Today, my Small Girl, the Duchess von Wigglestein, my little pumpkin, turns three.
Apparently the “Terrible twos” are a load of bunk. For this child, anyway. She’s been an angel all year; she smiles, laughs, plays, loves to be tickled. She goes to bed well and sleeps all night. She’s come a very long way in potty training and effortlessly gets through the day with no accidents, although she still wears a diaper at night. She dances, runs, sings, plays with friends, loved to be read to, climbs anything that can be climbed, torments the cats, but does it all with a sunny disposition. To Maddy, every stranger’s a friend she hasn’t met yet. She remembers every relative she has and runs to them for hugs at first sight.
For me, the best time of the day, and in fact the best time of my life, is between 5:30 and 8:30 PM every weekday when I get home and am with the Small One. We put on her favourite show and watch that, and then after dinner we play. Sometimes Daddy is a horsey or an elephant, which she rides from room to room. Other times, for whatever reason her strange inner logic demands, we must hide under blankets with a flashlight. Or perhaps we needs to build a block tower, or it is necessary for me to chase her and tickle her. Whatever the activity, it never gets a second too old.
It can’t get too old, because it goes by so fast. How can she be THREE YEARS OLD? She was born two weeks ago. Just a few days ago she was so small I could hold her in one hand. She couldn’t walk, or even crawl, or even roll over. She was this tiny creature I would ever-so-carefully wrap in a few of the thousand or so baby blankets we had distributed throughout the house, wrap her up and put her in her removable car seat and carry her with one hand. That was just Tuesday, wasn’t it, that she was just barely able to take a few steps? When did she learn to jump and run and dance?
People say that kids take all your money and time. Do I miss any of that? Let me tell you this: two weeks ago we were watching her show and started clowning with each other. She made a little telescope with her hand and peered at me and I made one with mine and peered at her, and stuck my tongue out. She smiled, looked back at the TV, and said, “Daddy. I love you, Daddy.” It’s the first time she has ever said “I love you” without being told it first. It was the best moment of my entire life, possibly never to be matched, and that’s fine with me because I cannot imagine how a human being could be happier.
What else could bring out such emotions in a person more than this sweet little girl? I cannot imagine that anything you could do could deliver so much joy, exhilaration, fear, worry, satisfaction and wonder. And even though having her elicits from me more feeling, more meaning, more motivation, more action than I ever thought it possible for me to have, the sense of peace and, for want of a better word, rightness is what makes my life as good as it is. When I am with the Small Girl, I am precisely where I am meant to be. Nothing is better, to me, than the modest luxury of my wife and I sitting in our living room, playing with our Small Girl.
I hear stories of how children feel their parents are disappointed in them. I cannot even begin to fathom how I could be disappointed with my Small One. I am terrified that she might someday be disappointed with me (not including the usual 14-year-old, oh-my-God-Dad-you’re-embarassing-me phase, which I will gleefully exploit for laughs) because I wasn’t a good enough Dad. So I’m working hard, really hard, to be the best Dad I can be.
Here is my goal, the goal towards which everything else I am doing moves me towards; someday, many years from now, when I am near my end, and my Small Girl (because no matter how tall and smart she gets, she will always be my Small Girl) is grown up and has babies of her own, I want her to turn to me and say, “Daddy. I love you, Daddy.”
I love you too, Madeline.