Stop Sally

I love the special magic that happens when a kid’s smartness intersects with her stupidness. I’m not saying my children are stupid people- they’re just children and all children are stupid people. So, yes, I guess I am saying that my children are stupid people. Anyway, my daughter loves to write.

Most of her writing is just senseless scribbles because she’s four years old, but she can write her name and suddenly can also write the word “stop.” This means that there are notes all over the house where she is apparently telling herself off.

Stop Sally

She tells herself off for banging on the bathroom door while I’m in there when she slides a note underneath that says, “Stop Sally.” Uh, yeah, that’s what I’ve been saying.

She tells herself off for calling to us after bedtime when she comes downstairs and hands me a “Stop Sally” note.

It’s perfect really. I can save my breath. I just need to teach her to write “Stop Luke” notes.

The Truth about the Seeds

“Those seeds aren’t magic, you know.”

Every time Luke says this I panic and sternly hush him. Luckily, he’s king of the non sequitur so Sally usually doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But I know. At any mention of magic, Luke says something about knowing The Truth about the Seeds. He’s threatening to ruin an Easter tradition.

Let me explain: years ago on Easter eve I gave my then-toddler Luke a small handful of magic seeds, a.k.a. Nerds, to scatter on the lawn before bed. In the morning, lo and behold, lollipops sprouted from the grass where the seeds had been sewn! The excitement and wonder in his little face at the sight of this sugary crop was pure magic. Pure magic is like parental crack. We must do this again and again and again and again. Thus traditions are born.

From the start Luke was suspicious. He was pretty almost positive that the seeds were candy, but his curiosity about the magic and the weirdness of me instructing him to throw candy on the grass kept him from simply gobbling them up. Each year his suspicion has grown, and the relationship between his wonder and his desire for Nerds is starting to tip towards gobbling.

I don’t know if all kids are like this, but my kids talk about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy all year round as if they’re relatives we see occasionally, like cousins. Awesome magical cousins. As such, over the years Luke has periodically and randomly tested out this theory on me. “Those seeds are candy right? I know they’re candy. They’re candy. Right?” Now that Sally is bigger, Luke seems to have it all figured out and all he wants to do is tell her.

The problem is that I see The Truth about the Seeds as the first step towards a complete loss of magic. It’s one short step to There’s no Bunny Hiding Eggs and then just a wee leap to Ew, You’re Collecting my Teeth, There’s no Santa, and, finally, Can I Borrow the Car?

I’m not ready for them to drive, so I quickly shush and change the subject every time Luke brings up The Truth about the Seeds. But it was just a matter of time. Recently, he was too quick to get the whole thing out. I cringed as I readied myself for a little bit of my daughter’s innocence to wither away forever.

“Those aren’t really magic seeds, Sally. We just sprinkle them on the ground, but they don’t magically grow lollipops.”

“Yes they do!”

“No they don’t. The seeds aren’t magic. They’re just candy. After we go to sleep…”

Here it comes.

“After we go to sleep, the Easter Bunny comes.”

Who the what now?

“He digs holes where we dropped the seeds and he plants the lollipops. So the seeds aren’t magic. Mom and Dad are just tricking us.”

I have never loved him more.

“Oh. That’s what you think happens?” I ask. “No. that’s what I know happens.” Nothing gets by this one.


Birthday Letter for Sally on Her Fourth

Today my daughter turns four. My BABY!

Dear Sally,

Every year as I sit down to write your birthday letter I come across the same problem: my feelings about you don’t fit into words, or the only words that apply are really cheesy. The phrase “you light up my life” has been used and is now ruined, but it’s the closest thing I can think of that fits. You do light up my life. And you are my sunshine. Aside from that, for some reason, everything else I can think to say are either about eating you or things you’d say to a puppy. It’s all just squeezes, smushybabytalk, and weird cannibalism.

It’s not your smallness and cuteness. Well it is, but not just that. Your smallness and cuteness are so precious to me and it’s bittersweet to see you grow. For now you still fit into my arms, my lap. For now you still want to fit into my arms and lap. But for how much longer?

But you are so much more than cute, and I need you to know that.

As you approach your fourth birthday, you are suddenly aware of your power as an adorable girl, and you manipulate people with a pigtail swish, a false giggle, a hug. I don’t know how to get you to cut this crap out, considering how completely effective it is, so all I can do is point out how much more than cute you are. It would help if strangers didn’t constantly fawn over your cuteness. I asked you recently if you knew that you are so much more than cute, and that those other things are much more important. You replied, “Yeah, I know. Being pretty is really important too.” Palm hits forehead. Let’s hope that you really are absorbing my messages in addition to the million comments about your adorableness that you receive daily.

While your adorableness is impressive, so is so much else. This summer you learned how to ride a bike with no training wheels and how to swim! You can ride over ramps and curbs, pedal up a hill to fly down the other side, and then go swim in the deep end! (Pretty sure this made you the coolest 3-year-old ever all summer.) I’m so proud of you! Both of these accomplishments are the result of your determination and tireless hard work. You wanted it, so you went and did it. You persevered even when it was hard or you were scared. You’d steel your nerves by counting yourself down to a head-dunk. You kept up on long family bike rides on your little balance bike without complaint. You climbed right back on the saddle after flying over your handlebars – a result of an ill-conceived attempt at biking with your eyes closed. Through all of your practice and progress you never complained about it being hard and you never even threatened to give up. THIS is more important than cute.

No training wheels!

Your sense of humor is amazing. It’s weird but it’s constant. You love to laugh and if nothing funny is happening, you make your own funny. “It’s backwards Sally!” you announce moments before you back yourself into a room. You tell jokes that make you laugh so hard in the telling that no one can understand you and you seldom make it to the punch line. And you don’t care. You laugh and laugh and laugh with abandon. Your laughter is contagious and you use it to lighten moods and break tension. THIS is more important than cute.

You play. Your imagination gives you hours of fodder for entertaining yourself. Often these hours happen in your room after bedtime. You put all of your dolls, stuffed animals, and random inanimate objects to bed all over your floor. You read them stories, sing them songs, and then go around and rub each of their backs. Your evening ritual is elaborate, but shows so much tenderness, thoughtfulness, and care. THIS is more important than cute.

And it makes your room a minefield.

Dolly Bedtime

You love us so much it’s incredible. The way you look up to your brother, the way you miss him, try to comfort him, play with him – the best! The sweet happiness you show when you see me or your dad, whether it’s first thing in the morning, at school pick up, or if we just walked out of and then back into the room – heart melting. Your affection for friends, grandparents, cousins – boundless. You might just give the best hugs on Earth. All of this is also more important than cute.

So please remember, my sweet girl, you are so much more than cute. You just also happen to be impossibly cute. I’m so happy to see you grow up, even as I’m sad to see your baby-self vanish, even as I fear your adolescence. I love you so much, smushybabysweetiepie!

You light up my life, Sally, and I want to eat you. Happy birthday!



You can see more birthday letters to my kids here.