One thing parenthood has taught me is that every age is a tough age. On paper, being four sounds easy. You play with toys, eat lots of macaroni and cheese, still get a nap, and don't need a job. But in truth, I know the emotional being you currently are, because you wear those emotions plainly on your sleeve.
This is how we start as humans: feeling everything, completely throwing ourselves out there when we're excited, complaining loudly when we don't like something, pushing and pulling when we're frustrated, screaming and crying when we're hurt or scared or just so confused. It's the height of vulnerability.
In the years ahead, a lot of that exuberance will probably be tamed. You may continue to feel the exhaustive range of emotion, but you'll learn that acting on these emotions is unfavorable.
Sit still. Be quiet. Don't bite. Clean up your mess. I said no. Don't jump off the furniture. Hold my hand. Go to sleep. Eat your chicken. Get in the car. Wipe your own butt.
So much of what I say to you is a command. And much of the rest of what I say is disappointing. I can't right now. I have to make dinner. I'm feeding your brother. I need to do the laundry. I'll be there in a minute.
Play with me, Mommy.
On your fourth birthday, Fletcher, I want you to know that I feel what you feel and I want what you want, even when it sometimes doesn't feel like it. Sitting with you on the living room floor, forcing myself to ignore all the pressure weighing on me, is the best part of the day. I do want to spend all day hearing what you have to say, watching your stubborn and downright sassy side develop, learning what you're confident about today and what intimidates you, shaking my head at your endless supply of energy, and having a part in your rapid learning and growth.
Every day you change. Every day I love you even more.
The first preference you showed was for dinosaurs and trains. I remember when Thomas the Train and Dinosaur Train would light you up. Now you love superheroes and fighting bad guys, running from imaginary bears and dinosaurs, attacking monsters, jumping on people, staging epic battles, always running running running.
Run, Mommy, run!
Next, I imagine, will be sports. You love soccer balls, basketballs, footballs, baseballs now mainly because it's an activity outside. But the time is coming when you will outrun and outplay us all. You've been a physical creature since birth, after all.
I'm so lucky that I get to be a part of it, that I have these years ahead of me where I can continue to watch and contribute to the great boy you are and will be.
Life is hard. It's not going to get easier. But experiencing it together is a such a gift. Thank you, Fletcher, for being my four-year-old.
Making his own birthday cake with Grandma Patty.
"Only I can do it."