Letters to Jack: 4 Years, 7 Months

Hey there, peanut,

It’s Memorial Day, so we’re all home together. A few hours after you woke up, I found myself imploring, “Universe, grant me the strength to get through this day.”

By that point, you had thrown your stuffed Yoda at Charlie’s face for no reason, screamed at me for suggesting we take a hike today (we did, and it was awesome), peed on the couch, and had thrown a tantrum because you refused to change your wet pants and therefore couldn’t go with Charlie and me to the bagel shop.

They call these the “F*%k You Fours,” right?

It’s definitely been a challenge to foster your independence. At breakfast, you asked me for a fork. When I said you were perfectly capable of walking over to the drawer to get one for yourself, you let out an interminable whine, and groaned, “But I don’t want to get up agaaaaaain!”

Welcome to my life, kid.

Then, there are times you absolutely want to do things for yourself. Case in point: We park the car, and Charlie leans over to unbuckle your seat belt after he unbuckles his own. You explode in a fit of rage. By this point, Charlie has walked around the car to open your (child-locked) door, and you ratchet your screaming to deafening levels. So, you are yelling, Charlie is crying, and everyone in the Vons parking lot is trying not to make eye contact.

For some reason, you’ve decided to dig in on your refusal to pee. It can take me 20 minutes every morning to incentivize, beg, cajole, threaten and sometimes drag you into the bathroom before you will go. Dad and I at experts by now at identifying your pee-pee dance — all while you insist that you are in no need of a restroom. Then, of course, it’s DEFCON 1, and I’m praying that you don’t pee all over the home goods section of Target. (Sorry, Target)

In the next few weeks, you will graduate from preschool. You’ve been working really hard on developing your fine motor skills (particularly writing and coloring) and following directions. You know all your letters, have started doing basic addition and subtraction, and can read many three- and four-letter words. You even know some Mandarin! You’re improving at pronouncing “L”s; we’re also focusing on “R”s.

Your teachers say you are incredibly smart, that your vocabulary is far beyond grade level, and that your brain moves so quickly that it can be challenging for you to focus on the task at hand.

Still, we see progress. Last week was your end-of-the-year school performance, and though you spend a good 70 percent of the song fiddling with your costume, poking the student next to you, rolling around, and at one point licking your shoe, you stayed on the stage the entire time — and even sang parts of the songs!

Because you were born in the fall and we live in the great state of California, you will attend Transitional Kindergarten next year. Dad and I are grateful for this extra time to help you develop skills and prepare for kindergarten. We also need this additional year to determine whether we want to place you in the school’s Mandarin immersion program. It’s been our goal to have you enroll, but we’ve heard cautious feedback about the tough academic environment. While your primary teacher didn’t say you weren’t a fit when I asked her about the program recently, she mentioned the rigorous instruction and expressed appreciation that we have another year to decide.

It’s really incredible to watch you grow, even though I know it can be tough. Recently, Dad and I had a night by ourselves while you and your brother stayed at Grandma’s. Like all parents do when they’re away from their children, we reflected on all the reasons we love you guys.

For you, we celebrated your sweet nature, your unbounded capacity to show love, your joy of making others laugh.

In the past few months, you’ve embraced the phrase, “I love you,” and you say it with abandon. Where ever I am, you find me and climb onto my lap. You’ve begun participating in our dinner-table ritual of expressing gratitude for some part of our day (though we often have to encourage you to say more than, “I’m grateful for my day”). You shout “huggie” when you see me and run into my arms.

On the nights I get home late from work, but near enough to bedtime that I know you’re still awake, I love to climb into your bed. Your eyes grow big with surprise and awe, and you cover me in cuddles, kisses and hugs. I don’t know if there is a better feeling in the world.

Then, I’ll peek in a few hours later and inevitably find you wrapped around six or seven cars that you’ve dug out of your shelf in the darkness, even though no toys are allowed in bed. One time I found a drum kit.

You are my goofy, bright-eyed, loving little boy. Though I sometimes want to use a different “F” word to describe these years, I know deep in my bones that they really are simply Fantastic.

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