Dear Annabel,

Last night when I was tucking you into bed, I asked you to stay two years old. “But I have to turn three, Mama!” You said back to me. And yes, I know you do, but the problem is after you turn three, then you’ll turn four and so on. Suddenly the idea of you growing up, something I’d rarely let myself imagine for fear it might not happen, scares me because it will. You grow bigger and more independent, and someday you’ll go off and have adventures without me. Oh, my heart.

You’ve had a pretty amazing year, if I do say so. You learned how to swim, and started gymnastics and dance lessons. You met your favorite Princesses and flew on an airplane like a pro. You moved into a big girl bed and quickly took to potty training. You love to color, play pretend, and build things with play-doh. You love being read to, and I often find you flipping through the pages of books. You make me proud all the time. Every day I look at you doing something new and I am blown away. I’d like to think I have something to do with that, but I know deep down that you are a self-propelled force and I am merely tasked with guiding you in the right direction.

You are also stubborn, and willful, and opinionated. These are traits that will serve you well once you are surrounded by the forces and pressures of your peers, but right now they help you into many face-offs and time outs. You are so much like me that it scares me, because I know we will have some rocky years ahead of us. So I make sure that we end every time out and every stern talking-to by saying how much we love each other. I’m hopeful that you’ll always remember that, especially through your sure-to-be-loud teen years.

As we enter your last few months as the baby of the family, I am doing my best to make you feel special but not spoiled. Things are going to change a lot once your brother arrives, but I am sure to tell you every day that your place in the family will never change. You will always be our special Annabel, and you will always be my baby. I am so excited to see you with your brother. I can’t wait to watch you become a big sister. You are always so sweet and caring. I think having a sibling you can interact with is going to make you blossom in ways I can’t imagine.

After I tucked you into bed you said, “Mama, tell me about when I was a baby.” As I scratched your back I told you about how when you were first born, you slept in my arms with your head on my chest, every night, for weeks and weeks. I was so thankful you were here that I couldn’t bear to put you down. “Did I put my head right there on your heart, Mama?”

No matter where you lay your head, you will always be on my heart. I love you my sweet Annabel. Happy birthday.

Love, Mama

facing the wind