In the end it’s all a blur.
The time for huge, earth-shattering milestones is over — now every change is small, almost impossible to see from one day to the next. Yet here we are at the end of the another year, you are four, and all of those tiny shifts have added up to you. Funny, stubborn, loving, impatient, sassy, cuddly, smart, infuriating, joyful you.
I mean, I don’t remember if you learned to put your shoes on this year or last. Or whether this was the year that you started brushing your teeth on your own, or learned to put away your toys, or built your first Lego house, or figured out how to put your train tracks together. These are all very, very important skills, but in the end they do not matter and I know that they will get lost as years and years and years of memories pile on top of one another.
I don’t remember a lot about this year — but that is not your fault. I know that “death” entered your vocabulary in the past 12 months and maybe that is something to note and remember, even if it’s nothing to celebrate. You probably don’t know how many adults around you kept going because of you amidst all the death and sorrow that visited us. Lunch bags had to be packed. Lullabies had to be sung. There were books to read, playgrounds to discover, sea shells to collect. There was no time for feeling sorry for ourselves and for that I am grateful.
I do know that this is the year that we first talked about serious things: death, for one. Cemeteries and what we and the dead do there. Your belly button and how it connected you to me and why it does not connect us anymore. Or maybe it still does? Marriage — well, we still need to talk about this one, because you tell me that you want to marry me several times a day and I have not yet had the heart to tell you that that’s not going to happen.
I do remember that last year the answers to your questions were usually simple: That’s a cat. Cows say moo. Bananas are yellow. This year none of it was simple and many times I had to take a breath — or several — before giving you an answer. You have a knack for bringing up the difficult stuff in the middle of the grocery store, or at standing at a red light. But maybe to you the questions are still simple — whether it’s about life and death, the poor beggar on the side of the street, or the color of fruit — maybe it’s all the same to you: a question to be asked and answered and filed away in your little brain for future reference. I think I did an OK job with my answers — I never lied, never sugar-coated, or denied.
I hope that was useful. Although, who knows? That’s what I lost this year: my certainty. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s all the deaths, but suddenly I am so aware of the millions of ways I can mess you up. I know I have to make a decision about how to raise you every moment of every day and so I do, but with the knowledge that in 20-30 years we’ll both look back and you will probably fault me for whatever ails you in life at that point and I will apologize. I did my best. I am doing my best. I often comfort myself with the fact that in the end you will be OK. I mean, we all turn out OK. A little damaged, a little funny, a little unusual, a little different — but overall OK.
I don’t want to sound like this year has all been about sadness… Four’s been special — more so than your previous birthdays — because I think this is the year that we fell in love. Not like baby loves mama love, but real love. At least that’s how it is for me. You are such good company, such great entertainment, comfort, challenge. I feel like I am always “on” around you, always ready for whatever you throw at me, and that makes me feel truly alive.
I am especially grateful this year that you are still a little bit in that not a baby, but not quite a big kid phase. You let me hold you — and what’s more you want to be held and cuddled and kissed. You still find comfort by climbing in bed with me and snuggling up really close. We were by ourselves a lot this year and I think we both got through it by sleeping close, your sweaty little head on my pillow, your breath on my face. I know that this phase will pass and there will come a time when I will have to beg for a half-hearted peck on the cheek. So for now I enjoy every slobbery, messy, sticky kiss.
You are four. It’s a simple, glorious achievement. We will celebrate with cake covered in that thick, buttery icing. You will run around with your friends at your birthday party and scream and laugh until you crash from all that sugar. I will put you to bed that night and tell you the story of the day you were born — on New Year’s Eve, during a Blue Moon — and I will tell you how incredibly lucky I am that my year ends and begins with you. Every year.