To Liza on Her Third Birthday

For your birthday this year we let you pick what you wanted to do and where you wanted to go. This led to us celebrating your birthday on Friday at Chuck E. Cheese with Mumsy, your friends Josh, Kate, Jordan, and some scary clanking animatronic animals. I watched you climb up the kid habitrail all by yourself and marveled at how coordinated you are and how much you’ve grown in the last year. On Monday you demanded lunch at McDonald’s and Red Robin. Then you went home, fell asleep, and woke up to discover that you had been transformed in your bed into a monstrous hamburger.

You got many cool presents. I bought you a shirt from ThinkGeek because I’m that kind of dad. Mom got you a bag. But your favorite gift of all was a bug catcher. It’s a clear plastic container with a magnifying glass built into the lid, so you can scoop up bugs and stare at them while they cower, frightened by your giant magnified eye.

Liza wearing her "Self-Rescuing Princess" shirt

This year you’ve grown to love stuffed animals in a way that would make your uncle Andrew proud. Ellie the elephant is by far your favorite, but you also love Big Ellie the other elephant and Pinecone the other other elephant and Two the puppy dog. You named most of the animals, though I’m responsible for you calling one baby doll “Scary Baby”. It turns its head and makes frightening crying noises and clacks its eyes open and shut and it freaks me out a bit. If this were an 80s horror movie then it would be into the knives in no time.

You enjoy drawing and reading. Sometimes you wander into your room and pull books off of your shelf to read them. When I sit down in my overstuffed red recliner you take that as an invitation for me to read to you. You grab a book and run to me, crying, “Read to me, daddy, read to me!” You throw the book in my lap and climb up my legs like they were a ladder. I read the book to you and you toss the book aside, climb back down, and run to get another book.

Liza wrapped up in her quilt

Nothing, though, dims your overwhelming love of Dora. “I wanna watch Dora!” you shout. “Dora Dora Dora the exploraaaaaaaah. DORAAAA!” Sometimes you dally with other shows, like Team Umizoomi. “Pattern Power!” you say as you run madly around the house in no discernible pattern.

You’re extremely active and sometimes frighteningly coordinated. In your mind you’re a six-year-old boy, which gives you courage beyond your years. As soon as we open the back door you’re climbing up onto the trampoline of death and jumping and jumping, your blond hair spreading around your head like a dandelion puff, before swinging yourself down. You climb up the side of our jungle gym and clamber around its exterior in ways guaranteed to take years off of my life.

Liza swinging on our jungle gym

You’re an “I can do it” child.You want to dress and undress yourself. You go to the bathroom by yourself, which gives us hope that your potty training will be so easy that maybe it will happen without us noticing. One day I’ll look up and say to your mom, “Huh, I haven’t changed Liza’s diaper in a week. What about you?” She’ll shrug, at which point angels will descend and everyone will war no more.

After talking at a very young age, you’ve decided that words are overrated. Sometimes you’ll stick your tongue out just a little, like a small pink flag, and say “Thaa thaa thaa thaaaaa” instead of talking. You also screech a lot. When you spill your milk, you screech. When Eli takes your toy away, you screech. When an episode of Dora ends, you screech. It’s much funnier when you deal with your anger by talking. When Eli thwarts you, you clench your tiny toddler fist and say, “Eli! That makes me so angry! That makes me angry, Eli!”

Liza sticks out her tongue while she concentrates

Some words you say in an unbearably cute little kid manner. “Yellow” comes out as “lellow”, which means it’s easier to understand you singing the first verse to “Lellow Submarine” than the chorus. “Water” comes out as “wah-tuw”, something I hear most any night that I put you to bed. “Daddy, I want some wahtuw. I want watuw, daddy. I want watuw.”

Your sleep issues have returned, though in a new form. When we put you to bed you sing or talk loudly to your stuffed animals. Some times we come back into your room and tell you sternly, “It’s bedtime now. No more talking.” That works about half of the time. The other half of the time you ignore us and go back to singing shortly after we leave.

Liza (with scraped-up face) and Misty

You also have occasional nightmares. Every few weeks or so you wake up crying. Oftentimes I’m the one who goes in to comfort you. You sob and throw your arms around my neck. I help you sit all the way up and give you a drink of water. “Do you want to hug Ellie and go back to bed?” I ask, and you nod solemnly. I wasn’t sure whether or not you remembered those half-asleep moments until you told Mom one time, “I miss dad. When I’m scared he makes me feel better.”

I’ve been traveling a lot this month, which means I’ve seen you far less than I’ve wanted to. But even when I’m away, I can close my eyes and see you. You’re running in the sun, arms swinging, your face alight with the joy of being alive, and I’m reminded how privileged I am to be your dad.

Liza and me

6 thoughts on “To Liza on Her Third Birthday

  1. Lovely message as always, and I have a few things to say this time.

    First: OHMYGOD I LOVE THAT SHIRT. The “Self-Rescuin’ Princess” shirt, I mean. Though I am curious about the shirt in the last pic as well. Is that The Who’s logo I see?

    Second: Liza should really come visit Colorado sometime, because we have a museum dedicated solely to bugs. I mean yeah, they call it the Butterfly Pavilion, but really, once you get inside, it’s bug city. Way more than just butterflies.

    Third: My sympathies on the screeching. That is such an unpleasant aspect of toddlerhood.

    Fourth: I recall reading somewhere that kids have more nightmares during major periods of brain growth. I always found this a comforting belief when Dante would wake up crying at 2am or some such. It’s not horrible trauma — it’s just the price of magic.

  2. That is a Who t-shirt! And the one she’s wearing on the swing is her Pink Floyd t-shirt. Which, huh, she’s also wearing in the pic where she’s sticking out her tongue. She really likes that shirt.

    We’ve got a butterfly house at our local botanical garden that is also a haven for bugs, and she loves it. Not that that should keep us from visiting Colorado.

  3. When I read these letters you write to your children I am so moved. It is always good to see that I’m not the only one who loves my child to the point of tears. Liza and Eli will be so blessed to read these letters from you one day.

  4. As usual when I read your birthday posts, I got something in my eye… this is a great thing you’re doing for Liza and Eli!

  5. Happy Birthday, sweet Liza! It’s been an honor to watch you grow. Can’t wait for the next chapter of the adventure. 🙂 And your dad just moved me to happy tears with his love for you.

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