Happy 4th Birthday, Katie!

Happy birthday, big girl. When you were three (yesterday) I could still pretend you were a baby. Now, like you say, you may be *my* baby, but you're not *a* baby. Four years is big. There's no denying it.

Yesterday you spent an hour playing baby with me. You fake cried and wanted to be cuddled. Your idea of what a baby is like is very unrealistic, but I didn't care. Any excuse to hold you. You're so active and independent, you don't always want me to hold you. Now when I hold you you pull away from me. If I squeeze you like I want to you say "ow!" even though I know it couldn't have hurt. It makes me a little sad when you pull away, but I'm also proud. You're growing up. As Barbara Kingsolver says, motherhood is the business of making ourselves obsolete. If we do a good job, we aren't needed anymore. I take solace in the realization that I still need my mom very much indeed.

This morning you woke me up with an excited whisper, "Mommy! I'm four!!" This is the first birthday you really understand. You are so excited about every little part. The one thing you asked for was a candle shaped like a four on your cake ("just like Naveen's"). You are very eager to have things that are the same. In the morning you hold up your bowl of cereal up to mine and say, "Same!" Your glee in sameness has motivated demons deep within me. They compelled me to buy you a hideous Cinderella dress (reversible!) that I know you will love. Because of these demons I won't even throw away the Barbie that Ejiro gave you.

And what is with all these older girls completely falling in love with you? Ejiro gave you a Barbie and a card. Sorcha made several presents for you including a paper basket filled with Mini Eggs. I won't be surprised if you finish the day with cards from Sade and Amena as well. Something about you in all your glorious you-ness makes the year 5 and 6 girls go all mushy.

I can see what they're on about. You've got miles of shiny curls, your grey-blue eyes (thank you, Daddy) are so stunning and beautifully framed by long lashes. Your brown skin (thank you, me) positively glows in the sunlight. As I've told you a zillion times, that all makes you merely pretty. To be beautiful, you also have to be a nice person. I guess you must be a very nice person, because all the aggressive girls in nursery have a soft spot for you. Miss Fry said you're a bit of a lion tamer and the rough girls just want to be sweet around you. They want you to like them.

You say you like everyone in your class, but I know this is a carefully measured statement. You don't like people immediately. You wait. You assess. Once you get to know someone, then you decide if you like them. Lucky for everyone, you usually decide to like them. Even if you don't like someone, you're willing to give them another chance. I find this absolutely astonishing. You didn't get this from Daddy or me. This is your own wonderful trait. We admire you so much for it.

Oh, and did I mention that you're brilliant? You've been reading anything and everything you can get your hands on since last October. You devour books and are getting bored of picture books. You like longer stories with more complicated plots. This makes me so happy, I can't stand it. We always tried to give you good books, but even "Katie and the Mona Lisa" begins to wear on the 200th read.

Daddy is teaching you maths and you love it. Now we ask you what's the biggest number in the world and you answer, "Googolplex!" You can count to 100 without missing a beat. You can add and subtract numbers as long as you've got enough fingers to count. I hope you know how amazing we think you are.

I am so emotional today. I wish I could say that your birth was the most wonderful day of my life. The fact that I got you was wonderful, but all the other stuff wasn't. I'll post your birthstory another time. Just know that whatever it took to get you here was worth it. I would do it a thousand times if I had to. The thing that cranks up my Mommy-guilt is that I don't think it was necessary. I think you went through a hell of a lot and didn't need to. I think that stupid vacuum and forceps delivery was a nightmare for you. I am so sorry. You seem to have recovered pretty well. I will always be sorry I couldn't give you the beautiful start to life that I wanted.

You are my Katie. My girl. I feel like you were made from my rib, carved from my arms. My love for you is so carnal, so intimate. It defies explanation (not that that will keep me from trying). Happy birthday, Katiekins. I love you a googolplex.