Dear Elsa: a letter at three years


You are three. Three. THREE.

You are just this beautiful girl, Elsa. Not so much a baby anymore. Your hair, overnight, seemed to grow down to the middle of your back. It is a brownish blonde, lighter at the ends from last year’s sun, and the little bit of curl from your tiny days remains at the ends. Your eyes have changed too – they are hazel now, gray green. While we’ve never quite known who you look like, and still don’t, what’s clear is that you look like Owen. When the two of you sit next to each other, your hair and eye color are identical. Your legs are long and lean; there is no more baby tummy hanging over your leggings. It surprises me that you look so old some days – you’re just so beautiful, Els.

You have a delightful spirit. You fill our house with singing, singing to yourself, or belting out “Wet it go! Wet it go! No tuwrn it back anymore!!!!” You had a phase where you sang Old Macdonald endlessly, for several weeks – in your bed, absentmindedly at lunch, serenading us at stoplights. You’re recently in a phase of singing just the last two words to some imaginary song, crooning, “Ever Agaaaaaain!” over and over. Around Christmas, you were always playing with our nativity scene, flying the angel, the donkey, baby Jesus through the air, yelling, “Donkey…to the RESCUE!” and singing some song you made up about Jesus…died on the cwoss…born in a STINKY BARN!” You love to sing. You love music, often yelling, “MUSIC!” from your carseat in the back, not unlike a teenager might. You love to dance and twirl. You rarely walk from room to room, instinctively running, usually on your toes – scampering really.

You have solid opinions about what to wear. Your outfits almost always include pink, and generally anything with Annan-and-Elsa wins out. You love to wear sparkly shoes, jammies, and almost always refuse pigtails or braids, asking for “jus a BOW, mom” (especially your owl bow). You love to wear your knitted cupcake hat, and dislike mittens. You love to try to get dressed yourself.

You and Owen have truly become friends this year. The first week he went to preschool, I kept finding you laying on the floor, quietly, obviously drowning in your loneliness. He comes home, and the two of you play together for the next hour or two. He ropes you into his elaborate schemes of making home-alone-esque traps for your dad and I on the steps because our home is the picture of safety. The two of you love to “take trips” and “pack up,” bringing out all of the toys on to the basement couch for an apparent road trip, both of you carrying backpacks stuffed with treasures (beaded necklaces, your Happy Meal watch, various jewels). At night, the two of you stay up and talk for an hour, comparing treasures, or turning oh the lights to your dad’s great dismay (he finally just removed the lightbulb). You guys love our new house because there is space to run circles around the couch, which you’ll do, chasing each other for 15+ minutes, before you tackle each other, which 50% of the time ends well. The two of you definitely have your moments. Just the other day, I was cooking dinner when I heard you both taking turns screaming NO. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lewis in his doorframe bouncer, being tug of warred back and forth by the two of you. You fight over books and when your feet touch each other’s chairs and who reads what book in the car, but overall, you love each other, and I love that.

The month after you turned three was one of great change. I had tried about four previous times to potty train you, but with the move, I just never had the energy to stick with it, or to fight you when you cried to wear a diaper or ran away from me when it was time to try. We’d tried various incentives, mostly involving sugar, to no avail. But then we took away all videos for the month of December, to break our post-nap video habit, and to help you in what is an apparent screen addiction. (You STILL cry tears of devastation, bawling one moRE VEE-YO, MOM! whether you’ve watched 5 or 50 minutes of a show. So after our little hiatus, we offered a short video after each poop, and it worked! Like your brother before you, you managed to squeeze out a tiny poop with each attempt, yelling “Peppa Pig!” or “OcNauts!” each time. You’ve mostly got the hang of it now, though we still have accidents.

Additionally, you finally parted ways with  your beloved paci. For months leading up to your birthday, I’d been telling you that three-year-olds can’t use pacis. One day at lunch, I was telling you about the Paci Fairy. How she comes, takes your pacis to a baby in need, and leaves something wonderful in its place. Throughout my description, your mouth turned down, your eyebrows furrowed in worry. When I asked you what kind of present you’d like from the Paci Fairy, you screeched NOFFING! and stormed away from the table. We worried. But a few weeks later, we were down to our last one that we could find. For days, I told you that we weren’t going to buy a new one if we lost this one, and inevitably, the day came. We couldn’t find paci. The first nap and sleep were hard. You asked for bananas. You asked for songs. And stories. But you did it. And really, within 3 days, you’d stopped asking for it, and thankfully, we found the lost paci before you did and hid it up very high, stashed away in case of some kind of emotional emergency.

And the end of your second year, and into the beginning of your third, you began having these strong, strong emotions. Your ability to communicate disappears as you tumble into a pit of emotion and tears and screams. Usually over something very small that we don’t fully understand. I coach you through taking drinks of water and taking deep breaths (strategies I learned from my own mom around your same age), and I’ve found a good hug and just letting you cry for a few minutes usually resolves it. Once in a while, I video tape you and show you your tantrum, which gives us about a 15 second reprieve until the video clip is over. Having had a three year old before, I know this is a season and this too shall pass. I try to hid my laughs as you let out these irritated grunts or scream NO! NEVER!  or stamp your foot, yelling, I WAN WATCHA VEEYO!! It’s always very dramatic, and with you, just a little laughable.

Probably because for the most part, you’re very sweet. You love to cuddle in the mornings. You have the sweetest little voice- Wan play doll house wif me, Mom? Whayou doin’, Mom? Les have a TEA party!“I jus do that fer daaays.” “I wan some ootmeaw, Mom!” You love to help me cook, standing on the stool. You are incredibly curious, and still want to play with everything that is not a toy. You love, love, love phones still. Still reaching up to grab one off the counter, eyes closed so we won’t see you, a slight guilty smile on your face. If it’s quiet, generally, we find you tucked away in the corner of a house, hiding with the phone.  You had a stretch of months where you would wake up very early, well before it’s light out, and quietly sneak downstairs. Sometimes helping yourself to forbidden snacks – suckers, or coloring on my calendar, or mostly, searching through our darkened house for a laptop to open or a phone to steal. You are so quiet and sneaky (something we have NEVER experienced with chatterbox Owen). It’s irritating. It’s funny. We’re still working on a solution.

But now you’re getting up at more reasonable hours, predictably coming to your Dad’s more-responsive side of the bed, either crawling in to get warmed up or saying Wake up, guys! or simply whimpering Cheewios! or Rice Kwispies! You are starving in the morning, typically eating between 1-3 breakfasts, quietly. You love pizza, chanting PI ZZA! PI ZZA! PI ZZA! when you find out that’s what we’re having for dinner. You don’t always love meat, but you like most veggies and fruit and cheese. You love Hommus (which you pronounce like you’re from the Middle East), and fizzy water, and graham crackers and anything sugary, especially ice cream. You often don’t want to eat dinner, and there is drama around the four bites we make you take, but again, I’ve had a three year old before, and I know this too shall pass.

You are really social, Elsa, saying hi to strangers, squeaking excited Hi, Guys! whenever friends come over. You have days where you’ll carry armloads of all your favorite stuffed animals (bunny, puppy, praying bear, kangaroo, and a bunny from my childhood), seriously explaining Dese are my friends. At your birthday party, you looked out the window, yelling, MY FWIENDS ARE HERE! You love to go to our small group with all the kids, or to Owen’s preschool, slyly trying to get in the door while I get his coat off. You desperately want to go to school. You talk about your friends at nursery. You love Archie and Ollie and Milo and Olive and the Johannsen kids and Baby Hannah you regularly say things like, “Oh Sosie? I WUV her.” We lost your best buds Estella and Khari to Uganda this summer. I cried the last time all of you hung out. You didn’t. But I knew what you were losing in them. We talk to them on the phone. You love to see pictures and videos of what they’re up to now. It is the sweetest thing to hear you pray for them, thanking God for them, asking Him to keep them safe in UgANda.

We moved this fall, leaving the home of your babyhood. It still makes me sad to think about your not remembering that space – the way you’d sit on the kitchen counter, looking out the window at our garden, the way you’d climb on the front porch, or run around our backyard, trying to climb the fence and trees. But you love our new house. You love the “secret room” upstairs. And walks around the pond. And especially our sunny front bay window. You are always up there, reading chatbooks or playing dollhouse. Lately, we’ve taken to having picnics up there in the sun, eating our lunch and drinking from the teacups you got for your birthday. Or when Owen’s at school, I make us both some tea, and we sit up there (or on the kitchen floor), sipping tea and reading books. You are so proud to carefully pour from your little kettle. Those are such sweet times between you and I. I treasure them.

We’ve begun to see one of your strengths come forward, and it seems like you are a person with deep capacity for compassion. This fall, I had some moles removed on my back (getting old is gross, sometimes), and the incisions were covered in bandaids. For weeks and weeks after, you would ask me, “Mom, you okay? You got your bandaids?” I tried my best to explain to you that I was okay, but your concern for me lasted. And then, a few weeks before Christmas, we learned that our friends Billy and Marta were pregnant with a baby who had apparent heart problems. As part of our devotions, I’ve been trying to teach you and Owen to pray, sharing real requests with you and modeling how we can ask God for things. I told you about Baby Bernard, and we regularly began to ask God to help his heart to be okay. You would remind us, usually 2 or 3 times a day, to pray for the baby’s heart. You would ask God to help his bandaids (I had explained what his post-surgery bandaids would probably be like, much to your bandaid-hating dismay). We prayed for Baby Bernard all the time. And then. He was born. And his heart was 100% fine, and I rejoiced, praying that God would help you remember how he answered your sweet and fervent prayers, and that you would always know Him as the God Who Hears, the God Who Responds, the God Who Can Do Anything.

Some other things that are true of you at three. You love art, any art projects. Especially painting. You love to paint. You know most of your letter names as well as the word that goes with it on our letter puzzle. You almost never just say the letter; it’s T for tie, S for stinky sock! You can count to about 7 confidently, and are finally getting the hang of color names. You love animals and going to the zoo, especially to see the leopard. You love going to the coffee shop (Sovereign Grounds or Riverview) and getting a hot chocwit and playing with the toys. You love Gleason’s gym and bouncing on the trampolines. We often go to the library. It’s been really fun to have a few hours a week with just you and Lewis. When Owen’s around, to be honest, you have to fight to get a word in edgewise, so when it’s just us, it’s kind of nice to hear from you and to move at your pace. It’s much quieter, much gentler. You love Minions and the Penguins movie, as well as anything Frozen, of course. We tried and tried to keep Frozen from you, but you love it. You love to pretend to be the princesses, mostly Anna strangely. You freeze us. You sing the songs and request them constantly. After months of wanting a Minions cake, you switched it up and requested a Princess Elsa cake instead. You love your dolls and diaper bag. You love to ride your bike, and a recent 60* February weekend found you on one of your two bikes almost constantly. You cannot pass a puddle without jumping in it, even in church shoes.

Mostly, Elsa. You are just a delight. I love having a daughter, and almost every day, I thank God for giving me one in you. I pray often for your future – that you will be rooted in Him, find your confidence in your identity as His child, that He will call you to Himself. I hear your sweet voice singing Jesus Wuvs me, and inwardly I cry out – “Yes! Amen! Let her know your love, Jesus.” I pray that you will find friends who will draw you closer to him, that God will be preparing a husband for you, who will love you like you deserve. I pray that you’ll know how much your dad and I love you, and moreso how deeply God loves you, and how he made you uniquely and perfectly.

Elsa, you are three. And I’m thankful for each and every day we’ve had with you. I love to see who you’re becoming.



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