"I two a half. My birthday December 18th!" You have been telling everyone you meet for months now, since Canyon's birthday in early Fall. You have turned bath cups and sponges into birthday cakes. Blocks, books, snow, all cakes with candles to be blown out.
And now, my dear you are three.
I will try to describe how I see you but please know you are impossible to capture as you change so quick. You are a whirling dervish of creative energy ransacking our house with your imaginative play.
You rarely sit still, except when you are sick or engrossed in a show, but even then you will jump off the couch or I will find you hanging upside down, hair wild, bare tummy out.
"Look I bigger," you say as you reach for the counter, "I reach!"
And yet when I pull the bigger card, to get you to say... sleep in your own bed at night instead of waking up and running across the house to ours with your arms full of blankets or dolls or water bottles or your plastic airplane you picked out at a neighborhood garage sale, you say, "No I little. I not bigger."
Or if I want you to sit in your chair at dinner instead of climbing under the table or on it or onto my lap, "I not big. I little," you say.
Or you lean your cheek against mine and say, "I need you Mama." And then I find myself trying to finish a bowl of lamb stew as you climb onto my back.
You are so physical Olive. You can already dribble a soccer ball and hit a hockey puck. (We gave you skates for your birthday). And you can climb anything. You love pushing our kitchen chairs around the house to serve as stools. Or dumping out a tub of toys and tipping it over as a step. (You don't love picking them back up.)
You love to play hide and seek and will walk up to me as I'm cleaning dishes or sitting at the computer and point your whole arm, "You hide, I count!" You peek when you close your eyes to count and often skip the number five but you don't mind if I'm hiding on the couch with a blanket on my head. You like to pretend you can't see me and look in the wrong spots till you sneak up and pull the blanket away. We giggle and tickle and then do it all again.
"Let's play chase. Chase me Mama, chase me!" Is another one of your favorites. Or: "I the leader. You follow."
I call you my little dictator at times because you have a way of ordering me out of my head and into your world of "Let's play!" "Come on Mama, play with me!"
Your brother is not always a willing companion but you never cease trying. "Lias I play too?" You say when he works on a puzzle on the romp room floor or plays with his Ipad at the kitchen table
"No!" he generally answers.
And yet you never give up on him. And you pull him into so many of your made up games.
"What is Olive doing?" he must ask me twenty times a day.
"I don't know ask her."
"What are you doing Olive?"
Your lion towel is spread out on the floor and you are making a bed for your doll. Or you are pretending your big beach ball is your friend, asking it questions as you push it around the house. "Do you want to go for a walk with me? Yeah? Ok..." Or you are doing a "show" in the kitchen, twirling, doing supported handstands with your feet against the counters, or waving a broken lacrosse stick around in the air.
(While dancing you say, "I do a show. You watch." And then as you run out of the room, you say: "I need a pole!")
Your brother doesn't have your creative instincts but he mimics your games, learning a little about make-believe from his baby sister.
You teach him Olive every day. You teach Elias how to play.
And yes, there are days when the two of you clash more than you cooperate and I think I can't handle another minute of conflict. When you scream the moment he comes too near, having learned this will send one of us running. He has hurt you, left scratches on your arms, bumps on your head. And yet you are no longer always the innocent, helpless victim. You antagonize him. Taking his puzzle piece and running away. Grabbing toys from his hands. Screaming as if his hands are around your neck when all he has done is taken your doll or bear or pink soccer ball.
And yet you miss him when he's at school and come running to the door to greet him whenever he gets home. "Lias here! Lias here!"
You love our home and our family. Often sighing in bed at night when we cuddle, you arms wrapped around my neck, our noses grazing, "I love you Mom. And Dad and Lias and Tonsina."
Hearing you say Elias's name. And love. Always makes me breathe a little easier and let go of the day's squabbles.
"Lias sad," You say, when he has one of his regular melt- downs. And you make your pouty face. He may have just hit you, but your heart cares about his tears. And you want him to feel better.
Oh, you have your mad moments too. Lately, you have starting making fists and slamming then down on things. Not yet your brother but you will. You have hit me when you are mad and kicked and thrown yourself on the ground in irrational fury. Over not getting a cookie for breakfast. Or not wanting to change out of wet pants. Or to clean up all the fridge letters you just swiped onto the floor.
There are times when it seems like you save all your bad behavior for me. An angel at daycare. A trooper with Dad. A little doll for Grandma. And then I walk home from work and you transform into evilO. (Your name backwards.) Your alter ego. A ball of whiny tantrums on a destructive roll.
And I am tired too, after responding to the behavior of other children all day long. And all I want is a moment alone. And all you want is me at your beck and call. Me as your dumping ground. As the responder to your increasing demands.
But you know, I'm glad you are a "big helper" at day care. That you play well with the bigger kids. I'm glad you let me leave in the mornings, with only rare tears, more often a smile and a wave as you embrace your days at Carla's house or with Dad or Grandma and Pop.
I'l take you as evilO. I'll take you over-tired and needy. I'll take your fury and sobs. I'll take you in all your changing forms. I'll take you and I'll take you and I'll take you.
"You follow. I lead!" Yes, Ma'am!
Because more often than not you lead me to wonderful places, to the window to notice the full moon, to our kitchen dance floor, to my knees to play.
"All hold hands," you say as we begin a meal, initiating our version of grace. "Hold hands." So we put down our forks and make a circle with our arms, you hold my right hand, Elias my left. You from my right uterus. Elias my left. I smile at your Dad who completes the connection. Then we take turns saying what we are thankful for from this day. This meal. This moment in time.
"I thankful for the plants," you said last night, as you pointed to the vase of tulips and the Christmas Poinsettia.
After, as I gave you a bath, I saw you not as my appendage but as a separate soul becoming. Expanding right before my eyes.
And I know I won't have you climbing onto my lap at the dinner table forever. So I want to really see you at three. Breathe you into me. Memorize your expressions, your antics, your words.
Yet I can't capture you Olive.
You are too free.
I love you.
And yes, you are now three.