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Welcome, Eliza.

Happy half-birthday, Eliza.

I never got around to writing a welcome/love letter like I’d intended. I didn’t quite know what to say that I hadn’t said to your brother, which isn’t really an excuse. And I didn’t have the time or energy, which is actually a good excuse for a parent of two, except it’s not quite true; I found enough time to slack off in the evenings, when I could have been writing.

But a big part of it is that I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around you. You were a new baby; I’d done that before. Except that right from the start, you were your own person, and weren’t about to let us forget it.

First minutes

You took your time arriving. You didn’t seem to feel any pressing need to orient yourself the right way, and in the meantime, you stayed put. Your mom was exhausted by the end, but still thrilled to see your face. (We should add that we saw snowflakes that day, the last of a long winter of the most snow in recent memory.) It took you a long time to get used to the idea of riding in cars, and it’s still not the universal sleep panacea that it was for your brother. A coyote baby, indeed.

Love

But wow, are you lovable. Loved. You and your brother have taken to each other (in your own ways). Nathan has been protective of you. He tries to make sure you have fun (but appropriate) toys. And when you’re crying in the car, he talks to you softly: “Don’t worry, Eliza, I’m here. Mama and Papa are here.” My heart breaks.

And you—your brother was the first person to make you laugh, a good deep belly chuckle, and he’s still the only one reliably able to draw one out. (Though you find your cousin Finn pretty funny, too.) Your eyes follow him around the room wherever he goes, fiercely studying his every move.

This is one of the big differences between the two of you: You’ll have him to look up to, to emulate. For a while, sometime in the future, he’ll resent this a bit, but always, even underneath the (temporary) resentment, he’ll be proud to be an older brother, and proud that you’re his little sister.

Smiling for the camera

You are independent; you entertain yourself quite well, as long as someone is there to retrieve the toys that you’ve enthusiastically shoved or dropped out of reach. You don’t feel like nursing for a moment longer than necessary, or sleeping for that matter. (In the latter, at least, you’re just like your brother.)

Of course you’re changing all the time; it’s trite to mention it, but it still astounds me. Just the other morning, you looked like a different girl than the one who went to sleep the night before. In a good way, naturally, growing up and maturing and seeing more of yourself and the world, but still different.

I don’t want anything to change, but I can’t wait.

We’re not as scared with you as we were with Nathan; we know you’re tough (like your brother), and we’re not going to break you. You’re going to learn and grow at an astounding rate, and you’ll teach us only a little less.

We love you, Eliza.