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Snuggles & Snowflakes: Toddler Is Three

happ birth todd {Too Cool for School: Toddler sporting her "bat coat," Mickey Mouse shades, "leather" leggings, and trendy Uggs on a crisp fall day in Central Park.}

Dear Toddler,

Well, this is a week late. But you are three. Three whole years old. One week ago, I was curled up in bed fighting fever. My cheeks were wet with tears as I heard your sweet voice from afar.

Yes, mommies cry too.

It killed me that I couldn't kiss you or hug you on your birthday. It killed me that I couldn't tickle you or twirl you around. It killed me that I couldn't take you to FAO to pick your birthday animal. It killed me that I couldn't come to your party. That I couldn't watch you zip around in your favorite cat pajamas and giggle with your best friends. But, you will learn - and hopefully not too soon - that the right thing is sometimes the impossible thing.

Better late than never. You will forgive me. I will forgive me.

On January 1, 2007, you were born. Two and a half weeks early. Pink and perfect. In a single moment, our world transformed. When the time came, we bundled you up and brought you home. Over the threshold of our good home, into the halls of our good life. And from that very first night, you slept in your own room. Your yellow room. We took great pains with your nursery. We painted stripes on the wall. Two shades of yellow. We upholstered the glider in yellow linen with white shamrocks. For good luck.

We chose yellow for a couple of reasons. I didn't want predictable pink. And yellow is so sunny and bright and pure. We finished the room just a few weeks before you surprised us. And while we waited for your arrival, I fell more and more in love with a certain song. Coldplay's "Yellow." In that fabled fog of anticipation, I listened to this song over and over, mining the words, tracing my belly, feeling your kicks hello.

Look at the stars, Look how they shine for you, And everything you do, Yeah they were all yellow

A wise soul told us to put you in your crib from the very first night. That if we wanted you to be a good sleeper - oh and we did - we should swaddle you tight and stick you in there from the beginning. I remember feeling a profound tug when we did this. I wanted to hold you. To feel your heart beat against mine. I wanted to hear your fidgety breaths and see your tiny chest go up and down. But I didn't. I heeded seasoned advice. And you know what? You became a very good sleeper. And quickly. You loved your crib. And that soothing yellow room became your little haven.

But that tug never went away. I was proud of you. That you could sleep and be independent. But deep down I lamented the fact that I didn't know what it was like to have you next to me, curled up in slumber.

Just three weeks ago, something magical happened. It was the Saturday before Christmas. I had just decided to press pause. I could not stop smiling. I decided that I would do something that I hadn't really done since your sister was tiny: take a nap. And it happened to be around your nap-time.

I had a thought. A brilliant one.

"Do you want to take a snuggle nap with Mommy?" I asked.

Your blue eyes lit up and you smiled. "Yeah!"

I hoisted you up on to our big bed. I stacked pillows on one side of you. And I curled up next to you. Our foreheads were mere inches apart. I threw my arm over you and you let me keep it there. In moments, your breath and eyelids grew heavy and you were asleep. I watched your lashes flutter. I watched your chest rise and fall. I studied the slope of your nose. The bow of your lips. In that moment, I was overwhelmed by something.

That you were once a cluster of cells inside me.

Maybe I was too stuffed with emotions or too buzzed with caffeine, but I couldn't sleep. But I couldn't move either. I was stuck there. Stuck in the best possible way. Forced to stop. And to watch you. My first born. My winter baby. My big girl.

And when I looked past you and out the window, I saw something. Snow. The first fall of the season. In that quiet moment and the ones that followed, I watched fat flakes touch down, your breath humming in my ear. I waited and I watched you, marveling at your beauty and your innocence.

You didn't sleep for long.

As you started to shuffle, I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep. Slowly, you opened your eyes and sat up beside me. You turned toward the window and got up on your knees. I watched as you looked out the window.

"Mommy?" you said.

"Yes, baby?"

And you lifted your arm and pointed your tiny finger at the fluttering flakes. "Guess what that is called out there?"

"What, baby?" I said.

"That's called winter."

And at this simple sentence, this tiny observation, poetic and profound, tears welled up in my eyes. And you turned toward me and cuddled up, burrowing your nose in my chest.

Our very first snuggle nap.

As I write this, I am listening to our song. "Yellow." The words are the same and yet different. Like you. You are the same little being that we brought home from the hospital on that unseasonably warm day three years ago. But you are also different. You have a full head of flaxen curls. You have a wicked sense of humor. You are strong and sensitive. And impossibly creative. Each and every day, you come up with a new dance and a new funny face. You are kind to your sister. You are kind to your kitties. You are kind to your friends. To your teachers. To us.

Just last week, you finally graduated to your big girl bed. You could have made the transition long ago. But we put it off. I guess we couldn't bear it.

This week, we will do the impossible. We will collapse your crib. And put it away.

I listen to sweet words now and fight good tears. And I realize something. That nap? That silly little snuggle nap? It wasn't so silly. It meant more to me than any birthday party ever will. It was just you and me.

Just you and me. Shrouded in sweet silence. Swaddled in soft snow. Waiting for stars.

Look at the stars, Look how they shine for you, And everything you do, Yeah they were all yellow

Happy birthday, Toddler. I look forward to an eternity of snuggles, snowflakes, and winter words.

I love you to itty-bitty pieces,

Mommy

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Come on. Take a minute and wish my sweet girl a happy birthday! Or tell me your opinions on co-sleeping. Or your favorite color. Or how you decorated your nursery. It's up to you! Just leave a comment today (1/8/10) before 11pm EST and give yourself a chance to win Gretchen Rubin's fabulous and wildly best-selling book THE HAPPINESS PROJECT. This is your last chance and this copy was signed by Gretchen herself just last night at her NYC reading! Yesterday's lucky winner was... Niki!

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