Dear daughters: A letter to preemie girls turning 3

 What I want to tell my former NICU twin girls as they turn 3 years old. | instafather.com

What I want to tell my former NICU twin girls as they turn 3 years old. | instafather.com

Dear Hannah and Quinn:

It is not unnoticed by me that I'm writing you a birthday letter a week past your birthday. As any toddler parent knows, the days of being on time for anything are gone. Being on time is for people who haven't spent 17 minutes searching for one shoe only to discover it's been in the car seat the whole time.

So much has happened with the two of you since you turned two. 

Hannah, you're potty trained now! Kinda! Mostly! In fact, the day we tried you just figured it out and peed on the potty no less than a dozen times in four hours, as you quickly figured out the M&M bribing system.

Quinn, you have turned us into those parents who keep telling anyone who will listen, "Our daughter is so smart!" But seriously, you have long been identifying letters like a Sesame Street character vying for the Letter of the Day solo. We cannot claim credit for this. Let's just go ahead and credit Super Why.

I don't know if it was easier or harder on me when you turned 3 compared to last year. Three is so firmly entrenched in toddlerdom. Three means daddy has to pay for you at Infinito's Pizza. Three means absolutely no one is mistaking you for babies, and in fact, the only person who calls you babies right now is your brother and I hope he calls you "my babies" even when you're 32. 

When you turn 2, though, you can wear 24-month clothing and mommy and daddy can still pretend you're a baby. No longer. Babies do not pee on the potty. Or know how to operate an iPhone and take photos of your nostrils. Or have elaborate backseat discussions about, well, mommy and daddy can never quite figure it out but you two know exactly what's up.

I wrote this last year: "I started writing Instafather waiting for you both to come out. Ever since then, you give me reminder after reminder of all the challenges dads face ... and why it's all worth it."

This still is very true! The years are passing quickly, but I could still give you every visual detail of the hospital rooms mommy stayed in waiting for weeks on end for you to arrive. You do not need additional reasons to say nice things to mommy, but don't ever forget that she waited patiently in one bed for you with no end in sight because that's what you needed to be healthy. And, as you've noticed, mommy is a very active person, so this was like asking an improv actor to stay on topic. Mommy has done more for you than you'll ever know.

Sometimes, the days are full of hair-pulling, crying, and whining, and that's just dad. I am quick to say sorry if I've let my frustration get the best of me, but I also know soon enough a sorry won't cut it and some words and actions won't be quickly forgotten. I promise to keep doing my best. If you could also promise to not ask for 378 cups of water at bedtime, that would be cool, too. People ask daddy all the time what it's like to have twins and I try to be very honest and say it's tough. It is SUPER tough, and that's considering you both are dreamboats. (Now, sure, I have said under my breath that one of you is being a real a-hole tonight, but we both know you were.) I also make sure to say to those people that I wouldn't have it any other way. Twin three-year-olds sounds like a sitcom plot.. actually, I think that was a Full House plot... but that also means you make us laugh a lot, too.

bestfriend-shawtwins

Sometimes, the days are so good that I can't believe you get to be my kids. Have you even LOOKED at yourselves? The two of you and your brother are all so adorable, but what I love most is how often you are so kind. Quinn, I've never heard a toddler say "Thank you" as much as you do, partly because you say "Thank you" for any nominal gesture. Your voice is so cute and girly and like it came right out of Central Casting that I hope I never forget the way it lights up my face. Hannah, you are so hell-bent on helping sometimes that you get mad when we don't let you, say, carry in all the groceries despite the fact you weigh under 30 pounds. 

Both of you are so unique that you are quickly becoming twins in shared birth date only. It's like I get the best of both worlds for daughters. 

Now, let's be clear: Right now you are in full-on Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommy mode. Mommy and I are sure that, given the option, you would crawl back inside her. That can be tough for daddy, not so much because I feel "less than," but because not only does it mean mommy is rendered useless as she pries you off like a giggling blonde wetsuit, it means I can end up just being more of a hindrance than anything else. It won't always be like this, and thankfully you still are both quick to hold my hands and cuddle up on the sofa and hug me tight every day. But, and this may surprise you, mommy does not have to be the one to put your socks on. 

Quinn, there are some days I still end up telling somebody about your near-death experience, and it's both so distant to me now and yet I can visualize every single detail. The thought of you turning three, then, makes me so happy. You are a fighter who happens to wear ballerina dresses 42 hours a day. Seriously, it's almost like you were born to be three. Every person should have a Quinn.

Our preemie girls when they were in the NICU. - Instafather.com

Hannah, I am already so confident you are going to be an amazing, charismatic, everyone-pays-attention-to-you adult. I'm hoping by that point you don't make everyone pay attention to you by yelling "I do it myself!!!!!" to no one in particular and stomping out of the room, but to be fair, I've worked with people who basically do the same thing. You already are such a daring, joyful, empathetic kid. Good God, I love you.

It's telling that with every month I think of you less and less as two twin girls who were in the NICU and just my two daughters who are growing up. Don't think for a second, though, that mommy or daddy will ever forget how vulnerable and tiny you were in the NICU, or how your entire hand fit on the tip of my finger. Daddies don't forget those things. 

Your older brother is headed to kindergarten this fall, so in many senses, you will be the only toddlers left after years of the three of you doing everything together. I know you won't understand this yet but enjoy every single moment. And call out for Daddy sometimes. I'll always answer.

Happy birthday, Quinn. Happy birthday, Hannah.

Love, 
Dad