Happy 3rd Birthday, Samantha Alyse Madigan

Dear Samantha,

You turned three years old today. Outstanding! Like I did last year and the year before, I thought I’d send you a letter to let you know how it went and what I thought of the whole thing. Some day, when you’re famous and powerful, you can include this in your memoir. Possibly in a chapter entitled “See, This is what I Had to Put Up With.”

Looking back over your last year, I’d say there are two major themes flowing through it: independence and change. And hoo boy, let’s talk about independence. You started off life as the most milquetoast of creatures, mostly sanguine as long as your basic needs were met and ready to please or conform. Somewhere along the line, though, you decided that you’d be missing out on a lot of developmental opportunities if you didn’t push back a bit. At first you kept it pretty straight forward, opting to throw the occasional hissy fit if you didn’t get what you wanted. This prompted me to create the Samantha Alert System and we pretty much adapted.

From there you progressed on to ineffective Jedi mind tricks to get your way, as well flat out power struggles. And of course, there’s always the nonsensical contradiction of everything we say and constant rearranging of the command structure in our house.

And then there were the times when you actually tried to use your noodle and talk your way into (or, perhaps more frequently, out of) different situations. Your nascent understanding of negotiation led you to turn my own manipulation techniques against me.

But I have you tell you, Sam, I don’t hold it against you. In fact, here’s a secret: it’s one of the things that I love about you. While having you obey me without question and never having you lunge outside the boundaries we’ve set up for you would make life a lot easier and safer for you, I know that testing the boundaries and flexing your own prowess –social, physical, mental, and otherwise– is part of growing up. I want you to question authority when it’s appropriate –even my authority. I want you to think for yourself and to be brave enough and confident enough to disagree when your heart or your mind tell you to do so. That doesn’t give you carte blanch to try to rake a screwdriver across my computer monitor like you did that one time, but you’ll fine tune those impulses eventually. I’ll help you.

I think the second theme to hit us this last year is change. You obviously changed a lot by simply dividing your cells over and over again, but about midway through the year your surroundings changed, too. See, you were born in this mystical land called “San Diego, California.” Literally, there were princesses and magical kingdoms right up the highway from us, but you had to pay through the nose for tickets and wait in line forever to get to the best stuff. Anyway, San Diego was five separate and distinct kinds of awesome. The weather was almost always perfect, there were fun community parks all around us, there were zoos and nature reserves, there were beaches, there were theme parks, and there was just about everything you could ever want to take your daughter out to do on a Saturday afternoon. On top of all that your and your Mom had a playgroup full of friends that got together every week and there were neighbors with other kids about your age. It was great.

So, we left.

Yeah, I know. WTF? (Don’t tell your mom I taught you that.) We left the only home you’d ever known and we sent you to live with Grandma and Grandpa for a week while your Mother and I drove the minivan more than halfway across the continent to our new beginning. Why? Well, in large part, for you.

I know you may be thinking that that’s a stupendously stupid thing to say, but hear me out. Family is important, Sam, and one of the main reasons we moved was to be closer to the rest of your family. You visit your Grandma and Grandma like every week now instead of a couple of times a year. Plus they can give you a TON more presents if they don’t have to take them through baggage claim or to the post office to get them to you. You’ve also gotten to see your Nana a lot more, plus your Aunt Shawn and Uncle Brent and your various cousins, aunts, and uncles on your Mom’s side. And sometimes THEY buy you stuff, too. Trust me, you’re raking it in. You’ll be able to open a retro toy store in a decade or two and live off the profits.

Plus, the new house is a lot bigger and nicer than what we could afford in San Diego, don’t forget that. You actually have room for all your junk now, even if it did take you a while to learn your way around. And there’s actually these things called seasons here, where the weather goes through wild mood swings. You enjoyed the Fall, and when Winter brought its first big snow storm you loved it. Slurping hot chocolate from a mug so big you can barely hold it just isn’t the same when it’s sunny and 74 degrees out.

So, I hope you don’t mind. You adapted to the new surroundings without any problem at all, so I’m guessing you’re cool with it. In fact, you’ve dealt with it better than we have. Occasionally someone will say the word California and you’ll arch one eyebrow in thought, trying to remember why that sounds familiar. And when Lightning McQueen, star of the hit movie Cars, said he had to get to California for the big race, you even straightened up and squawked “I used to live in California!” but then a few seconds later you seem to have gotten past it again. That’s one of the other things I love about you: a few exploratory tantrums aside, you’re incredibly easy going.

And of course, keeping with the theme of “change,” we pulled another huge change on you recently in the form of your baby sister, Mandy. Suffice to say that you took this change to your world with minimum difficulty as well, though there have been some complications to all our lives and some new challenges.

But that, as we say in the entertainment biz, is a cliffhanger. I’ll tell you all about it next year.

Love you,

Want to send Samantha a quick “Happy Birthday” note? Shoot an e-mail to samantha.madigan@gmail.com.

And of course you can read the archives for more.

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4 thoughts on “Happy 3rd Birthday, Samantha Alyse Madigan

  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAM!!!!!!!!!!!
    We hope you had a great day and had lots of fun! We wish we could have been there to celebrate with you.
    We will call this weekend when the time difference is not as much of an issue!
    Aunt Shawn and Uncle Brent

  2. Beautiful! One of my granddaughters turned 3 the day before Sam and it is such a wonderful, never know what to expect age.

  3. That was a very insightful birthday analysis. It must be hard to sum up an entire eventful year, but you did it — and you made it entertaining as well as detailed. Happy birthday to Sammy and congratulations to her family as well!

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