This year has been good for you and me.
You’ve always been more of a Daddy’s boy. Wanting to do things with Daddy. Ganging up on me with Daddy for tickle fights while Eli valiantly plays the role of protector. Declaring over and over that ‘I only love Daddy. Not you!’
But this year Eli started school five days a week, and you and I have had a lot more one-on-one time. We’ve played, we’ve worked, we’ve colored, we’ve fought, we’ve laughed, we’ve sung, we’ve danced, we’ve learned, and we’ve grown closer than ever.
Every night at bedtime, after I cuddle you I whisper “I love you” and you automatically respond, “I love you too.” But about a month ago, while coloring at the kitchen table, completely unprompted by me, you said, “I love Daddy and you.” I’ve never doubted your love, and I always thought your devotion to Daddy was kind of cute, but your spontaneous declaration of love warmed my heart in a surprising way.
And not long after that, when Daddy playfully swatted me as we passed each other while putting you to bed, you bolted to my defense with clenched fists, ready to give him a good hard punch. It was the first time you’ve chosen to protect me rather than join in the boyish fun, and once again, my heart was warmed.
You are growing up, my boy. You are learning that a heart can hold enough love for more than just one other. You are learning that maybe girls aren’t so bad (although you can take your time with that lesson).
Today you are four. Last night you were so ‘decited’ about your birthday until I whispered in your ear for the last time, “I love you, my three year old.” Suddenly you were sad. “I don’t want my birthday.” When I asked why, you replied, “Because I always want to be your kid.”
Part of me wishes that you could have stayed my three year old forever. I’d freeze your sweet, little boy smile, that giggle I love so much, and the feeling of your small body pressed to my side when you want to cuddle on the couch. But I know that whatever I do, I can’t stop time.
So I’ll tell you again what I told you last night. It doesn’t matter how old you get. You will always be my kid.
I love you, my four year old. Happy birthday.