Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The annual birthday letter

Dear Evan,

Despite my best efforts to hold back time, it's February 5 again and today you are 4.

You've spent hours over the past few weeks pouring over the photographs of your first few years. As your fourth birthday has approached, you've asked me again and again to sit with you and look at your baby pictures, to tell you the stories that comprise your short history. In addition to our marathon photo viewing sessions, you've also initiated countless conversations lately about the fact that you are now a big boy, as well as a handful of sweetly reminiscent discussions about the things you've loved about being little. It's obvious that you're processing this 4 thing, that in your mind, you've taken the step from little to big with this birthday.

I'd beg to differ (4 is still awfully little and you've got a long way still to go on this growing up thing), except the thing is, there has been a dramatic change in you over the past few weeks. You've apparently thought this all through and decided that you're older now and that you're going to act the part. After years of playing the role of the family baby, you're suddenly standing taller and expressing mature thoughts and working so hard at being big. I must confess, I look at you and I still see a little boy, but if you look in the mirror and see something different then far be it for me to interfere. I've been waiting for years for you to put on your own coat and brush your own teeth, and if 4 is suddenly the age where you can be responsible for such things? Bring it on.

It's been a little surprising to me as I've participated in your ritual reminiscing to discover how much of the last 4 years I've already forgotten. I'd have been in big trouble these past few weeks without the photographs I've archived and the stories I took the time to write down along the way. I don't see how that can be, how I could so quickly have forgotten what's really still recent history, but apparently this getting older thing is happening to me, too. My memory is only going to get worse, I suspect, and if you're going to continue to expect me to be able to regale you with the tales of your youth, I'd better keep writing stuff down quick before it disappears forever. And so here goes... a written snapshot of you on your 4th birthday.

At 4, you are passionate about purple. And Sesame Street -- the Count in particular. You adore travel and trying new foods but you only like the milk in London. You beg to be tickled. You color in the lines precisely and you are the world (or at least local) Musical Statues champion. You have a giggle that is contagious and a grin that makes adults just a teensy bit nervous. You quietly take yourself off to your bed for a little rest when you are tired. You have the squeakiest, highest pitched voice I've ever heard. You can be reasoned and rationalized with most of the time, but you also still believe in the power of the 1, 2, 3 countdown. (Thank God for that.)

At 4, you play cricket every day on the school playground with your best friend Ben. There are no cricket balls or bats there, but it doesn't much matter; the two of you can pantomime an imaginary cricket game with far more finesse that you can play with the actual equipment. You love many physical activities, from football (soccer!) to dancing to scootering, but nothing on Earth compares to an imaginary cricket game as far as you're concerned. I half suspect that you'll have the entire 4 year old population of our American hometown equally devoted to the sport within months of our return.

At 4, you are persistent. If you are interrupted mid-thought, you will go back to the beginning and tell your whole story again from start to finish. There is absolutely no point in rushing you along; you are going to say what you are going to say and no one is going to prevent you from communicating whatever it is that you wish to share. Woe betide the person who tries -- or the adult who does not build an extra half an hour into every activity or outing to allow for your monologues.

At 4, you are caring. You seem to always say the right thing, made all the more right because you're not doing so intentionally. You regularly compliment people and tell them how much they mean to you, not because you think that people want to hear these things but because they are the things that you genuinely think and feel. You have a lot of love in your heart and you're not afraid to share it. Needless to say, it comes back to you a thousand times over. I am constantly prying you out of the adoring clutches of some other small child when it is time for us to leave a place.

At 4, you are determined. You have begun to read at the age of 3 simply because you believed it was time for you to learn, and you have recently stopped sucking your fingers during the day because it seemed to be time for that, too. Ditto skipping and hopping and riding a scooter and putting on your own clothing (finally!); when you decide to do something, it's pretty much a done deal. (There is, however, no telling you that is time to do something. Damned if I haven't tried.)

On the day you turned 4, you woke up slowly and a little bit grudgingly when Julia and I came into your room singing Happy Birthday. When we asked you whether you felt older now that you were 4, you spent a good long time considering the question and then you nodded solemnly. "I think that I do," you replied thoughtfully. Fair enough. Grow up if you must... I won't stop you. But please don't change too much along the way. Because who you are at 4 -- passionate and imaginative and persistent and caring and determined? Those are all traits which will make you a damn fine adult someday. They're also traits that make you a pretty amazing 4 year old right this very minute, though, so try not to rush too much, OK?

I love you, Evalah. But do I really need to say that here? I may not always remember every little detail of your life at 4, but I'll never, ever need a written reminder of how much I adore you or how lucky I feel to be your mom.



OpenID glcrumpacker said...

Aww, no way is Evan four already! Happy birthday, little dude.

Oh and P.S., will you stop spawning these genius kids already? If you were ever to have a third child, s/he would probably learn to read in the womb. :)

9:44 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

Happy birthday, Evan! Hard to believe that he's four already (I'm in denial that J will be, also, in a few more months)

10:10 PM  
Blogger Iota said...

A passion for cricket! So these two years in England have counted for something then.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Gina said...

Happy birthday, Evan! I'm sorry I'm late - we were without power due to storms here and so I missed it! Love to you and your Mummy, Daddy and big sister!

Why am I not surprised to hear you're reading already?! Yay, you!!!

1:31 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Oh goodness, four! He's four! Four is the very best age for a little boy, I think, and it sounds like Evan has got. it. down. What a doll.

Happy, happy (belated) 4th Birthday Evan!

8:08 PM  
Blogger Liesl said...

Happy Birthday, Evan! I'm looking forward to the tales of you introducing cricket to New Jersey!

12:55 AM  
Blogger Moby said...

I just came across this post while looking for another type of birthday message, but sat and read. It brought tears to my eyes, what a gorgeous boy you must have. Happy Birthday lil one and keep up with those memories, Im sure he'll love your wonderful stories as much as I enjoyed reading it

4:53 AM  

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