A year ago, you started sleeping through the night; I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that. But then, there are nights here and there when you cry for me, at two-three-four in the morning, so urgently that I stumble dangerously down the hallway to reassure you you’re safe and soothe you back to sleep.

We had one of those nights a couple of weeks ago, in Boston. The old, creaky house we were staying in scared you with its nighttime noises, and you awoke, afraid, at 2 a.m.. I climbed up the steep, winding stairs to you and decided to curl up in the spare bed rather than chance a fall going back down. It’s a good thing I did, because you awoke again at 4, and once more at 5, at which point I picked you up and took you into bed with me.

I can’t remember the last time I slept with you curled up next to me; you must have been a baby, because ever since you developed the ability to walk, snuggling with you has put me at risk of grave injury. You kick, you climb on top of me, you throw your stocky little limbs across my face, and sleep is impossible.

Not this time, though. You curled your back against my chest, warmed your feet against my stomach, and fell instantly asleep, allowing me the rare pleasure of breathing in your sweet smell, watching your parted lips and flushed cheeks, and feeling your chest rise and fall under my protective arm.

It’s a rare pleasure because you don’t want me sheltering you much these days. You’re an independent and courageous soul, climbing up as high as you can get and counting – “One, two, three, FIVESIX!” (you’ve got something agains the number four) – before executing a high-energy jump that’s far more focused on the leap than the landing. You pick yourself up from most tumbles with a great “Oop-ah!” and you’ve developed an alarming habit of taking a swing at us when you get too wound up. (Your father has a shiner on his left eye as I write this, thanks to a right hook you executed with a toy car in your hand.)

We are delighted by your mastery of the letters of the alphabet, your passion for identifying musical instruments by their sound (we play “name that instrument” often in front of the stereo speakers), and your bottomless sense of humour, which mostly runs to the slapstick and scatological.

We worry about your obsession with playing “car game” (a puzzle app with car themes) on the iPad – Have we warped you? Set terrible examples with our own laptop and smart phone addictions? Set in motion a lifelong gaming addiction? – but since that’s about the only worry we have, we figure we’re doing okay.

You’re loud as hell, but you come by that honestly, so who can blame you? I for one, having received my share of admonishments to be quiet in childhood, rather enjoy your exuberant outbursts. Your favourite phrase at the moment, thanks to this wonderful book by Wynton Marsalis, is a line describing a trumpet that “Bla–bla–blaaaares with a big ol’ attack!” (Your version, indecipherable to anyone outside our household, runs together manically and sounds more like, “Bababaaaaaarebigotack!”)

We do try to rein you in occasionally, by suggesting you dial down the volume slightly – though we are rarely successful. My most treasured moment in recent memory is the time you stood in the middle of the kitchen, took a deep breath, and bellowed, “OOOOUT! SIIIIIDE! VOOOOOOICE!” I’m still laughing, weeks later, thinking about it.

You have moments of remarkable sweetness. You readily dole out kisses, high fives, and hugs to people you like. Last week, when your dad had to fly somewhere for an overnight work trip, and he told you he had to get on a plane, you protested with a clear, strong “No!” That was a first, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Yesterday, when my back was sore and your auntie M. was applying her professional massage skills to the problem, you came around behind her and began gently but firmly rubbing her back. When you were done, I offered you a massage, too, and you enjoyed it thoroughly.

I take every chance I get to touch your miraculous skin, feel the growing muscles beneath it, and remind myself that we are connected at a cellular level–because even now, while you’re still so tiny and need me in so many ways, I’m aware of how you are moving into your own rhythms, your own beautiful, quirky dance that will one day take you far away from me.

I love being your mama. Thank you for turning my world upside down.