A letter to my son, upon turning four

I lie awake watching the peaceful rise and fall of your chest. For four years you have slept inches from my side, your bed nestled next to mine, easing my mother’s heart with the soft sounds of your even breathing.

Some nights when you wake up to the darkness of the house your tiny voice reaches across to me asking “Momma, will you holds my hand? I am afraid.” I think ahead to you as a grown man who will show the world no fear, who will probably endure my mothering with long-suffering and gritted teeth, and I stretch out my arm so that I can hold your tiny hand through the night.

I read once that a boy learns empathy and compassion from his mother. When my nerves start to dance and tingle from hours of holding your hand or cradling you I hope that you can sense how important it is to me that we love others.

Most mornings I crawl back into my bed hours after I’ve woken up just so I can start your day with a few minutes of my undivided attention. You roll into my bed like a growing snowball, gathering blankets and pillows along the way. You love softness.

It usually takes you several minutes to warm up to the idea of being awake. You ask me to scratch your back and get you a cup of cold ice water. Occasionally you wake up chipper, giggling, and ready to fly from the bed. Most often you wordlessly run your hands over my face, tuck yourself closely to my side, and play quietly with whatever toy you took to bed the night before. You want to enjoy my company and the calm of the room before tackling the day. I’ve learned to respect your silent routine for no other reason than you delight me and I comfort you.

You must be slowly unraveled each day. Those layers are not easy for me to peel back. Sometimes you come wrapped in anger because you didn’t get enough sleep or food, a flexing of your strong will - demanding to have your own way. Some days the layers are impatient: with me, with yourself. You cannot wait to outgrow your littleness. You want to be taller and stronger. You want to understand how everything works and have a bigger vocabulary. You want the whole world to move quicker and talk less. In this, you are definitely my child.

Your favorite foods are dark red strawberries, fresh blackberries, juicy watermelon, and sizzling bacon. You love icy cold salads, late night pizza, and cookies sneaked after bedtime. 

You’re a quiet mystery. You don’t gush forth your thoughts and we can’t read your emotions in every wrinkle across your face and gesture with your hands. When I laugh it fills a whole room, but your amusement barely fills a smirk.

You express yourself in subtlety.

You’re often still and silent, observing. I gather this is why you always seem to know how things work. More than once you’ve completely surprised me with information or skills you’ve learned just by listening in the background or tinkering instead of playing.

You are four-years-old today and I am weepy. I’ve watched you shed the last layers of babyhood and become a boy. I wish that I could heighten all of my senses to capture every small detail of your passing days even the frustrating ones that make me want to rip my hair out..
You’re such a moody soul.

Where your sister is sunshine and warmth, you are my rainstorm - but OH how I love the rain. It cools down our soaring temperatures. It brings stillness. It sustains and renews. When you were born you forever changed our family. You demanded we slow down. You ask us to be quiet. You enjoy peaceful activities. You hate to be rushed or hurried. You do have days of dark clouds and thunderstorms, but you’ve pushed me to find a tranquil pace of life for our family.

You’re at your best at night - an unrepentant night owl, coming awake as the sun goes down. I used to have the house to myself to read and craft through the night, but now you’re my constant companion.

You are my tiny precious bit of something other. You are completely irreplaceable. I jealously guard my time with you knowing the day will come when you ask me to yield my place to another.

Right now I am your favorite person in the world.
I know exactly how you like your food, warm never hot.
I know that you’re extremely left-handed, and left-brained.
I know you like the black Spiderman shirt and not the blue.
I know your routine and the repercussions for breaking it.
I know some days you need firm discipline, and some a generous dose of grace.
I know you are sweet and gentle, a balm to my soul.

I love you. You’re still my baby. Happy fourth birthday.

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