You are four. FOUR. You are officially a pre-schooler—no longer a toddler. No more answering: “Three. And-a-half” when asked your age. FOUR. Your birthday was actually Wednesday, but the day was so busy and you were having so much fun that I didn’t want to miss a single minute of it to write. It was the first birthday you’ve had where you actually “got it.” You knew you were older. You woke up with a grin on your face. You knew it was your day. You worked it, too … all day long. Birthday cake for breakfast? Check. More birthday cake for after-school snack? Yep. Chuck E. Cheese for dinner with dad? Uh-huh. Sleeping in bed with Mama (because “It’s my birthday“)? You bet. I joined you for lunch at school, you took cupcakes for your class at snack-time, you got a one-on-one dinner date with dad (and stepmom), you opened presents, and you probably matched your body weight in sugar consumption.
You seem older now. Lately, there’s been a real jump in comprehension and communication. You are a more integrated part of things with your siblings, rather than just an add-on. You’re beginning to argue rationally with me, occasionally eschewing temper tantrums for logical efforts to change my mind when you don’t get your way. You sleep through the night now, every night. (Knock wood.) Even though you are the baby and I still “do” things for you at an age I was probably long-past doing them for your older siblings, you are remarkably self-sufficient in the dressing/feeding/bathing/bathroom arenas.
Your favorite color is yellow (“lellow”). Your favorite restaurant is Chuck E. Cheese. You can write your name. You can skip. You can swim. You know all of your shapes and colors and most of your letters. You know all the words to “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” (I’m not saying that’s a good thing … I’m just sayin’. And also? You didn’t learn it at my house.) You love to color and play Play-Doh. You use my iPad more than I do. You always have 3-4 small “treasure” items that you carry around with you at all times. They are random things—a bracelet, a plastic wand to a bottle of bubbles, a rock, etc. Every few days, the collection changes, but whatever items are the treasures of the day must be accessible to you at all times, day or night … or else somebody (guess who?) is going to pay for it. You sing all the time, making up words and tunes and belting them out like you’re playing to a packed room. You dance … a lot … and we have spent entire evenings watching and filming your moves.
You are FULL of life. You are, quite possibly, the most dramatic child I’ve ever known. I swear that 99% of the time, you do not talk … you emote. Your facial expressions, your hand gestures, your tone of voice, your body movement—all quite often appear as though you are on stage. I think you are completely aware you are doing it—I’ve caught you in your bedroom practicing different reactions in the mirror. You’re a performer. You love the spotlight. When someone points a camera at you, you don’t just smile … you pose.
Three was a rough year for you—you struggled with having two homes. You missed your daddy … a lot. There were many, many bedtimes when you tearfully questioned why Mommy and Daddy couldn’t live together. You often preferred his house to mine. You often preferred him to me. I won’t lie—that hurt. A lot. Just recently, though, perhaps hand-in-hand with the “you’ve seemed older” mentioned above, you seem to be on better terms with the whole situation. There haven’t been as many “Daddy” tears lately. You’ve seemed to have a better grasp of how much time is involved when discussing the number of days until you go to dad’s, and how many more until you come back. Transitions have seemed smoother. Bedtimes have been easier. I know it’s hard. I wish it weren’t. I promise that I (and your dad, too, I think) do the best we can to make it easier for you. I hope it gets easier still.
As we climbed into bed Wednesday night at the end of your big birthday day, you reached for me.
“Mommy, will you hold my hand?” Of course I will.
“It’s dark but as long as you hold my hand I still know you’re there.” I’m right here. I promise.
“Don’t let go, ok?” Not. A. Chance.