The other night at dinner, you sat by my side — not necessarily a coveted position these days because you tend to use your neighbor more for a napkin than a conversation partner — but this specific night, you gently leaned into my left ear and whispered, “Mom, I love you more than meatballs.” I hugged you and laughed aloud, repeating this same phrase back to you and remembering a few weeks before when you had run into the kitchen announcing so matter-of-fact-ly, “sometimes Oli be funny.” It’s so true. Sometimes Oli be so funny, like the expressions you make while you tell a story or the way you stand with your hand propped on your hip. Other times Oli be so angry, like when I wake you up from a nap. I usually shake your shoulders a little and jump back to protect myself from your flailing limbs. You even added the H-word to your vocabulary this year, at times trying out the phrase “I HATE you!” while throwing a tantrum. It doesn’t really work to get your way though. Only time-outs. Sometimes I find you doing pull-ups on the playground or dangling from the hang bar in your closet or hidden up on the shelves in my closet or the pantry. “I’m just doing my exercises,” you say. You’ve been training for something since your infancy, although I’m still not sure what. Sometimes, Olive, you want to be six like your sister or sixteen with make-up or twenty-six with heels — “I’m the boss,” you inform us, and I think that’s not difficult for any of us to imagine someday. But not today. Some days you want to be a baby again and climb into your cousin’s exersaucer or jumper or play-yard; “you’re not a baby anymore,” I have to tell you. “But you’ll always be my baby.” And you love it, widely grinning at this anomaly. You are brave, Olive. Sometimes you show your bravery by climbing the tree tops or jumping off of diving boards or easily conversing with new people, and other times, you show your bravery by sleeping/living without a paci like you learned to do this last winter. Of course, having a thumb helped with the transition. (Wink.) I love you, sweet girl.
This year, when I asked you what you wanted for your birthday, you replied (on three different occasions) : “I want a drum set like Morena (from the Fresh Beat Band — your favorite show) and a fish.” Well, we couldn’t swing the drum set for several reasons, but Dad and I did get you a Betta fish for your fourth birthday. At first you wanted to name him Bethany, an endearing gesture, but after I told you maybe we already had too many Bethanys in the family, you decided on Memo George Douglass — not be mistaken (as I did) with Nemo, Memo’s friend, the cartoon Clown fish. It’s hard for me to believe our family has really grown beyond the infant/toddler years, and with your fourth birthday I feel a chapter of our family life closing. Thank you dear one, for ending these years with such gusto and enthusiasm! I love you so. And today, sweet Olive, I celebrate you. Happy birthday.