Dude, I don't even know.
That's about the best way to describe the past year since you turned two. When I last wrote this kind of letter, your twin sisters were just coming out of the NICU. Now we've celebrated their first birthday — a feat that, for long stretches in the NICU, your mommy and daddy figured was some mythical faraway milestone.
And then your sister Quinn got really, really sick just a few weeks after your second birthday. So sick with pneumonia that she almost died right in your mother's arms. It's tough to even write that sentence.
Elliott, as much as your mom and I have rehashed that night and ensuing days over and over — mommies and daddies don't ever truly get over something like that — we don't nearly enough tell you how incredible you were through all that.
You were two years old. You had just received your first tricycle, which, stunningly, is already too small for your 38-pound, growing-like-weeds-in-daddy's-neglected-yard frame — and were finally seeing your parents home at night every night for the first time in months after weeks of the NICU and mommy being on hospital bed rest.
And then, without warning, we were back in a hospital with Quinn.
You remember how much you complained about all of this?
I've heard you complain about the color of your straw, the sweatshirt dad picked out, the episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on TV, and a million other things toddlers are prone to whine about, but somehow, Elliott, you never gave mommy and daddy a hard time about months of us having to put you in the backseat (and many times, literally, considering all the back-and-forth trips). You always came over to the hospital with a smile, and figured this was just a new place to play. You saved mommy and daddy a lot of heartache by not making a big deal out of it. And now we're all happy and healthy, and so eager to celebrate your third birthday. Why?
You're an amazing boy.
And so, as I have done before, I'd like to fulfill my duties as a dad and take a moment for some honest talk as you enter your third year. Happy birthday, Elliott
Time to be honest with you, son.
- I wrote this last year: "When you turned one, I was so proud of you because I thought you were the best one-year-old and I couldn't imagine how you'd get better. What an idiot I was for not believing you'd be even more amazing the following year." What an even bigger idiot I was for not realizing you'd be even more hilarious, curious, loving and cool in your second year.
- There are days I wonder if you are trying to break some kind of world record for saying "Mommy" or "Daddy" in a row. I'd tell you that you sound like a broken record but that implies you know what a record is. You won't even really know what a cassette is or, likely, a CD. All of these things are what people like daddy used to play music before "Daddy's phone" existed. Did you know it wasn't always possible to play "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" on a phone? Gasp!
- When you got a big boy haircut this year — the first time it wasn't left long — we couldn't believe how grown up you looked. You probably wondered why we didn't realize you've been a big boy all along, and why it took a haircut for us to realize it.
- When you wake up in the middle of the night (fortunately, not often anymore), you love bringing along items from your bedroom for no particular reason. You also have the biggest smile on your face and say things like "Mommy! Breakfast?" and daddy says things like "ELLIOTT IT'S FOUR IN THE MORNING!" and then you snuggle in. One day we will miss that. I hope you'll miss it a little, too.
- If we're still potty training you by the time I write this letter next year, next year's letter is going to simply say, "For the love of God, PLEASE."
- You'd be surprised how much life gets better when you don't poop yourself. It's at least 47% better.
- The way you love your sisters is adorable. It's also kind of adorable you blatantly prefer Hannah. Not that it's Quinn's fault. She's not a fast mover yet and Hannah thinks everything you do is hilarious, such as having her "catch you." To be fair, Hannah also thinks it's funny when the dog licks her in the mouth, but still.
- There will be a day, maybe sooner than we think, that your sisters go to you when they cry or to make them feel better, and not mommy or daddy. You didn't have that advantage as the older brother. But you'll get all the perks of two sisters who adore you.
- No, I don't know why your sisters are crying. Sometimes babies cry. Sometimes adults cry, too, although usually not for the same reasons.
- Last year, I mentioned I cried when I rocked you for the last time as our only kid. This year, you're practically putting yourself to bed, what with selecting your own book, helping to brush your teeth, and falling asleep on your own when daddy has to go help your sister go back to sleep. I won't cry over that. But it means just as much.
- I am still hoping you end up with your mother's eyesight. Trust me on this one.
- Your hearing is fine, by the way, despite you fully committing to not hearing us when we say "It's time for dinner."
- You got to see your first movie in the theatre (Zootopia). Based on how the movie industry mostly just sticks to sequels, I look forward to you taking my grandchild to Zootopia 23 for his first movie one day.
- Your hand still fits inside mine. Your head still can nuzzle under my chin. And your feet still are comically small in daddy's shoes. I'd love for it to stay that way forever, but I'm also excited to see how big you get.
- I hope you aren't scared of vacuums and lawn mowers forever, because I've got news for you...
- I can't take back the times I snapped and yelled at you for no reason. Daddy's learning on the job, but I'm still sorry. Thanks for always giving me a kiss at the end of the night no matter what.
- I love that you have made your own friends.
- Since we're being honest, we don't keep a lot of your artwork. There aren't enough refrigerators in the world. I'd rather hold onto that smile you give us when you proudly hand us your latest masterpiece. I can hold onto that forever.
- I love you immensely and completely. That's as honest as I can be. Happy birthday dude.