Dear 4 1/2 year old Owen,
You are headed toward the Big Five now. A whole hand, as I've called it when other littles in my life turned 5 years old. I can't believe we're zooming toward that big milestone. You are just as fun as ever these days. In fact, way more fun than the last few years combined. You're growing up. And a part of me two years ago would have cried over that, like I know a huge part of me will sob on your first day Kindergarten next fall. But right now, I'm LOVING who you are and the stages you're going through.
You are so independent it scares me sometimes. Like yesterday when I walked into the kitchen to find you pouring your own cup of milk. First, since when don't you use sippy cups, and second, when the heck did you learn to get out the milk from the fridge and pour it yourself - without spilling tons?! I had to take a deep breath, find the patience I didn't know I had, and instead of saying "YIKES! This mess! Let me do that for you!" I said, "Wow, Pal, I didn't know you could pour your own milk. That's AWESOME! I'm proud of you. Next time, can you ask for my help with it?"
That's how things go these days. Shock and awe, the good kind, and surprise that you're growing so fast. Then all of this pride at how totally cool you are these days, learning all these new great things on your own. Then it's my turn to learn, observe, follow you on your own adventures.
You dress yourself entirely now. Some mornings you come downstairs - having learned how to un-latch the gate at your door - go to the bathroom, change your clothes, and turn the TV on for morning cartoons. Um, what?! I thought you were still sleepy in a toddler bed saying to us through the baby monitor, "Mama! Dada! Come get me!"
You have a smart, stoic side now. You are prideful. You get so psyched when you learn something new or know what a word is, or when you write your name on a paper you are giving to me. Your pride is almost as big as ours at how much of a big kid you are these days. I see you going further away a little at a time, soon you won't need me even tying your shoes or fixing your lunch! You're growing so fast. And I'm not scared of it right now like in the past when I write these letters I have been. No, I'm too excited and awestruck over the cool things I know you'll be doing in these next six months as you head toward the Big Five and thereafter as we head a year from now into Kindergarten.
You love helping your sister, like tonight when you were being loud and it scared her and without us telling you to, you rushed up to her with the sweetest look on your face and told her you were sorry for scaring her, that you wouldn't be so loud next time, and you gave her a hug. Or like earlier when you searched at a yard sale for something special for her, even though she was right there and could have found something for herself. Or how in the mornings if I'm slow to get upstairs to help you out of your room, you make your way into your sister's room, gathering about 10 toys and dolls and dresses for her, putting them in her crib, and reassuring her "Don't worry, Addi, Mom will get up soon to get us. I'll stay here with you."
I love your smile, how it's the same one that's always been there yet it looks bigger somehow, brighter.
I love how you are SO extremely creative. Your dad and I say all the time that it's sometimes tiring that you never stop, are busy all the time, on the go, always wanting to do things that we do, rarely interested in TV watching or sitting around. Yet the trade off, Dad says, is that all that wonderful energy leads to TONS of creativity, problem solving, teamwork, and intelligence. You are an adventure-seeker, that's for sure, Little Man. And I love it about you. You make up games I never knew existed. You plan things out, talk about ideas and think they will happen for real any moment now. Every day with you is a new adventure, literally. You wake up in the mornings and say to me, "What are we doing today, Mama? Where are we going for our adventure?"
You're so brave lately, too. I'm realizing I have to be brave myself when you are ready to tackle new things in the world. Like how you went on a roller coaster last weekend at Story Land. I get that it was a kids one, but even your dad said it wasn't small, it was a big deal. I was terrified just thinking of you on it, and yet you were like "no big deal, Mom, that was fun!" And how you went on this HUGE bouncy slide, like I've never seen anything so tall, and I was whispering to your dad that it probably wasn't a good idea, you'd get to the top and be scared... but you did it all by yourself, climbed all the way up, and slid down with a huge grin on your face. Trying new things, fearless, conquering your worries... that's how we wanted to raise you. Guess we're doing it... with you leading by example :)
Things are so much fun lately. Age two, well that was a train wreck, let's not reminisce, OK? Age 3... um, I refer to that as the "Bipolar Days- huge ups and huge downs." I was afraid of what age 4 would bring us... it wasn't looking pretty. But so far, not bad. Yes, there are those emotional outbursts and the "I want to do it my way at all times and you can't tell me otherwise." There are also the "lack of listening ears" that drives me insane, where I say something about 42 times and you still go about your business as if I'm not there. Yes, these things drive me up a wall.
And yet, it's FUN. Most moments are SO fun lately. I find myself just standing back watching you, seeing how your legs have grown like a foot this summer, seriously at least 4 inches you've grown since your birthday. I fold your clothes and think shirts are mine they are getting so big! I watch you play soccer and realize that you'll be on a real team someday soon. I see you listening to your coach and know that you are growing out of that "run around the field, not listening, being a busy toddler" thing a little more.
I see potential and possibility in you, my little - well not so little really - 4 and a half year old. I love your interest in learning. I hope you never lose that.
So, as we head toward the Big Five, please know a few things:
1. You'll always be my baby. Headed toward Five or not, you're always my little man. I refuse to ever stop kissing you in public, holding your hand as we head toward the car, or telling you "I love you".
2. Stay curious. You ask us about 157 questions in an hour timespan. I swear to God that's the truth. You want to know everything now. And sometimes, not gonna lie, I have no idea what to say and it's really testing my ability to avoid saying what my parents said "Because I said so." I love it though. I love that you play 20 Questions when we're just driving to the grocery store. You want to know how it all works. You want to figure things out. I hope you stay this way, my little scientist, because it's going to make you one heck of a cool guy in school.
3. Keep that awesome personality. I have a quote in my office at school where I work with crazy middle schoolers, something about stop trying to be who the world wants you to be and just be YOU. It's reminding me of you right now. You have this GREAT BIG personality, nobody can miss it when they're around you. It's loud and full of energy, bouncing around like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, curious like Curious George getting into mischief and ultimately helping others. You laugh with your whole body, a contagious laugh that nobody can avoid giggling when they are near you. You touch everything, see things that I could drive by 10 times without seeing, and don't miss a beat when we're talking about possibly having D-E-S-S-E-R-T later. The world may not always get how busy you are or that you cannot possibly stand in line any longer. They certainly will shush you a few times for being too loud at the library. But I get it, my big kid. I get that personality and how great it is. I want you to know that. I LOVE it and who you are today. Keep rockin' that funny-ness, big guy. You're going to rule the world someday with that silly face.
4. Slow down. OK, OK, I shouldn't tell you this... you're 4 and a half, you're headed toward greatness at the speed of light, you can't wait to see what's in store tomorrow, what's around the corner, up the street, in the hole at the beach covered in sand. I get it. I should let you explore. And I will, don't worry. But please, slow down, slightly. Let's make the next 6 months toward you becoming a REAL big kid go a little slower. Because I have this fear that when you're 5 years old, you're really not my baby anymore. You're this whole other kid, another version of yourself, that is just going to speed EVEN faster toward Big Kid World, elementary school, bus rides, sleepovers, friends and grades and parties and then high school will be here and I'll be like, what happened?! Let's make the next year before Kindergarten comes and you're off in the big world go slower, too. I'm not ready to send you out there just yet. Sure, you've been out there since you were a baby, attending daycare and preschool. But there is something different about starting real school. And my baby boy, this Mama is not ready to talk about that just yet. I promise to be excited for you when the time comes, but right now, let's pretend you're still little, you still need my help a little longer. Can we do that please?
5. Keep your Mama close. Just about every night when I tuck you in to bed, you say with a smirk on your face and your blankie close to your cheek, "Want to lay with me for a few minutes?" I say yes every single time, even if it's just for one minute. I won't say no to this. I know a time will come, probably when you're the Big Five, that you won't want me to stick around any longer. You'll be too busy. So for now, I lay down and we stare at your ceiling and check out the pictures in your room or tell stories about our day, or plan adventures for tomorrow. It's hands down the best part of my day.
Thanks for leading me through this motherhood adventure, O. I'm so glad it was you who came along first, to teach me patience, courage, perseverance, and the ability to laugh at all things regardless of what it looks like to others. You teach me new things every day. Let's keep heading out on adventures. It's SO much fun with you around, Pal.