Last week, we had a countdown going.
Last 3 days of being 3.
Last 2 days of being 3.
Last day. Last breakfast. Last drive to school. Last ice cream cone. Last bedtime.
The night before the big day, the big first day of 4, we reminisced a bit. I glanced at the clock and told you about how, four years ago at that very minute, I was getting ready to go to the hospital. To meet you. And I sat in that moment for a bit. Remembering all of the emotions of that night. The excitement and the fear of the unknown. And the sense of calm that all would work out exactly as it should. Or maybe it was the calm one feels when her world is about to completely change and there is nothing to do but just move along with the current.
And then we watched some old videos that are not really old but that feel a lifetime away. The day you were born. Your first swim lesson. Your first crawl.
And I almost couldn’t believe that the chubby, little baby with the huge brown eyes in those videos has grown into the four-year-old girl (with the same huge brown eyes) whose long, lanky legs draped over mine as we watched. The transformation seems surreal. And, yet, here we are.
After that pre-bedtime moment, the rest of the weekend whipped us up into a frenzied pace with parties and family visits and phone calls and gifts and so many sparkles and so much glitter that I’m still finding specks of it everywhere I turn. There was barely a time to pause and think. Barely a moment to sit with you and enjoy your moments in the threshold of four.
And now, you’re through. Already you seem older. And I know that’s silly. Age is just a number and you are not really that much older now than you were a week ago. But you seem to take your birthdays seriously. Four, to you, is very different from three. Just like three was very different from two. And it almost seems as if you feel the need to act the part.Take a big step. Be four.
Some day, years from now, you might wonder what you were like as a four-year-old. And so, I’ll tell you that on the night of your fourth birthday, you gave your last half of a cookie, a cookie that you bartered and negotiated with me to get, to a friend who had fallen and was crying and needing some cheering up. You are a sweet girl with a heart that is kind and beautiful and brave. You shower your brother with hugs and kisses and you play with him and help him and feed him. You mother just about anyone and anything that crosses your path – dolls, stuffed animals, toys, friends. Sometimes even me. You love and you care.
You create. You find calm in wrapping your fingers around a crayon or the feeling of peeling the paper off of a sticker. Glue and scissors are your favorite tools. You don’t often follow the mode or the model. You go your own way with the materials you have. And if those materials are sparkly and glittery and, as you say, “shine in the sun,” then all the better.
Shining in the sun is important to you. And you do it well.
Except when, you don’t. Sometimes, you are withdrawn. Sometimes the world or the moment or your friends overwhelm you and you shrink back. You stop shining. As you come into your own, more fully living in your own skin every day, we’re learning more and more about you. You don’t like big crowds. You prefer small gatherings. You enter new situations slowly, sometimes so slowly that you miss out entirely. You are tentative.
Sometimes you can be mean. Sometimes we all can. And I hope in the 300+ days between now and your final days of four, that I can help you learn to contain the mean. To recognize when you’re just overwhelmed or in the wrong place, feeling the wrong thing, at the wrong time. To hold your tongue.
I hope that I can smooth things out for you. Keep the major upheavals at bay so that you can feel comfortable in your skin and in our home and in our lives. I hope that I can teach you to enjoy all that this life offers us, and help you do it in your own way and in your own time.
You’re a dreamer. You imagine intricate stories and you play them out – with me, with your brother, or with the dolls and toys lying about. Sometimes I hear you carrying out a story in hushed tones and quiet voices. Playing but not wanting to call attention to yourself. Preferring to live in the little world you’ve created. As a girl, I preferred the same. Most days, I still do.
You are smart. So very smart. And quick. You notice things that others don’t. Always do that, my love. Always notice things.
I hope that one day you’ll look back and read this and notice that some of the same things hold true. I hope you’ll see this for what it is – a description of an amazing little girl written by the mommy who loves her so much.
Keep shining in the sun.