Tomorrow Ave will be three. I’ve been sitting here trying to find just the right picture to represent what she’s been and who she’s been and the ways she has changed me. I can’t.

I’ve had fun going back and reliving the ride that has been the last three years. Watching video of how she used to approach Briar, try to engage her, play with her, only to literally be pushed down with an emphatic, “Ay-ree, guh-way!” from a toddler Briar. I wish I had understood more clearly than who she was. She’d pop back up, let loose a raspy chortle and continue on her way, pursuing Briar with unflagging exuberance.

I worried so much, from whether or not I could love her like I did Briar to how she would fit into the family and whether or not she’d be as pretty as her sister. That sounds so awful, but the truth is, when you go from one to two you worry, about everything. Of course I worried, everyone said, “Briar is so beautiful!” I wanted to love them equally and have them be equals in beauty, athleticism, intelligence and popularity. I wanted perfection, not from Ave, but for her.

Looking back I see how perfect the mix of acceptance and resistance was. Avery has become a part of Briar as much as she has become her own person, introducing an entirely different kind of beauty and magnetism. She is everything I hoped for and more than I ever dreamed possible.

I watch her in awe, knowing that she possesses certain things I always pined for, specifically a sense of self so potent that she will never follow—speaking as the mom that can be tough, speaking as a woman, it makes my heart roar. Avery is going to be just fine. She is going to have the kind of cool that cannot be created, she will do things her way and in the doing she will delight, confound, entrance and confuse. I am grateful that as she moves through life she’ll have Briar on one side, by-the-books and sweet and on the other side she’ll have Fin, willful, but with a lightness of being that soothes.

This is the eve of Ave’s 3rd birthday, but as she was on the day she was born, she is far beyond anything you would expect. She is magic through and through. Three years that have passed like minutes and yet I feel as if she’s been with me my whole life.

Happiest of birthdays to my Ave.
My middlest.
My silliest.
My strongest.
My Avery.