My dear Jack,
I knew exactly what was going to happen, and that made it all the sweeter.
Walking in the door at the end of the day, you and Charlie were in your usual spot– shoulder-to-shoulder on the couch, watching “Robo Car Poli.” I threw down my bags, threw on some ‘jams, and curled up next to you.
Without missing a beat, you climbed onto my lap (or, at least, tried to get as much of your giant body as possible onto my lap) and snuggled in close.
That was last night. And today, my dear boy, you turn 4 years old.
I clearly remember Charlie’s fourth birthday; you were growing in my belly and Charlie suddenly seemed so big.
You, however, still feel like my little guy. I think it’s because you’ve managed to retain a sweetness that feels so pure, a gift from the universe.
Besides being the world’s biggest cuddle bug, you’ve begun saying “I wuv you” unprompted. You say it often, while stroking my arm at the dinner table, when I’m buckling you into your car seat, as I deliver a fresh bowl of Cherrios to the breakfast table, when you’re stalling before bed. You close your eyes, flash your sweet smile, hug me around the middle, and all is right with the world.
You talk to everyone — kid, adult, Vons checkout clerk, Amazon delivery guy — and strike up a conversation. You ask so many questions. You love to share facts about your life, about your big “bwothuh.” You have the most silly, expressive faces. You shouted, “MISS DAISY!!!!!!!!!!,” when you spotted your teacher on the first day of school, and ran at least 50 yards before jumping into her arms. You asked for Charlie to have a a turn opening your birthday presents so that he would be happy, too.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you’re sunshine and rainbows all the time. In fact, some of our most frustrating times with one another have occurred in the past few months. It’s the age, for sure. Tantrums happen quickly. Time outs happen frequently.
You have very strong opinions about the “right” way for me to play toys with you. You still balk at eating most meat (vegetarian, maybe?) and hate sharing your “gratefuls” for the day at the dinner table.
The whining — oh, the whining! — can feel interminable. In the morning, it can take us a half hour to just get you on the potty and into some clothes. And you’ve begun shouting, “BUT I KNOW EVERYTHING!,” when I correct something you’ve said.
Also, you and Charlie tell on each other like I’ve offered some kind of reward.
However, there are more and more bright spots in your brotherhood. You’ve both learned that NOT waking up Mom and Dad on the weekends garners you more “chips,” which you can exchange for screen time, so Saturdays and Sunday mornings have been lovely.
I slept PAST 8 A.M. last weekend, while you played together in Charlie’s room. Quietly. Without killing each other. Me from a year ago would have never thought that was possible.
You love weekends, actually. We bought you a magnetic calendar for your room because it became so difficult to break the news every morning that, no, it wasn’t a weekend day. You love to cross off the days and add magnet descriptors about what’s coming up, but get frustrated when I take down the “Snow Day” tile. Sorry, dude, we live in a desert.
Preschool is incredibly fun at this age. At four years old, you’re no longer one of the youngest kids. You can write your name. You’ve begun reading three-letter words. You ask me to read every display we see (last week, for example, the lipstick signage at CVS).
You’re a big kid, physically, too. In the last few months, we’ve had to plunge your toilet more frequently than the entire time we’ve lived in this house. I don’t understand, you’re so tiny. WHERE DO YOU KEEP SUCH GIANT POOP?!
You recently embraced your first joke, and tell it constantly.
“Mommy, what’s a zombie’s favorite toy?”
“Jack, you just told me the answer. Three times.”
“MOMMY, WHAT’S A ZOMBIE’S FAVORITE TOY?”
“I dunno, Jack. What is it?”
“A deady bear!!!!!!!!!!”
I am so appreciative of this time with you, my little sweets. I fully recognize that as my youngest and last child, I’m probably holding on a little too tight to the baby in you.
It’s just that you cast so much love into this world. It’s almost too much for my heart to bear. I glance around, try to make eye contact with other adults, as if to say, “Can you believe this kid?! He’s so incredible, right?!”
While pushing you on the backyard swing the other day, you yelled out, “Push me higher, Mom, so that I can kiss the sun!”
You, my birthday boy, shine just as bright. May this coming year — and all the years that await — be filled with such light.