My boy turned four this summer.
Today I watched him write his name. He slowly, painstakingly scratched out each letter, his tongue poking out in concentration. J…A…backwards C…crooked K.
And I marveled.
This was the newborn who peered at me with squinty eyes, his little head bobbing as he stretched to see my face. “I’m your Momma,” I whispered when we were finally alone in that hospital room, convincing myself more than telling him. He blinked at me, his tiny brow furrowed. I was expecting to experience a spiritual moment in which we would instantly bond and choir of angels would chorus in unison, but instead I felt…nothing. This could be anybody’s baby. He doesn’t feel like mine. Who is this little stranger peering suspiciously at me?
And now he is four and he is writing.
Today I listened to him tell me all about preschool and how he played pirates with his friends and sang a song about a cat who wore shoes and ate a popcorn snack while wearing a silly hat and how it’s not ok to hit people unless someone is trying to kill you.
And I laughed.
This was the baby who cried at night when he was supposed to be sleeping and I cried too because I just didn’t know what to do. He cried when other people spoke to him while we were out in public and I worried and fretted because I thought he was an anti-social hermit baby. Sometimes he cried during the day no matter the amount of rocking or patting or cajoling I would do and I would yell, “Just tell me what you want!!!”
And now he is four and he is communicating. And he is so funny.
Today I watched him run. He started at the top of the driveway and raced to the bottom, head down, fists clenched, feet flying. He ran like his daddy runs: with strength and a purpose. “How fast did I go, Mommy?” he asked, circling around me to take another pass.
And I couldn’t answer for the knot starting to form in my throat.
This was the toddler who, on this very driveway, brought me little autumnal gifts as I sat soaking in the last warmth of summer. “Mama!” he declared as he proudly presented me with a large yellow maple leaf. Next, he ambled over with a smooth round walnut. My pile of presents grew and my heart swelled as I watched my little blonde boy examine the dirt for the perfect specimen to bring his mother.
And now he is four and he is running.
His chubby cheeks have been replaced by a mischievous little boy grin. He is long and lean and surefooted. He pours his own drinks, puts on his own clothes and writes his own name.
Tonight, as I was tucking him in, I discovered something in his drawer of “special treasures.” It was a love note I had quickly scribbled on a napkin and stuck in his lunch box one morning, almost as an afterthought. “I didn’t use it, Mommy, cause I didn’t want it to get dirty. I'm keeping it forever.”
The little stranger that made me a mother has grown into a boy I love more than life itself.
I miss the baby that is no more and I cannot wait to watch the man he becomes, but today, I am holding tight to four.
My boy is four.