He coos from his bed, low and emphatic (as ever).
He is stretched out long on his tummy, resting on his elbows, chin in 2 hands. He has slept at the wrong end of his top bunk so that when I enter, his face is 6 inches from mine.
“Its not true what he said. (The neighbor boy). The worwold is not actuwawy going to blow up soon.”
“Have you been worrying about that?”
“You are so small to have such big worries.”
“Its not actuwawy true. What he said. About the worwold. Blowin’ up.” Chin still in hands.
“No. Its not true. The world will not blow up.”
After a thoughtful suck of his thumb and caress of his collar between his fingers, he is satisfied enough to get up. He rises with vigor.
“Yes! I knew it. Today is my birfday.”
“Tomorrow is your birthday. One more day.”
“Noooo. I’ve been waiting too long so today is my birfday today is my birfday!!!!!”
My concern that he’d been worrying about the world blowing up all night long vanishes. He makes it quite clear that withholding his birthday one. more. day (Mooooom) is much more alarming.
He tries his big brother. “Um, I think its my birfday today?”
“Why do you think that?” asks big brother.
“Because I feel bigger.”
Big brother advises him, “No, when its your birthday, you don’t get bigger until noon.”
That solves that.
Today is the day of his 4-year-old ceremony at preschool. I asked him what he would like to bring the kids.
He puts on his sport coat without provocation. The day before one’s birthday is sport-coat-with-brass-buttons worthy. So is New Year’s Eve pool party, bowling, daycare, and bed. Last time he wore it all day he woke up in it too, discarding it in a pile of clothes to run around naked with his buddies (like a mini frat-boy).
But today, its worn with a cape and a crown. Because he is turning 4 (tomorrow).
Its snowy and below zero and I have an hour between work and a meeting wherein I can make it for the ceremony–its a 25 minute harrowing drive. I consider not attending when my husband says he can go instead, but I have to show up. Not because this little one, my 3rd, expects me to be there. I have to show up because he would not expect me to be there. So I absolutely must prove him wrong.
His babyhood was shorter than his brother’s, partially because he has always had to share me with them. His first year was blissful. “Three is our number,” we said. But then, in three short years, in swept grief and death, disease and crime, change and relocation, and above all, fatigue…
I won’t complain–all of these things happen to everybody–and they only hurt because our life is so good–but we got spent, and our biggest loans were taken out on him. I worry about our attachment.
Though he seems fine. He is sinew, muscles, and heart. He ran his first marathon before he was born (rather, we trained for it before I knew I was running for two).
He carries around heavy objects like coffee tables, sucks his thumb to ruin, snores like an old dog, tears our house apart daily, cracks up strangers regularly, and has friends of all ages.
He is a “worker guy.” Two days later, he unwraps his birthday present and exclaims, “A box of wood–just what I always wanted!!”
He wakes up most days in the costume he wore to bed, explaining what type of robot he will be for the day. “I-am-a-robot-cat-meow-meow” is the most common.
His preschool teacher has said, “He is so much fun. And he can be so stubborn.”
“Resilient,” I say. But I know.
He’s a softy too. He makes me read aloud his birthday card from Grandma three times, after which he says, “read the xoxox part again–that’s my favorite.” But he might take you out at the knees or head-butt your chin with his “hugs.”
He introduced an inventive game to me recently by saying, “you be the nail and I’ll be the hammer.” Thwop. Game over.
Perhaps my favorite-est ever was the day he came inside from playing with his brothers, looking alarmingly stiff and unable to turn his head. “Mom–I am taped to stick!”
He skipped tantrums at 2 and 3. Too busy. He’s making up for it now. He also does things for which we cannot prepare. For example, had we seen the potential to stack a high chair on the bench over the hardwood floor and then stand in it–we would have told him that was against household rules. I find spatulas in the oven, computer cords in the washer, dinner plates in the bathtub, winter boots in my bed. Since he started walking at 11 months, we could see he didn’t plan to sit much, ever again. Anyone who knows him, and much to his Grandmothers’ and babysitters’ chagrin, he sports a particularly unique blend of super clumsy and incredibly coordinated.
He ranges so widely and so creatively, I feel like he thinks no one is watching him. And I worry its because, for a significant while, we were not watching him closely enough. Some of his behaviors seem to be a product of early freedoms one is afforded when, for instance, their mom and dad are distracted.
So we are reattaching, and its fun. Our theory is likely entrenched in guilt-based, over-achieving martyrdom with a bit of nostalgia. He may actually just be a free spirit, but it can’t hurt. We cuddle more. We limit more. We talk more. His response? Sudden and impulsive mid-play “I love you’s,” and wild leaps from chairs into monkey-lock hugs: art, stories, hand-holding.
So why not?
I make it to the ceremony. This preschool is so beautiful, warm and creative in its approach, I think of it as a gift we have given our children. When I arrive, he is in his cape and crown (and suit), lighting 4 candles. The teacher is telling the story of when he came to be and the angels picked a family for him. Then his family picked a name for him, and the great Spirit chose a birthday for him. And suddenly, there he was, 8 pounds and 11 ounces of love in his parents’ arms.
He blows out the candles and unwraps his teacher’s handmade gift–a felted wool box with a seashell and a piece of pyrite inside. She explains that its time for him to open up and show the world what’s special about him on the inside.
If he could just do that without the spatula and the dinner plates, that would be great. This time, we will be watching.
At age 4, you are independent. We wonder if a little less independence might suit you better. Speaking of the suit, you are well-groomed (aside from the yogurt smudges and permanent lip chapping where you suck your thumb). You have always had an uncanny willingness to share. You brought your teacher a present on your birthday. You are bright, creative and industrious. I think you would make a great farmer (preferably organic). You are magnetic. You bring people toward you and keep them near with your fun, sparkle and love. Just watch your elbows–you are stronger than you know. I would like you to play and move and grow and invent. I wish you boredom because I can’t wait to see what you will make of it. I wish you patience for practice because I see you drawn to music. I wish you confidence to share your sense of humor. “Potatoes.” Honestly. I wish you friends as good as I am sure you will be. I wish you adventures because you were clearly in every possible way made for them. Safety first. Please, always ask me to “pickle you up,” and I always will. Happy birthday. I accidentally typed buttday. You would love that. Oh, your laugh. It is music to my ears.