Friday, February 8, 2013

{Happy Fourth Birthday, Little Bird!}

Dearest Little Bird,

Wow! Four years old! I swear this year has flown by, both in time and in the changes that have come across you. In this past year, perhaps the biggest change is that all the "baby" has dissolved out of you. You are entirely a "kid." The way you walk, talk, sit, hold a pencil, run, jump, play and more--all of this attests to the fact that you have truly left behind your baby and toddler years and are forging ahead toward "kid"dom and adolescence. You are a little miracle, every day. I won't lie; there were some tough moments in the past year between the two of us (for you and me), but I think we've both come through it for the better, and I love you all the more for it. I'm far from a perfect mommy, but if your sister taught me how to be a mother, you have always taught me how to be a better mother. Sometimes that's hard (on both of us), but in the end, I'm grateful for the challenges.

I'm so excited about who you are becoming. One thing that still holds true for you is that you are SMART. This past year, you've started sounding out words and can even read simple books on your own and love to sound out the words on signs as we drive and point out familiar words like "pizza" and "stop" and "off." You ask questions that surprise me, questions I assumed a three-to-four-year old would be too young to think of. But you are a thinker. You are interested in the things around you, the way they work and the "why" of them. You ask "why," but not in the endless, annoying way so many children do. You ask it thoughtfully, and I can see the wheels turn in your head while you listen to the answer. I try to respect this part of you and never say "because." I'm honest when I don't know, and I work hard not to dumb down answers too much for you or simplify them because it would easier for me (like when you ask questions about where babies come from and what happens when we die).

You love learning facts and memorizing information. Dinosaurs are currently at the top of this list. You know an extensive list of dinosaur species, more than I knew existed before your interest was sparked. When I call one a triceratops, you may correct me with, "No, no. No. No, mom. It's a styracosaurus." (I love the way you make corrections by saying no so many times, as though each is a separate sentence.) You love to go to museums, and even watch documentaries on TV about pre-historica and monster trucks. You lean towards non-fiction books on our library trips, unless of course they have to do with Halloween, as you also seem to have a penchant for the macabre, which you've surely inherited from your mother. I love the way you can pour over a book. You don't talk out loud about a book you spend time with, or make up your own stories. Instead, you stare intently and look deeply into the pictures. Every book must hold so much for you, and whether you are spending time alone with one, or having a book read aloud to you, it is an enveloping experience; your expressions and involvement (with movies or TV shows too, at times) is so much fun to watch. You experience deep empathy with the characters and it shows.

You absolutely love preschool. At the start of your third year, you were still attending "Toddler Lab" and I could tell you were bored witless--you'd simply wander from activity to activity and sometimes watch the other kids. Now that you've moved up to preschool, there is a whole new excitement. You are jealous of your sister's five-day-a-week schedule, and really lament those Tuesdays and Thursdays when she gets to go to school and you have to stay home. I think because of preschool, you've also recently started to be more interested in art and coloring. You still don't have a lot of patience for coloring pictures, and often tell me to finish them, but your attention span for them has definitely gotten better. You're now at the age that you are making friends. In preschool, you've made a few each semester, and I like to ask you about them. You tell me they are your friends because "we always sit together, always next to each other" or because a certain kid "says funny things and laughs with me." I think, based on what I see and hear from your teachers, that you may be gifted with leadership. Of course, you are so little, but you are coming into your own and seem to like to get others involved in your world and passions. Your imagination and ability to direct play is large--you've been well trained by your sister--and you are good at bringing other kids into that world of play with you.

You wonder. I love when you wonder and imagine out loud.

You are a thinker, but also a "feeler." You experience emotion more profoundly than many kids do, I think. I can also see the beginnings of empathy taking root. For now, your default emotion is anger--it comes out when you are scared, hurt, frustrated, ashamed, tired, hungry, or mad. But you are also (finally!) learning to curb that anger, to control it and express the real emotions behind it. I believe part of this is my finally understanding how to better parent you. Some of the rough spots between us this past year have been growing pains from my not knowing your emotional needs. Love and its expressions are your strongest motivator, and shame is what cuts you most. I work hard now to discuss your behavior with you in private, to work on your and Squirrel's arguments separately, and to try to empower you when you are visible to others. We both have work to do. I am still too short tempered and sometimes push against your anger instead of modeling meekness, and you know the buttons to push. (Recently, when you're mad about completely unrelated issues, you've cried out, "I'm never going to church with you again," which seems a rather insightful punishment for a three-year-old to inflict on his God-fearing parents.) And you are still quick to place blame on others when things don't go your way. Through this past year, we have both really worked, and it shows. Your anger melts away much more quickly, you have learned to give heart-felt apologies, and have learned that more than one emotion is possible. What were once explosions with screaming or hitting a few months ago, are now expressions of mitigated anger, such as, "Mom, I still love you, but I am feeling really angry right now!"

For however quick to anger you are though, you are also quick to forgive, quick to express love, quick to calm my troubled mommy heart.  When, for your fourth birthday, I presented you with this cake, you gasped, and exclaimed, "It's sooooo BEAUTIFUL! Wow! How did you make it SO beautiful??" You are by far my "snuggliest" child. You like to cuddle up. You tell me I'm the "best mommy ever" or the "nicest mommy in the world" and that I make the most delicious food (oh, how you will learn...), and that I'm your "special girl." These words, and the dreamy, sweet looks that accompany them are the very best part about being your mom. You come and stroke my face, hold my hand, or curl into my lap and release all the troubles of your complicated little life, and it feels like forgiveness for my misgivings washing over me. We make mistakes together, and in the sweet, quiet moments we share, we atone together.

One of the best surprises of the past year has been not just your deepening expressions of love for all of us, but especially for your new baby brother. I expected your sister to be the one who jumped up to help and who doted incessantly on him, but you have filled that role remarkably as well. You are my best helper and you also adore your baby brother. You coo and talk in babyease with him; you roll on the floor with him; you share your toys; you sing him songs and work so hard to make him laugh. He is such a blessed child to have you for a big brother. It is a role I was worried about you filling, but which you have taken on completely in stride. And he adores you right back. I love the way the two of you interact. Perhaps my favorite part of the day (even though it sometimes comes too early) is when you and your sister come into my room each morning, full of excitement to see the baby and coo and play with him.

You are funny. You're a little goofy, a little crazy, sometimes downright nuts and wild. I love this about you. You can make me guffaw with your wit and silliness. You say things that make me burst out laughing, partly because you have a great sense of humor, and partly because the words you use seem just a little too big for you. I love watching you dance. You are not particularly a show-man, which makes it more fun to see because you dance just for you. When you rock out, you do it with soul and meaning, eyes closed. Your favorite dance is probably the robot; you have some wicked robot moves. The one song you will always dance to or play air guitar with is The Black Eyed Peas' "I've Gotta Feeling" (which you call "The Green Guy," thanks to the album art that appears on the iPod).

You cannot be compelled to do anything you do not want to do. Perhaps the most frequent example of this is the fact that you categorically refuse to sing in group settings with your peers. At nursery singing time, you sit with your arms crossed scowling. The same goes for preschool circle time, when you are perhaps supposed to be marching in a circle or pretending to be an animal. Get back to the lesson, and you are happy to comply. Sing in a group? Not likely. So unlikely, that in the rare instances it has occurred, your teachers sought me out to tell me excitedly that you sang! This stubborn streak is sometimes the cause of some head butting around the house, but I can see it will help you be who you are meant to be, so I try not to quash it altogether.

You are just your own person. I love every little angle of you. I love the way you are such a kid, and yet you are still my little boy. I love those big brown eyes. I love your mood swings, I love your warm little body climbing in my bed still most nights (though I'm not crazy about the kicking and bed hogging). I love your huge expressions. I love the way you think. I love the way you love your siblings. I love your stubbornness and your deep desire to be a helper. I love the things you learn every day.

This year, you love dinosaurs, monster trucks, Cars and cars, reading (Little Critter and Elephant and Piggie and anything to do with spooky monsters and ghosts), trucks and tractors, superheroes, church, your brother and sister, and mom and dad, Dr. Pepper (you're always sneaking mine, and it's part of my motivation to keep trying to quit), candy, macaroni and cheese, apples (you will literally eat 3 pounds of apples in 2 are very regular), wrestling, yelling, riding your bike, the library, Halloween, Jesus, and yourself (you say so sometimes, and it makes me happy for you)!

I'm so grateful you are mine and for the sweet little soul that is you! Thank you for being an amazing kid and helping me learn more every day! I love you, my sweet, handsome Little Bird!

All my love,

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