I'm at a loss as I sit here on the night of your third birthday-- how could you possibly be three? I know every parent probably thinks this to a certain extent when a child turns the next age older, but since you're our caboose it feels especially cruel that time has to move so quickly. However, if time moving is what eventually brought you into our family, then I cannot be mad for long because you-- at any age-- continue to be a gift to us.
Oh Sloany-ba-donie boy, you have completely shifted our house in so many ways. It's louder, for sure, messier [with cars], and I have no idea how you are sticky by 8 AM but, you are. You STILL drool, and if we give you ONE m&m you can still be drooling chocolate an hour later. I have no idea how. Or why. Or how. [Speaking of, when you get an M&M you point to the M and say, "It's like McDonalds!"] In regards to letters, you're of course too busy to be interested in learning those, however one day I was doing an alphabet puzzle with you and you pointed to the N and said, "That says 'BA DONNNNNN'!" I couldn't figure out what you meant and then it donned on me: when Netflix comes on for our movie night every week a giant N appears on the screen and the music says, "Ba donnnn". You don't miss anything, my boy. Your dad and I can be having a conversation that we think everyone is oblivious to and pretty soon you pipe in and repeat something we've said. You know everyone's vehicle [better than I do!]-- all our neighbors and friends and family. You are very observant and take everything in with those big brown eyes.
Last year in your letter I mentioned that you loved cars. Well, that love has only grown. You lay on the floor so you can get the perfect view of their moving wheels and you will play and play and play. While you do love having your sisters join you [they make everything fun!], you can occupy yourself with a stack of cars and some racetrack or your construction vehicles for nearly an hour. You've now even developed a little "voice" that you speak in for the cars when they are animated, and it is deep and hilarious and I love to just sneak around the corner and listen to you: "Hey dumptrut. Hey cement mitser. Let's go to the store. Yeah. Let's go to the store." For your gifts this year no one wanted to give you anything practical because seeing you light up every time you open a new car is priceless. So even though you need winter gloves, a helicopter now resides in your room. You have slept with your new airplane. "Mack and the truck" [from Cars] has had to go with us on errands and out to eat. You're acquiring a collection of Jeeps and get so excited when you see a real one on the road. I know you'll outgrow this phase all too soon, so for now we will relish our table being a garage, the window sill being a parking lot, and the hallway being a racetrack.
You have slimmed down a little this year, but are still pretty hefty and strong. The last few months when your sisters have upset you, you've begun to throw things at them or, when simply reacting, slapping at them. And you're already big enough and strong enough that this is dangerous so we've had lots of time outs and conversations... so man, in fact, that now when you sit down in a time out for something like this you immediately just start touching my cheek really softly because you know that's how our time will end: "Sloan, you've got to be gentle... like this... " and then I will shoe you with your hand on my cheek. Gentleness is actually a trait we've been praying for you since we found out you were a boy. It's a fruit of the Spirit we should all strive for, but your dad and I are especially praying that you can lead with your gentleness, and I know those seeds are being planted now in these spirited time outs and repeated lessons. However, for the most part, your sisters adore you and you them. Your relationship with Nan has especially grown this year, as you spent most of the year with just her as Blythe and Becks were at school. She pretty much solely calls you "Buddy". You play puppies and cars and torture our neighbor's cat together. She is the Scout Finch to your Huck Finn.
There is something tender, cautious, and kind in your spirit, Sloan, and you seem to just wedge a place into a soft spot in people's hearts-- your dad and me included! And now that you're talking [non stop] this is even more true. Just the other day your dad said, "He is just speaking in paragraphs now! When did that happen?" And while I feel I can absolutely describe you as tender and kind, you are also so busy and loud and physical. You love to run around outside and drive your little red car up and down the street. Our neighbors are building on and they had a big pile of dirt where they dug out the basement and you would always ask to go "play on Beth's mountain." You love bike rides with your dad and are now old enough that you've been able to go to the creek a couple of times and you could hardly get enough. You actually love the outside so much, that one morning you went outside and our neighbor had to bring you home! You hadn't run off but you were just busy playing in the front yard [barefoot and in your pajamas! In early March!]. You have slowed down a bit on eating this year but that's probably because you are RAVENOUS every morning and eat about three different breakfasts... then you're pretty set for the rest of the day and the other meals you sometimes can give or take.
The other night at supper one of the girls prayed and then you asked for your turn: "Jesus, thank you for the sky and my sandbox and bulldozers and dumptrucks and diggers. Amen." You were coloring one day [not your favorite pastime, but I'm working on it], and you were coloring a rhinoceros. You started coloring his feet and told me, "I'm coloring him's stompers." When watching Pocahontas for movie night, she got in her canoe and you about burst with excitement pointing and saying, "A pond boat! A pond boat!" [It was just like the boat that Papa takes you in on his pond, therefore, the canoe was a pond boat!]. During movie nights there are inevitably points in the movie that scare you a bit-- any loud noises make you jump-- and you crawl up and snuggle in tight with your dad and I. It's that tender spot in you. Oh, and you also fractured your leg again this year and ended up in another cast again for a bit. Let's try not to make this a super routine part of every year please?
Three is a big year of changes. You officially move away from toddler hood and become a little boy. And Sloan, I won't lie-- that change is breaking my heart a little bit. It's not because you aren't the most fun little boy, but it's because you're my last. Every chapter you close, I close too. And I have always loved having a two year old in my home, yet here we are, at the end of that story and embarking on three. And I'm just letting you know this now: this is going to be what it's like for you for every big milestone we leave behind. You'll be my last "first day of Kindergarten," my last "first baby tooth lost", my last "potty training" [okay. That one is fine. Come onnnnn, you can DO THIS!], my last "dropping a kid off to college" ... whatever it may be, you're the end of the road and you're going to get a lot of emotion from your mother because of that so I'm just apologizing now. Your dad said to me the other day, "How are you feeling about being done with two year olds?" and I, in all seriousness, said, "I don't want to talk about it." Your dimpled hands are mostly gone. We've ditched pacifiers for good [we told you we left them all in Colorado after our trip last spring]. You don't need help going down stairs. You sit in a regular chair and sleep in a regular bed. But you know what? Growing up is really great. Learning to do new things is hard but can be so much fun. So as we close the toddler chapter together, you and I can grow up together, a little more every day, deeper into who God is calling each of us to be-- okay?
This year you and I will have a lot more one on one time together-- I haven't had this much with a child since Blythe was two! I'm really looking forward to all the adventures we will have together. You are absolutely our little joy machine. When I put you to bed there are several different songs I sing you from Amazing Grace to Blessed Assurance. But one that has kind of become our song is from Tarzan. I will sing "stop your crying, it will be alright, just take my hand and hold it tight... " and by the end, I snuggle in close, and say, "from this day on, now and forever... always" and you whisper back, "Always." Always, Sloan. Always.
And like I end every birthday note: Your dad and I hope you always understand the why behind our no-s. We hope you feel safe in the boundaries we set. We hope you feel freedom in the wide open places we leave for you. We hope you see God in our actions and words. We hope when you leave our little home for good and go out on your own that you'll back on this simple little life we had together-- chaos and mistakes and messes and all-- and see that it was Grace that held us together; that you see that it was God's daily bread that provided it all.
Happy third birthday, Sloan Lee! There is nothing you could ever do to make us stop loving you.