Yet again, I am apologizing for being late with your birthday letter. This year, though, your sister is my excuse. Her arrival three weeks before your birthday kind of threw me for a loop. You will understand this loop I speak of one day.
For now, though, you are four. You have traveled around the sun four times on this spinning rock of ours. And wow, was this last trip through space a doozy.
Age three was a tough one for us both, to be completely honest. I mentioned in your three-year-old letter that you have your own preferences and personality and are incredibly independent. None of that changed... you just got more vocal about it all. Really vocal. And stubborn, too. You really made it clear this past year that you are your own person and nothing and nobody was going to change that.
You spent a lot of time this year being very particular about how you wanted things to be and how they should be done by everyone around you. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out on which things I should follow your lead and on which I should put my foot down. I remember driving to the zoo one morning and you insisted that we go under a bridge, then over a bridge, then over, then under, etc, all the way to Balboa Park. Unfortunately, that's not exactly possible when driving on the freeway. Cue epic screaming tantrum from the backseat.
There were a lot of epic screaming tantrums this year. And there were a lot of Mommy tantrums as well, though usually internal. For a long time, I had no idea how to respond to your freak outs. Nothing I did seemed to help. Eventually, I just realized that you needed to be pulled closer and feel more connection. I mean, you still wanted to get your blue bowl out "the first time", and there wasn't much I could do to make it the first time again, but you responded better to Daddy and me loving you while you got your feelings out than being ignored.
That was the biggest lesson you taught me this year: Love is always better.
And what an important, yet simple, lesson that is.
So I spent a lot of time and effort working on gently guiding you through life with love and setting limits with love and helping you through your big emotions with love and guess what? It's really helped our relationship. For a while there, we were losing each other. Spending the whole day listening to you scream about the red plate that was dirty or the first time you couldn't have back was making me crazy. And looking at things from your perspective, having a mother that didn't empathize with your sadness over the dirty red plate you couldn't have or comfort you through your frustration over not getting something the first time had to be hard for you, too.
But guess what? We did it. You made me a better person this year in so many ways, as you have every year of your life.
Tantrums notwithstanding, I think the thing I will remember most from this past year is how gracefully you became Amy's big brother. You had already done the big brother thing with Hank, but this time you really got it. And you accepted it. And now you love it. Seeing you love Amy so much is wonderful, it really is. Even when I'm asking you to stop sucking on her cheeks and to get up because you're squishing her a little, just know that I think the love you have for your little sister is beautiful. I really hope that it stays that way.
The smaller, tinier things I want to remember from this year of your life are:
- How good you've gotten at sitting still and smiling for the camera when I ask you to.
- Your excitement over seeing your family members. You have gotten everyone's names down and remember everyone from visit to visit. (I will also never forget when you said to Grandma, "See ya, Gail!" It was hilarious.)
- The look on your face when you ride the bike you got for Christmas. You're pretty cautious at first, but once you get used to a certain course, look out! You will get going rather fast on that bike of yours and the look of exhilaration on your face is priceless.)
- The stories you make up about your creations. You make structures out of Duplo blocks, couch cushions, Magnatiles, just about anything! They all have functions and you tell everyone about the things you made at home and what they do. Like the really tall tower crane you made out of Duplos. Or the drill truck/tow truck/flatbed truck, also from Duplos. Or the mechanic shop you made from Magnatiles. Your imagination has really exploded this year and it is so much fun.
- You can't keep your pants on your hips, so your butt crack is constantly hanging out. It's ridiculously cute. Promise.
- You spent nearly three whole months completely naked. And then somehow that morphed into your ditching diapers. Once you decided were finished with them, you were finished with them. Easy as that (kind of).
- You and Hank started sharing a room this year and you completely surprised your dad and me by being okay with the whole thing. You seem to really enjoy sharing a room with your brother. Go figure.
- Smashburger played a big role in our lives this year due to my exhaustion from pregnancy and also due to your love for their chicken and fries. With too much ketchup.
- Your obsession with gas, gas stations, and car washes.
- They way you wear fancy black dress shoes and call them "boots". You correct EVERYONE who calls them shoes. "They're not shoes, they're boots."
I love you so much, Johnny. If could have any four-year-old in the world, I would pick you. Every time.