So, you’ve heard what they’re saying about four, haven’t you? That it’s the new two? As in, all us parents who sighed with relief when we made it through the so-called “terrible twos” with nary a tantrum or overturned sippy cup are now sucking it up because our kids have turned four. And it turns out we weren’t just fantastic parents all along. It turns out that four-year-olds are just a little bit tetchy.
I mean, you’re still cute. I’ve been waiting for approximately four years (okay, more like three years and eight months; the cute took a little while to emerge from under your newborn trifecta of baby acne, cradle cap and Friar Tuck hairdo. I’m sorry, but it’s true, and the rumour that all parents think their newborns are beautiful is simply that. My mother aside. But I digress.) for you to reach peak cute and it still hasn’t happened. It’s just that now it’s more that you’re cute like a mogwai who could at any moment erupt into a Gremlin.
(“Is he having some power and control issues?” one of the teachers at your daycare asked recently. Why yes, yes you are.)
But, you know, you’re still way more mogwai than Gremlin. And the Gremlin moments pale in the face of your beauty. Also, we’re seasoned: we’ve already done the four-year-old thing, courtesy of your older brother, who is all sinewy boy these days, while you retain still at least a hint of babyhood. You’ve cracked 30 pounds, sure, but barely, and you’ve shot up a few inches over the last year. But the babyhood is still there in your rounded belly, your torso still not quite big enough to contain your internal organs. It’s there in your tired moments, when your thumb creeps into your mouth and you cuddle, holding onto to your blankie.
You are beautiful, with your rosebud lips and your hair falling into your eyes. You are drawn to pretty things, a magpie with a keen eye for sparkles and sequins and bling. You find pretty rocks and broken glass on the street. On the rare days when I stick on some mascara or lipstick, you are drawn to it as though I have set off a homing device: wooot wooot wooot makeup alert! “Are you wearing makeup?” you ask. “Can you put some on me?” For your birthday, you have received all manner of Isaac-appropriate gifts: a huge bucket of sparkly beads, a pirate treasure chest filled with thrift-store jewelry and Mardi Gras necklaces, a magic wand and fairy wings and bracelets, socks with pink hearts on them, arts and crafts supplies, and a Snow White Barbie, which your other mother picked up on a whim at the grocery store. (And no, we would not likely buy a Snow White Barbie for your hypothetical sister. But, who knows? Maybe we would. Lord knows my half-dozen Barbies didn’t stop me from growing up feminist.) We had our first ever Thunder Bay Pride Festival last week, and you came downstairs in your wings and your bracelets and your necklaces, wearing your longsleeved pink T-shirt and looking fabulous. “It’s for the Pride,” you said solemnly, and my heart swelled even just a little bit more with love for you. And I look at all these hand-wringing articles and blogs about boys in pink and Princess boys and I think, Really, what’s the big deal?
You are an artist, constantly repurposing materials, rearranging elements, finding new potential in the old, the mundane. You don’t leave much alone before trying to change it, glue it, paint it; make it bigger, better, prettier. You have the utmost faith in white glue and scotch tape and kitchen string to hold together the various treasures you find; can’t understand why the tape won’t hold when you try to attach a silver chain to your porcelain snowman; get frustrated when the string you tie around your current favourite rock slips its bounds. You woke me up one morning a few weeks ago holding out a brand-new bar of soap, which you had cadged from the closet; you’ve got a bit of a thing for brand-new bars of soap. “This is my soap picture frame,” you told me. “Only you have to have dry hands to hold it.”
And then you put it in your special jewelry box, the one that you and your babysitter found at Value Village and that you painted together.
And then, of course, this is what happens:
Your Rob refers to you as Cali, goddess of both creation and destruction. No sooner have you attached to things within you decide you’d rather take them apart, unglue the sparkles from the paper, rip the pieces of paper off the collage, the bows off the shoes, the string from the rock. Maybe you’ll grow up to be like that guy who destroyed all his personal possessions in the name of art.
You spent the first two years of your life attached to me like a limpet, and then the next two years just as passionately attached to your other mother. In the past few months, though, I’ve seen the pendulum of your passion swing slowly back to middle ground, just as your brother did before you. Now, as often as not, you run into my arms when you are hurt as opposed to running past me into Rachel’s; you will occasionally climb into my lap at the end of dinner rather than march around the table to get to your other mother. “I love you, Susan,” you tell me, except that you still pronounce your Ls as Ws, so that the sentence comes out as “I wuv you.” Because you are still not quite out of babyhood.
Case in point: you can’t get through more than two days without a nap, although if you do fall asleep in the middle of the day, you won’t go to bed until 9:30 PM. On the Monday of a recent long weekend, you climbed into my lap on the couch with a pile of books and your blanket; four pages in, you were fast asleep. (Thankfully, too: you were in full Gremlin mode by then.) And that’s how we stayed for an hour and a half until you woke up. Sure, I was trapped, but even as my arm fell asleep and my neck cramped, there was nowhere else I wanted to be.
Happy birthday, big boy. I wuv you.