Four years ago today you were born, little boy, a big baby forced from your comfortable residence within me over your loud protestations. From the beginning you were loud, demanding, and sensitive – and I loved you from the first choked, gut-wrenching sob you let out as they carried you away to suction the mucous and meconium from your nose and lungs. With that cry you sealed your place within my heart: my first born, my love, my delight. For you, I thought, I will sacrifice my sleep, my personal space, my quiet and uninterrupted thoughts.
And now, now that you are four years old, how you have grown and matured from that squalling newborn boy you once were!
You have an imagination like no other, as if a spring of stories and fantasies lies bubbling up deep within your heart. Every day there are new monsters, fighters, savers, babies, mommies, and daddies peopling the house and going on wild adventures together; you make “movies” (you have no camera to record them) about the things that interest you, anthropomorphizing the sun, moon, and stars to perform for you; you create crazy games with Limerick that seem perfectly designed to draw out the core of joy from every moment and experience.
You are filled with a sweet and precious love and care for the small and vulnerable, which most typically displays itself in a flood of hugs and kisses for every baby in your vicinity. At a friend’s house a few days ago, there were three babies crawling around the room and you blissfully rotated from one to another, round and round, giving them all your affection in turn. And when your sister cries, you run to her with toys and games and laughter to bring back a smile to her face.
You are still sensitive to loud sounds, bright lights, and large groups of people – you probably always will be. But you are learning to cope, to regulate your own environment and your reaction to the uncontrollable aspects of it, and I am proud of you for the efforts you make to fit in and be with people (as your social self craves) when the sensory input of it all can be overwhelming.
Yours is an age of big feelings and intense fears; a broken toy or the thought of a favorite food going bad can bring you close to tears, and the prospect of being alone in your bedroom at night terrifies you. In those moments I am reminded of how young you still are, despite your height, your intelligence, and your maturity – you are just barely four years old, and it is your undeniable right to be scared by the world whose vastness and hiddenness you are just beginning to understand, and to express the emotions that flood your mind without years of experience to help filter and process them. It is also the age at which I am beginning to notice in you a desire to make others happy and proud by your actions, along with the first flickers of conscious guilt or shame. And I hope, my son, that you never become ashamed of what you feel and who you are, because even in your lowest moments (and we all have them, and they do not define us) I see you in all your beauty, just the way you are, and I love you with all of my heart.