Today you turned 46 months old, which is nearly 4 years old! Do you know that I used to write you one of these letters every single month? I loved doing that for you, and though I do not plan to return to that practice, I thought it might be nice to have a snapshot of you as a 3-year-old.
Do you know that about 13 different imaginary friends have lived in our house? Maybe 17. I can’t keep count. First, we had Deer, who continues to be one of your best friends, then Corna, Khana, and Squeak. They started to bring their brothers and sisters to our house, and occasionally their parents dropped by. You have decided that you don’t like boys, at least the pretend ones, so you’re perpetually sending all of the brothers on vacation or sometimes to the hospital — in an ambulance. I think you created the boys just to have the pleasure of kicking them out of our house.
You carry on long conversations with these friends, and if Dad or I should interrupt, you lock your arms at your sides, scowl at us, and yell: “No. I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to Deer.” I know that all children have wonderful imaginations, but yours lifts you to another plane. At times, you literally cannot hear me for the story billowing inside your head. I see your creativity as your greatest strength, and I know that someday, other adults are going to try to bend and funnel that creativity into something productive, into some sort of skill to attain money, not joy. I hope that you nestle some small part of your creativity in a place that no one can touch.
Your preschool teacher told me a few months ago that you love process art. When I came to pick you up from school the week before Thanksgiving, each child in your class had decorated a feather that said what they were thankful for. I couldn’t find your feather. “Hers is the one completely covered with glitter,” your teacher said. “See? Process art!” And that’s how you tackle most projects, with an intensity and focus more suited to a professional chess player.
With this talk of imaginary friends, you might assume that we are social outcasts, but you have many real friends. You demand to play with them daily, if not hourly. You tend to be sensitive and will sob with nearly physical pain if your friends run off to another room to play and leave you behind. You always serve as the group police officer, which probably isn’t helping your case. The instant that another child kicks a ball inside the house or sneaks a cookie before dinner, you’re at my hip to tattle. It’s not that you want to see the child get in trouble. It’s more that you have such a firm compass that you can’t nudge it even for a friend.
The most amazing part of being your mom is helping you figure out the world. Each day brings questions: “What is hockey?” “Why is it raining?” “Where is the moon?” “Why did Genevieve die?” You are so earnest in your desire to understand everything that my heart nearly swallows the rest of my body at the thought. You will have many teachers in life, but Dad and I are the first. We do our best to be kind, to be generous, to be honest. There is deep sadness in this life, and there is radiant grace. You are my radiant grace.