Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Birthday, Oliver.


Today you turn four. You're old enough now to actually know what age you're turning. You understand birthdays. You know that today marks the day that you have been on the planet earth for 4 whole years. You understand that being four means you are getting older, inching closer to all of those things that you're just dying to do. 

"When I'm four, I'll get new shoes because I will be too big for these."
"When I'm four, I will be strong enough to walk the dog."
"When I'm four, maybe I will be able to write."
"When I'm four, I will be able to reach high stuff."

And maybe you will. 

Most importantly to you, you have mastered the art of putting together a birthday list of everything you've seen and coveted since last Christmas. Before I went through and edited your birthday list, you had two pages of things that you wanted. Video games. Board games. Lego. Lots and lots of Lego. It was a year of Lego for you.

Weeks ago you knew you wanted a Tyrannosaurus cake. You knew I'd make one for you, because that's what I do. There will probably come a time when you want a store-bought cake with its perfect icing, but for now you're thrilled with the idea of homemade. Sometimes we would be riding along in the car and you would pipe up from the backseat out of nowhere, "I changed my mind, I want a truck/superhero/polar bear/universe cake!"  No matter what you came up with, I said, "Of course I can do that!" 

Because you thought I could. How could I not try?

This weekend I slapped that T-Rex  cake together and it looked a little goofy. It tasted mediocre. It melted a little by the time we got to the party in the hot car.

But you were still happy. So I was happy.

Three was such an interesting year for us. You knew what you wanted, and at preschool you learned that you can pout and whine to try and get your way. You got jealous of your little brother and sharing with your brother became torture for you. You spent a lot of your time this year in time-out. Sometimes you shouted at me, "I DON'T LIKE YOU MOM AND I WILL NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN!"

But I know that really isn't you. You get angry when things don't go your way, but that sweet boy I know is always lying just beneath your anger. When time-out is done, you walk over to me and you wrap your arms around me. You let me hold you and you lean against me and you say, "I'm sorry, Mom. I love you so much."

It makes me melt a little bit. 

At three, I was still your everything. I hope the same holds true for four, but just in case it doesn't, I tried extra hard to savor my time with you - my time turning up the music for our dance parties in the living room. My time reading you the longest bedtime stories you could find. My time holding your hand through the parking lot as you told me about your day at school.

Some of my favorite memories from this year are from the times I spent talking with you. Your topics of conversation were surprisingly heavy for a 3 year old. You loved talking about how big the universe is, about what happens when people die, about how magnets work and how monsters aren't real and and and.  You never stopped talking. But the real thing that I admired about you is that, this year, you listened. You analyzed. You were so eager to learn about things that sometimes your whole body would still while the wheels in your brain zoomed, wrapping themselves around new ideas.

This past summer you kept asking me about caves. Are they real or imaginary? Are there treasures inside? Do monsters live in them? What is a stalactite? You asked all of these questions and they were finally about a topic I could easily show you, a topic with cut and dried black and white answers. So one Saturday afternoon we just decided to go explore a cave. We packed you and your brother into the car and drove across the state to show you firsthand the answers to your questions. When we finally pulled into Crystal Cave's parking lot you said, "I've always wanted to go here!" even though you only just-then learned that it existed.

We thought you might be bored by the cave tour, but you were probably the most excited person there. While some fumbling teenager went through her poorly memorized cave script, you were taking in every word. When she asked if anyone had any questions, you always did. When the tour was over, you spouted out cave facts to everyone you crossed paths with for weeks.

"Did you know that if you touch the cave that the oil in our hands will turn the cave black?!"
"Did you know that bats live in some caves!?"
"Did you know that the cave was made from water!?"

And that experience was so much quintessentially you at three years old. You questioned. You listened. You learned. And then you shared your knowledge. With everybody.

Now that you're four, I can't wait to teach you more. I can't wait to see you figure out how everything works. I can't wait for more of those weekends when we rally the troops and go out to explore whatever it is that you're interested in learning about. There is nothing better than being your teacher, than spelunking with you and reading with you and playing with you to find all of life's answers.

You've given me 4 years of adventures, and I hope for 100 more.

Happy birthday, Oliver. We love you so much, little scientist.

P.S. You love this song so much; no other song would do for your slideshow.

"I could lift you up.
I could show you what you want to see,
And take you where you want to be.
You could be my luck.
Even if the sky is falling down,
I know that we'll be safe and sound."

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