Where You Lead

Dear Moira,

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I have a note-taking app on my phone that has a specific file just for you: “Moira’s Quotes.” The other day I got to add this gem:

“Do you know where you were born?”
“Um, England.”
“Do you know where in England you were born?”
“In Harrogate.”
“Do you know where in Harrogate?”
“Um. In a car. And it chased me. And I went over the rocks. It was busy work.”

One of the things I love most about you is that you have an answer for anything and everything. It may not be right–it may not bear even the remotest resemblance to reality, like the time you said Batman was going to buy you a villa in Tuscany–but you’re going to commit to the answer. You blink a little and I can see you thinking “Is that right? Did I do that right? Um…that’s probably not right. But I’m going ahead anyway.”

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You make us laugh so hard. You’re just so cheeky, and you love to be loved on–wrestled with, snuggled, kissed, poked and prodded. It’s impossible to stay mad at you. Even your hair is cheeky. It’s sassy and orange and thick, with cheerful blonde streaks in the front. It’s lightened and I don’t know if we can truly call you a redhead anymore, but as befits a strawberry blonde you are as full of sunny cheer as a strawberry. It doesn’t seem possible that you only have twenty teeth; every pearly-white bit gleams when you smile from ear to ear. It’s so winningly bright and confident, so self-assured, that we throw up our hands, half-exasperated and half-besotted, and try to redirect you…with varying success.

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“I hurt my human!” – You called your body your “human” for a while

Your love feels like you’re rushing into a rugby scrum, and we sometimes have to remind you that “Not everyone thinks crashy-bangy is fun, honey. You have to play in a way that’s comfortable for everyone.” When you DO find a playmate who shares your love of romping and stomping, oh girl, it is ON. You are the Queen of All Wild Things, and you will eat them up. You find friends everywhere you go, no matter the age or the situation. The first day of your new gymnastics class–not a parent-child class, so the first class where you were flying solo–you latched on to a little girl named Charlotte. “Tarloht” finds you equally wondrous, so you spend the entire class giggling hand-in-hand. You move socially with such ease.

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Your particular brand of extroversion is so fascinating to me. You’re the outlier in a family of introverts, and already you have forged paths for us. In Italy, you introduced yourself to a little girl who had a doll you admired. We got to talking to her mother and discovered she was American, her husband was Italian, and they owned a villa outside town. They knew all the great spots and when the evening festivals were taking place, and we met up twice during our trip for play dates and for an evening of noodles, wine, desserts, and great memories. We could never have done that on our own; making the introduction wouldn’t have happened. We need you, little one. Oh, how we need you and how we appreciate the role you were born to take in our family. You open doors for us.

“Hey! It’s my friends!” – everywhere, all the time, to people you’ve met and to people you’ve never met

Like any toddler, you’re stubborn. Unique to you is the courage of your convictions. You’ll stand up before anyone and anything if you believe you’re right, and you won’t back down. On our last family trip, an overeager tourist put her arm around Maggie to get a photo of her and the little blonde girl eating ice cream. Maggie quietly panicked and Daddy and I blinked, frozen, but not you. You got right up in her face: “HEY! Don’t you touch my sister. Sister DOESN’T LIKE IT.” Older, bigger, outnumbering you, it doesn’t matter. You square your shoulders, and you step up.

“Dragon! Go away! Someone bring me my pink sword! I’ll cut it into slices!” – talking in your almost-awake sleep one morning

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On the same trip, you saw two little boys harassing a peacock. The boys were much older. They were easily twice your size. You didn’t care. You ran up to them and said “HEY! Stop it. You be nice to that bird. IT NEEDS SOME SPACE.” The anguish on your face when we tried to explain that they didn’t speak English and didn’t understand–or didn’t want to understand–everyone’s admonitions to be nice was real–a truly adult emotion. Your heart was bursting for those poor birds, and the injustice was enraging you.

Of course, you’re a normal toddler and there are times when you want what you want and you’re going to stomp on people to get it, their feelings be damned. Woe betide those who step between you and the last yogurt. But there are also times like with the peacocks or with your sister when you step up and step in when you see something wrong, and one of my favorite things about you is that you aren’t easily discouraged from your path. Failure doesn’t seem to bother you much. You grit your teeth and try to get it done anyway, and only when you’ve exhausted all possibilities for doing it yourself do you ask me to step in. In the greater scheme of things, I can think of no better assurance of your success: you aren’t afraid to fall down and get up again.

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Once in a while, though, you slow down. Usually it’s to watch TV with me, and since I’ve had about as much Diego as I can take, but less than your inexhaustible heart demands, I let you watch Gilmore Girls with me. And there I had it: your song. Your song for the year simply had to be Carole King’s lovely “Where You Lead.” Specifically, taken out of its initial romantic context as the Gilmore Girls theme song, in its form as an ode to mothers and daughters who are behind each other 100%.

Moira, even though it feels like I’m constantly redirecting you, in your face, begging you to stop or slow down, I also need you to know that I was yours from the get-go. I’m in. I’ll follow you anywhere. You’re bright, and pretty, and those are nice things, but you have the three biggest ingredients to thriving in this world already mixed into your fiery orange head:

You have a voice guided by a good heart, you’re not afraid to use it, and you don’t quit.

You have power. You’re capable. You, with your great heart and great determination, will do great things. I’m not always sure how to parent around your personality, or how to raise you to channel your vibrance for the greater good. Even if we don’t understand each other, and even if I step on your toes by accident, know this:

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I love you. I believe. And where you lead, I will follow. Happy birthday, little three-year-old.

Love, Mama