Good news: I’m still writing – a lot lately, in fact, because I have a new book project on the horizon. Woo-hoo. I’ll share more details soon but for now, I’m publishing another (very, very belated) birthday letter for our rambunctious 4-year-old Thomas.
Merry Christmas, and happy New Year!
Happy 4th birthday to the most expressive and explosive little boy I’ve ever been blessed to know. You’re my favorite (and only as of today!) son, and you bring so much life into our home. You’re always on the go except when you’re not. You need your downtime, and the best way to settle you down is to cuddle up with you and read lots of books together. Some of your favorites right now include: The Highway Rat, The Gruffalo (anything by Julia Donaldson actually), Leonardo the Terrible Monster (a favorite of mine as well), Angelina on Stage (I think you like this one because Angelina’s little cousin Henry messes up on the stage, but she saves him; you like stories where little people mess up but then are redeemed), I Need a Monster, Up in Heaven, and any book that has to do with sharks or killer whales. You love it when I make up stories about Fred the Dragon, a friendly, red dragon, and the young boy and his dog who come to visit him in a cave in the woods. Fred likes to write poetry and is a vegetarian foodie. One day he takes the little boy to a faraway land for an adventure (my mommy brain is preventing me from remembering the name of the land at this moment), and you giggled so very much when they met cows who said everything but “Moo!” The cows bellowed, “shoe,” “do,” “new,” “boo,” and “poo” – anything but moo. And my, did you laugh!
Daddy is currently telling you a long pirate adventure, which he always ends on a suspenseful note. Papa tells you your beloved Super Puppy stories. Although you are often a firecracker who bursts with physicality and runs away from me, you love books and stories, and you really listen to the words and take everything in. Even your preschool teacher has commented on your love for books and your attention span when you’re “reading” in class.
Your teacher has also commented on what a strong-willed boy you are. Oh my goodness, Thomas, there are days when the two of our battle of wills rivals a full-blown civil war. We’re supposed to be on the same side – I’m here to protect you; you’re here to be grateful (and, ahem, submissive to) for that protection. “Don’t run in the parking lot!” I’ll say, and you’re off while my heart drums in my chest and yours does, too, because of the thrill of it. Mine is worried a car is going to plow over you. But you’re at that innocent age where you think you’re invincible. From what I hear that frontal lobe and risk-assessing part of your brain won’t develop until you’re in your 20s. Sheesh. We’re going to have some rough, anxious years ahead of us, no?
We’ve already had a few bumps along the way – days when I’ve cried because I’ve wondered what I’ve done wrong after you’ve hit a sister or ran away from me at Hobby Lobby and an employee had to announce over the loud speaker: “If there’s a mom looking for a child, we have him.” Apparently, she asked you your mom’s name, and you replied, “Mommy.” J And then you’ll cuddle up with me for a nap or give me one more kiss good-bye before heading through that big, castle-like door at preschool or you’ll cry in my arms, hysterical, after you accidentally killed a frog in Maine, and I know you have a big, strong-willed heart that is going to do great things. It also helps when I call up a dear childhood friend of mine and share my worries about how physical you can be and fearless even when there’s real dangers (like moving cars in a parking lot!), and she, the mother of boys, says knowingly, “He’s a boy. He’s different.”
And you are, but in a wonderful, exciting way!
You love the story of St. George and the Dragon we have, and I know that as you mature and grow older you will channel all that strength and tenacity and stubbornness into being a courageous knight defending good. You even went through a phase where you wanted to be a police officer, and you were just so tickled when REAL police officers were next door checking our neighbors’ house out because of a false alarm. They showed you their badges, and you, of course, noticed their guns. You asked about bad guys and “What if there was more than one bad guy?” and they told you they could call other police officers for help but that there weren’t too many bad guys around in our neighborhood. And then they smiled for a picture with you and gave you a sticker with a police badge on it. You were shyly beaming through it all.
You do have a shy streak. In big crowds or new situations, you shrink away from others and cling to my legs. Or, you start becoming physical – an expression of nervous energy, I think. The start of preschool was very rocky for us because it was such a big change, but you seem to be enjoying it very much now, and your lead teacher has said you’re blossoming. You’re a bright, observant boy who doesn’t miss anything. You knew all the children’s names in your class right away, and the teacher said that was incredibly unusual for a child to have picked up on the names and matched them already with each child.
The other day I came into preschool to chaperon for a field trip at the local food bank (would you believe two classes of 4-year-olds weigh a whopping 845 pounds?!!?) and there was this beautiful Native American setup on a table for you children. There were miniature tepees and little battery-operated tea lights that lit up the scene like little fires. I assumed you would ahhh and ooohhh over it, but instead you ran straight past it to a generic bin of toys. Your teacher mentioned you always do that. You go straight for something different than what she’s set up to catch your attention. There’s your strong-will again. I thought about it as all the other children gathered around the scene of peaceful beauty and you did your own thing until another child wandered over to see what you were up to, and I thought that one day you just might be the one to stray from a crowd that isn’t doing what is right. You may be the loner who isn’t afraid to stand up for your convictions. So carry on, my brave, stubborn soldier!
Let’s see what else you’re into these days. Well, you’ve been such a sweetheart with Baby Ellyn [his first cousin]. You love her little baby feet, although you’re not afraid to say they are stinky, baby feet (and sorry, sweet Ellyn, but those feet of yours are rather stinky). Well, one day I was helping Uncle Josh out and watching Ellyn for the day, and I could tell you enjoyed having her around but that it was also difficult for you to see me showering her with so much love. I made the mistake of calling her a Boo-Boo Bear, and that has always been your nickname. You came up to us and said, “She’s such a cute, little peanut…” Then your expression changed from one of affection to resentment, and you said, “A cute peanut PIGGY!”
Uncle Josh and Aunt Megan had a good laugh over that.
You love being outdoors, riding your bike, or cruising around in your motorized car (what a lucky boy you are!). You love music, sweets (your sweet tooth rivals even Willy Wonka’s), and your blankie, which your godparents gave to you when you were born. You tell us you want to play baseball someday. One of your favorite pastimes is terrorizing your sisters, and they are very adept at being victims. But you’re also close buddies with M.E. The two of you remind me of my relationship with Uncle Josh. She makes you play “Mommy and Daddy,” but you seem to enjoy it.
Life is a big adventure with you, my sweet boy. You are such an affectionate child, and you spontaneously give me hugs and even tell me I look pretty. You’re also quick to tell me you like my hair better in a ponytail. You’ve got opinions about the world (and how your mommy does her hair, apparently), and you’re not afraid to show them.
I love you so very much. I look forward to watching you grow, change, and channel all that masculine energy into making a world of difference. We need good soldiers, ready to stand up for what’s right. So stay strong, my love, my Boo-Boo Bear.
Four years ago you took a piece of my heart, and it belongs to you still. Happy, happy birthday!