We begin your fourth year today, and I have spent the past few months watching all the baby melt away and the kid emerge. It seems to be the magic age when so many baby struggles – sleep, potty learning, communication difficulties – have sailed away. The label of “toddler” isn’t even one I can really use anymore. You are a preschooler, a kid, a boy.
You grew up this year in a big way. And even though I thought I’d be weepy about that, it’s such a privilege to watch. Your imagination and your way of playing is something I know only lasts for a little while. I’m wanting to hit the pause button a lot these days, to freeze this moment in your life. But I’ve said that before, and look what I would have missed if I’d been able to pause on those baby years? So time marches on, and I know that somehow your future self will become something even more dear to me. These last few months have turned a new page it seems. We have real conversations. You understand things around us; you walk tall beside me, and you have opinions. Lots of them. They don’t always match my own, and you know what? This is just the beginning of that. We’ve got a lot to learn from each other.
In trying to explain to you what you were like at four, I can’t fail to mention your openness and honesty. You tell me if you don’t like what I made for dinner. You tell your sister if her diaper stinks or she is bothering you. You emerge from the bathroom to loudly exclaim, “I wiped my butt, mama!” It makes me squeeze your hand a little tighter and hold my breath a bit in public, hoping you don’t volunteer an assessment of a stranger. But with this openness comes a lot of joy and amazement in your world, too. Your joy is wide open for everyone to see. It reminds me every day to find happiness in the smallest things and to share that delight with others. I love you for that lesson and for a million more reasons.
You’ve had so many changes imposed on you in the past twelve months. We moved from the only home you’ve ever known. I went back to work in the college classroom. And your school routine demands a lot more of you than it did before. To say you’ve embraced these changes doesn’t give you enough credit. You’ve confronted these challenges with an acceptance and maturity that surprised all of us, and nothing makes me feel more at peace than to see you thrive so clearly in your current life. Countless leaps have happened in the past few months with your speech, your ability to focus, and your capabilities in a number of areas. You see tasks as your responsibility, your work. And you attack activities with such enthusiastic focus that it leaves me excited for your future. A sense of thoughtfulness and introspection is emerging in you, and it makes me proud to watch that happen.
To say I love you seems somehow inadequate this year on your birthday. I’ve always loved you, of course. But now, as we test out new waters and new ways of relating to one another, I can say I respect you. I see you, I hear you, and I value what you have to give to the world and what you are teaching me. I’m seeing the whole person emerge as we turn the page to your fourth year. Your curiosity, your kindness, your joy, your understanding – so many traits I’m grateful to watch emerging in you. I can’t wait to see what this year brings for you.