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When you were a newborn, I knew you as well as it’s possible to know another human being. I was your everything; you were mine. I knew what each cry, each smile, each grasp intended. I anticipated your spit-up, your hunger, your fatigue.

You grew into infancy, and we remained nearly as intimate: your laughs, your budding motor skills, and your newfound interest in toys were my complete delight. I was there with my camera to document the first time you sat up and played with toys on your own. I knew every single food you had eaten and its level of texture. I saw your first crawl and cheered you on with each movement.

As a 1-year-old, you challenged me in new ways. You were getting into everything but learned to listen to no sooner than expected. I knew your favorite toys, how long you’d watch Sesame Street before losing interest, and when it was time to drop a nap.

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I continued to track your development closely during this year. I knew right away each time a new tooth bud erupted. I tracked your height, your weight, your sleep. You became a big brother before I was ready for you to stop being my baby, but you took on the role with gusto. You fetched diapers, replaced a dropped pacifier, and patted your baby sister with love.

At age two, your defiance often knocked me off my feet, but I learned to enjoy inventing creative solutions to keep the tantrums at bay.

My desire to love and protect you was as fierce as ever, and your personality emerged more each day.

The park, the pool, and cake were new and awesome discoveries. You loved to play pretend and were awed by the introduction of the iPad.

That year brought big changes: You stopped using a pacifier for sleep, went through potty training, and moved to a toddler bed. I couldn’t believe how well you did and your easy-going personality made me more than proud.

We celebrated your third birthday with ice cream cake, your favorite. You got a new iPad, your most beloved toy, to replace the Mesozoic model you’d been using. I had to work harder to follow your interests (PBS Kids, Nick Jr., trucks, and blocks). You loved daycare and made friends easily. Sibling rivalry came as a shock to me: Who knew it started so young?

You’re three-and-a-half now and seem to be changing faster than ever. It’s the little things that take me by surprise. You never liked macaroni and cheese, but then a couple weeks ago, you started to really like it. What new foods will you want to eat next week?

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You astound me with your language skills each day and the new concepts you suddenly understand. Your book choices are changing, and you ask Daddy to read you different books than you do me.

I knew you yesterday. I know you today.

How can I make sure I will know you tomorrow?

I want to always be close to you, son. However, I am starting to realize it won’t always be easy and won’t come as naturally as it did in the baby and toddler phases. I have to make time for us to be one-on-one. I have to work to stay connected to you a little more.

As you grow older, you’ll rely on your friends more. You won’t come to me for comfort every time you get hurt, or scared, or disappointed. But I hope you’ll still come to me for comfort sometimes. I hope you always trust me. I hope I always understand you. And most of all, I hope you’ll always know how much I love you.

Julia Vorobiev

Julia is a mother of two little ones, a wife, and a teacher. She lives in Pittsburgh.

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