things you learn to do and listening to your new words and ideas that you have. I can't wait to watch you play soccer or basketball, try swim lessons maybe, and hear what you learn at Church School.

Can't believe you are THREE...
What a fun ride it's been so far, full of hilarious moments!

I love how you ask, "I come up?" wanting me to pick you up to go down the stairs. Sometimes I say "no, you're a big boy, you can walk down the stairs," to which you say, "All right, Mama. I big boy." And other times I carry you just to have one moment in our great big day where you are a little guy again. 

I love how you are obsessed with NSync's "Bye Bye Bye" song from my high school CD and make me repeat it over and over again in the car.

I love how every single weekend morning you beg dad to make "pay pays" (pancakes) and how you are obsessed with working, tools, and everything construction like your dad. I love that putting dishes away and setting the table and cooking are some of your favorite things to do. 

I love that you make your sister laugh more than anyone else can. I love that she stares at you like you are the best thing she's ever seen.

The world is yours to explore, Owen Joseph. 

I know you will take it by storm, with enough energy and excitement to last us a lifetime. I can't wait to be there, holding your hand, or perhaps letting you go and run like you do, looking back at me and smiling, saying, like you do when you want to get in the tub, asking, "I go Mama? I go?" making sure this new found independence is OK with me.

And I will say, just like I do now when you're asking to get in the bath tub at night, "Yes, pal, you go on. Jump on in. I'm right here."


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