My dearest Bubbers,
You are two years old today - such a big boy! I can't believe how fast the time has flown. We've already gone through the traditional present-opening phase of this birthday (clothes! books! fingerpainting!), but I feel this celebration merits something more. Something that is, perhaps, more for me or Mama or Baba than for you, but someday, maybe you can appreciate this letter too. The wonder of the internet is that it will always be here for you.
I remember the first day I met you, when J. and I came over to your house to bring Mama and Baba some dinner and see the wonder that was this new little piece of them. You were so tiny - still smaller than I was even when I was born - only eight days old. Baba carried you in a sling, and mostly you slept. You also pooped. You were adorable, and I think I loved you even then.
About three months later was the first time I got to babysit you. Mama and Baba were teaching a dance class, and I got to hold you with me on the side of the studio. You were happy to hear Mama and Baba speaking, and you clearly enjoyed the music. You were still so small, content to sit in my arms with your pacifier and watch the spinning people go by. I felt so lucky to be the one holding you, as everyone came up to express due admiration for your cuteness.
A few weeks after that, I began coming by the house a few times a week to help out with you. Mama and Baba needed time to work and run errands and attend meetings, and I was more than happy to spend that time with you. When Baba went back to work, I spent even more time with you. We spent a lot of those early days on the futon in the playroom. I began to sign things to you - colors, mostly, because you seemed to really enjoy the shaking. I sang to you, and made silly noises, and together we read many board books (though you preferred to gum the corners). We learned to intersperse some "tummy time" into our activities, and you would struggle and strain to move yourself forward, somehow realizing it was possible without understanding how to make it happen. We played with blocks, rings, keys, animals, and - of course - our toes.
Don't think it was all sunshine and roses, though. Boy, did you hate it when Baba left. You would scream - sometimes for hours - to be away from Baba. I thought maybe you would be happier if I put you in your swing, or let you lay on your playmat, but no, you wanted to be held, even if it was by The Person Who Took You Away From Baba. So I held you, and walked you through the house, and rocked you, and talked to you, and sang to you, and danced with you. With you in my arms, I choreographed almost an entire foxtrot, which is why you get credited for assisting me in that choreography when it shows up in performance programs. It was sad, and exhausting, spending those hours with you while you screamed.
But there were other hours, too. Hours when I would hold you in my arms while you slept, and together we would sit in the glider and just be still. I would watch you then, how your lashes swept softly across your cheeks, and how your mouth puckered open as you breathed. Sometimes you would turn your head, and when you moved, there was a moment where your damp, sweaty head would stick to my elbow, and then you would be settled again, resting on your other side, still sleeping soundly in my embrace. And I would think in those moments that I should put you in your crib, let you learn to sleep somewhere besides the arms of those who loved you. But I couldn't let you go, because those moments were so precious to me. I still remember those moments, and they are still precious.
Eventually, I had to turn my attention to other things, and you needed a full-time nanny. And Mama and Baba found you a great one - one who loves you and cares for you, and one who you love, too. But I didn't disappear, and you didn't forget me. I was one of the first people you learned to identify by name, and you could always pick me out in photos. As you continued through some non-trivial stranger anxiety when Mama or Baba would take you out in public, I would always get a happy grin and a giggle. We would dance together when they brought you to a dance event, we would go out to lunch with Baba, or stay home and bake with Mama, or play at home together while Mama and Baba went out. You came to celebrate my birthday with me, and I ignored the vast majority of my guests to see and play with you, because my time with you was (and is) so rare and special.
I've never been a part of a baby's life for so long before. I've never been so close to a child through all the stages of infancy into toddlerhood. I've never heard someone transition from having no voice to having a few words, and from having a few words into communicating - from gurgling as you fell asleep in my arms to waving from your crib and saying, "Night night, Nanny Lara!" I'm still not sure how I got so lucky, that your Mama and Baba are willing to share you with me as much as they do. But I am so grateful for it, because I love you so much. Only when I have my own children will I ever love another child more than I love you.
So happy birthday, beautiful and cherished one. You are my precious Bubbers, my little man, and I will love you always.