You turned four this week. I confess, I was a little surprised that you’re just now four: you’re so tall, so articulate, so mature, I often forgot you were only three. For the times this year when I forgot how young you were and so expected more from you than you could give, forgive me.

I’m sure I’ll forget again, because you’re still tall and articulate and mature. But we’ve both grown up some this past year, so maybe I won’t forget so often. Or maybe you’ll rise to the occasion. Or maybe we’ll just muddle through and make the best of things: grace abounds in our relationship, in both directions, because your heart is large and my heart is for you.

As this new year of your life begins, these are some of the things I want to remember, my dear sweet girl, about the three-year-old you were:

All last fall, and through the winter until my belly grew too big, you fell asleep in my bed each night, lying on my chest. When I’d pick you up to take you to your bed, you’d wrap your little legs around my waist, your arms around my neck, and sometimes you’d sigh in your sleep, whisper “I love you, Mama,” against my shoulder, and I’d think every time I carried you that the weight of you in my arms was perfect.

You love to run. I love to watch you, the way your feet pound the ground, your legs pumping, your golden hair streaming out behind you.

You always mispronounce the word “pajamas.” You say “tajamas” instead. I’m dreading the day you outgrow this.

One night last month, when I came to tuck you in after I’d fed the babies at three a.m., you woke up just enough to say, “Will you cuddle with me right here for a little minute?” Though I was bone tired, how could I say no? I lay down beside you, and you put your hand in mine, and we both fell asleep.

On our daily walks through the neighborhood, you’re always calling, “Look, Mama!” and pointing out tulips in bloom or roses or dahlias or little johnny-jump-ups growing next to the sidewalk or the scarlet or yellow or sienna leaves of an autumn tree. “Isn’t it pretty?” you say. And I say, “Yes,” but I don’t say how grateful I am that you notice these things, that you’re teaching me to notice them, too.

Every once in a while, when I give you your bedtime blessing in the name of the Trinity, you tell me soberly, thoughtfully, “God is our Father in Heaven, and Jesus is God on earth, and the Spirit is God in our hearts.” And I wonder how you know this, who taught you, and how you came to be a theologian at the age of three.

Though I can’t hold on to the feeling of your hand in mine, I want always to remember that your hands are soft and warm and trusting when you slip them into my hands.

When you bought your first 200 piece puzzle, you cried because it was too hard for you – the first time, I think, that you couldn’t do a puzzle by yourself. Your dad and I sat down and helped you with it that first time. After that, you didn’t need us to help you anymore. But sometimes you wanted us to.

Every day for the past nine months you have faithfully prayed for your friend with leukemia. You pray for her at each meal and at bedtime, a prayer of thanksgiving for your friend and for God’s healing of her.

I also want to remember holding you while you cried because you’d fallen out of bed, or knocked your tooth against the arm of the sofa, or left your brand-new toy that you bought with your own money in the party supply store. I want to remember that you trusted me and that sometimes, I deserved your trust and responded to your pain the right way – with hugs and kisses and love and my own tears.

On the last night that you were three, you fell asleep in my bed. When I picked you up to carry you from my bed to yours, I noticed that you’d grown – a lot. Your legs around my waist were longer, your body was heavier. But the weight of you was still perfect.