Yesterday was your birthday, and it was so odd – everyone in the house was sad and wistful at the notion. Even you; when Daddy said “good morning, four year old!” you blinked and said firmly “no, I’m THREE” as if everything would remain in stasis and you could always stay our baby.
I have never been the kind of parent who mourns the passage of time. Watching my babies grow up constantly knocks me sideways with just how bloody cool it all is, and you are no exception, my stubborn little guy. I’ll admit though that I felt a little wistful when I tucked you in last night, adjusting all of your stuffies and smoothing your fuzzy blankets just the way you like them. Four sounds very much older than three, and there is no denying that we are a family without babies now.
But then, I think about how suddenly, just this week, you stopped with the constant defying and pushback. You eat your breakfast, lunch, and dinner without much of a fuss. You get dressed in the morning and put on your layers of gear to stay warm at the bus stop with your brothers, always insisting on a toque pulled low and a scarf pulled high so you can be a ninja. You are unfailingly patient with our newest dayhome charge, an 18 month old who worships you and calls you by only the first syllable of your name because she can’t manage the rest. You feed the dog when asked and let the cat in or out as many times as he seems to want it. You try to help pack your lunch and you’ve never forgotten to return a preschool library book. You are learning responsibility, more each day, and after a year of despairing that I’d spoiled you – you have been a threenager with a vengeance, my dear – I suddenly see all of your potential coming to the surface.
This year you conquered many fears. You passed your first swimming lesson level, pushing through your panic at needing to go in the water without me to become a happy little guy in the water. You don’t scream when I wash your hair anymore. The transition to preschool was really rough – you needed to be pried screaming out of my arms at every drop off for three months – but now you walk into class with a smile, as long as you get your “twenty hugs” (a long hug with twenty back pats, carefully counted aloud). You’ve had a babysitter other than your favourite auntie and managed to go to bed. You rarely hide behind my legs when strange adults speak to you. Your confidence is developing, and it’s wonderful to watch you come out of your shell.
You’re learning to play video games, which is a rite of passage in this house. You’ve been watching your brothers play for most of your life, so understood the theory but not the practice. They are very patient with you as you learn, and in fact you’ve already made a date with Harry for after school, when you and he are going to open up the new Diego game you got for your birthday and learn it together.
Like your brothers, you’re into Lego too, and built the Batcave pretty much by yourself last night. On the weekend Michael sat with you all afternoon, letting you help build his new Star Wars kit, explaining carefully how to read the instructions and when taking it a step at a time is the only way to build kits. You also like to customize minifigs so you can be included in your brothers’ games.
Just now, I heard you telling Charlie “no, that’s not good manners. We need good manners at the table. I’m the KING of good manners,” which no, you’re not, but I’m glad you’re planning to take on that role. All of a sudden you are determined to be a big kid, and it’s hilarious & sort of shocking how rapidly the transition has happened.
I’ve been reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books to you, and you’ve got remarkable focus for such a little guy. We’re halfway through By The Shores of Silver Lake now, and woe betide if at day’s end we haven’t left enough time for “a chapter of Mary and Laura”. You’ve decided that when you grow up you will be a lumberjack, and you’ll bring the wood out of the forest in a wagon pulled by a horse that you will tame yourself.
Your favourite food is salmon casserole and for the fourth year in a row you requested a carrot cake for your birthday. You still refuse to go to sleep without your Polka-Dotty blanket, a sippy cup of water, and Lovey-Puppy. You love soft fuzzy bathrobes, oversized socks, and hooded sweatshirts. You loved The Force Awakens and Inside Out, you cried when we took down the Christmas tree and you asked for pumpkin pie with Christmas dinner because of the line “we’ll pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie” from Sleigh Ride.
You are incredibly stubborn, you can be difficult, you tested me as a parent in this past year in ways I’ve never been tested. You are also sweet, cuddly, fiercely loyal, devoted to your brothers and constant in your friendships. You think farts are high comedy but you always say “excuse me” without prompting. Every night when I tuck you in you run through “the usual thing” – you carefully rub my earlobes, pat my cheeks, neck, and forehead, and then say goodnight.
We love you very much and can’t wait to see what this year will bring.