When The Village Is Not Available

As Previously Published:  http://www.scarymommy.com/parenting-without-village-worst-days/

Last night was parenting misery at its finest. My husband was out of town, our part-time nanny and our back-up part-time nanny have both recently had changes in their schedules and are no longer available, my in-laws wouldn’t have been able to make it to our house in time, my close friend emergency contact was at an event and unavailable. So there I was. My village unavailable. Three kids. Hit with the worst migraine I can recall having in the last four years. The last time I had a migraine this awful, our previous full-time nanny had changed her dinner plans, come over for the last hour of the kids’ day, to just tuck them in because I was too debilitated to make it another hour. I awoke from that haze of a migraine to see the dishes in the sink washed, the house picked up, the kids in bed, and blissfully clean quietness. If I wasn’t already in love with our nanny before, I certainly fell hard for her at that minute, right then and there.

Well. Now the love of my life has moved to North Dakota (my former nanny—not to be confused with my husband), and there I was. Sharp, stabbing pain coursing through my left eye to the back of my neck, the nausea warning me as to what was to come, the dimmest light making me feel as if I was staring into the core of the freaking sun, barely able to keep my eyes open. I profusely thanked my type A self for pre-prepping dinner for the kids. I plated their food and poured them their drinks, then curled my throbbing, pounding, close-to-vomiting self up on the couch. I called out orders from the couch to my newly promoted baby-sitting five-year-olds. “Is your baby sister done with her food? Is she eating? Can you get her some fruit? Can you make sure she doesn’t stand up in her high chair? Can you make sure she doesn’t stick her fork up her nose?  Can you get her milk?” I had been so proud of my aspiring Martha Stewart self for making the most adorable fruit skewers with peaches, blackberries, grapes, and strawberries. Now I was cursing myself for making those damn fruit skewers, imagining my 21-month-old stabbing her unsupervised eye with a skewer. Thank goodness for my doting son that plucked each piece of fruit off the skewer for her and put them on her high chair tabletop.

It was five o’clock and I was on the verge of breaking down wondering how I was going to shuffle my kids to take a bath, brush their teeth, get in pajamas, and make it to the end of the night. I could barely move. The voices of my boisterous five-year-olds had never sounded so LOUD; they were like splitting daggers hitting me in my left eye. If I moved, I might throw up. If I spoke, this intolerable pain was going to become worse. I could feel her adorable, piercing brown eyes staring quizzically in my direction, wondering why her mama was curled up in the dark on the couch and not eating with her. She just kept saying, “Mama. Mama. Mama.” To which I answered sparingly. My five-year-old baby-sitters finally told me my 21-month-old was done eating. I took a deep breath (mostly to pep talk my stomach contents to stay within the confines of my stomach), mustered up the last drop of energy and cleaned her off. She kept saying, “Nose. Nose, Mama. Nose.” I looked at her nose. Sure enough, she had stuck a corn kernel up her nose. Had she ever done that before? No. Did I have any energy to react? No. I took some tweezers and pulled it out. “Nose. Nose, Mama. Nose.” I looked up further. Ah yes. Another corn kernel jammed up the crevices deep into her left nostril. I thanked myself for choosing to go through the years of schooling and the years of training that made me a master of foreign object removal from toddler noses. If this was the pinnacle of my MD degree, it had made it all worth it. I removed it. Checked one more time. No more corn kernels. I reminded myself that next time I asked my five-year-olds to babysit, to add to the list of sub-standard expectations, “Can you  make sure she doesn’t stick food up her nose?”  I gave her a meek talking to, using half my energy to speak to her and half my energy to keep my nausea at bay. It was 6 o’clock, and she usually goes to bed at 7. But hey, what’s an hour. So she went to bed at 6:15 because I had no more left in me to make it another hour. I was lucky to be able to put her into pajamas, a night-time diaper, and to remove one of her pigtails.

I called down to my five-year-olds to come upstairs, get their pajamas on, and we would reconvene in my bedroom. I announced it was a bath and tooth-brushing national holiday and no one was getting proper hygiene that night. They lounged in bed with me, and watched indulgent amounts of cartoons—My teacher says TV is really bad for your brain. Duly noted, my dear daughter. Thank you for the public service announcement—while I curled up under the covers, and made a cameo appearance only to expel my stomach contents in the bathroom. In never before recorded history, I asked them to please tuck themselves into bed. They rolled with the punches. My son hugged me, kissed me, “tucked me in”, and turned off all the lights, and hushed his sister, “Be quiet. Mommy is sleeping. Stop talking to her.” And without much more fanfare, I heard their doors click closed and silence. I felt so, so thankful that the day was over, even more thankful for the best kids I could ask for, and laid in the dark willing this fierce pain in my head to subside.

The pain did subside, and today, I am back to myself. I remember a colleague saying that a sick child was no excuse for not coming to work. That everyone should have a back-up to their back-up to their back-up. Well, some people are not so blessed with a village to take care of their kids. And while I am that fortunate, sometimes, the stars just do not align. I am so lucky that for me, these moments are fairly rare. I don’t know how you do it, parents out there without a village. But I am in absolute awe of how you make your family work, whatever your family looks like. Keep it up, all you parent warriors. It isn’t easy, but man, if your children are fed, their teeth are brushed most of the time, they take a bath some of the time, then hey, from where I stand, you are killing it.

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A Plea From My Fifth Grade Self

I sat there, heartbroken.  My first fight with my fifth grade best friend.  I can’t exactly remember what it was about.  Her choosing another partner for a project?  Me sitting by someone else during a student assembly?  All I remember is coming home from school, head held low, heart heavy, feeling conflicted and unsure.  My fifth grade self experiencing the growing pains of friendship.

I remember sitting on the couch after school, feeling listless.  My mom was busy in the kitchen making dinner.  I remember her haphazardly wiping her hands on a kitchen towel, her hands still damp, when she asked me, “What’s wrong?”

My eyes welled and a building army of tears threatened to charge forward, as one single drop went rogue and rolled down my left cheek.  Between dramatically sucked in breaths of air, I told her about my fifth grade heart broken day.

My mom, half-heartedly listened.  Then she smiled and said, “Oh Cindya” (she called me ‘Cindya’), “This is just a little fight with your little friend.  Friends come and go.  It is not something to be so upset about.”

I realize now she was right.  A trivial tiff between elementary kids.  Definitely nothing to be devastated over.  Yes.  There is a litany of worldly issues more worthy of our time.  However, in that moment, to that fifth grade version of me, there was no “seeing the bigger picture.”  Her comments only added to my insecurities and rejection on that day.  I vowed to remember that.  I vowed to remember that while my emotions may be a childish reaction to an inconsequential event, they were my emotions nonetheless, not to be dismissed.  I vowed to remember how I felt in that moment and to remember its importance when I was a parent myself.

So that is what I remember.  I sure don’t remember the fight.  And ultimately, my mom was right.  My fifth grade best friend is now a Facebook friend whose adorable pictures of her sons I like when I see them.  I wish her a happy birthday once a year when FB reminds me.  So yes.  It was not something to be upset about.  And yes, some childhood friends come and go.  And yes, there are innumerable experiences and issues that have since come to light that have much more significance than that day’s events.  But, as I dive into parenthood, I remember the voice of my fifth grade self.

The issues of your children may seem trivial to you.  You, as an adult who has gone through so many more life experiences.  You, as an adult that realizes how incredibly lucky your children are to grow up with what they have.  You, who are aware of so much more that is going on in the world that needs our efforts and attention. You may think that it is important to have those discussions of everything that we are fortunate to have and about the more worldly issues to provide your child a more global awareness outside of her trivial fifth grade world.  You may even think, it would be the perfect opportunity to discuss how confrontation and adversity is a part of life and this may be a moment to build on your fifth grader’s strength and character.  Well, my fifth grade self is telling you, this is not the time for that discussion.  At this very moment, what your child needs is your attention.  Your empathy.  Your validation that these emotions they are feeling are real.  That reactions and processing new experiences, good or bad, is worthwhile.

In not minimizing their emotions, you are in turn not minimizing them.  You are supporting them and reinforcing their confidence in how they navigate this moment’s challenge and conflict.   Let them know it matters, because to them, it truly does.  It matters as part of their growth regardless of whether this issue is fleeting or ultimately forgotten.

Help your child build the confidence to acknowledge these experiences that will help them mature and start to solidify their own sense of self so they can join you in tackling the bigger issues. And every other day, please do talk to them about the things that we are facing as a nation and beyond.  Teach them that they are part of a global picture.  But right now, go ahead and let them feel.  Let them be a fifth grader.

Until Our Boats Meet

When you are in school, from the minute you step off that big yellow bus in kindergarten to when you roam those high school halls a seasoned senior to those undergraduate days traversing your college campus, there were always your people. There was your best friend in third grade there to trade you her Hostess cupcake for your three Oreo cookies at lunchtime. There was your friend in sophomore geometry class kicking your chair to pass you that emergent note that couldn’t wait until after class: Meet outside the cafeteria after 5th period? There was your physics lab partner who you hysterically laughed with after she snapped yet another rubber band while trying to create that impossible suspension bridge in Thursday afternoon lab. There was even your roommate in your early 20’s, who never judged you when you ate yet another can of Spaghetti-O’s for dinner, because, well, she was eating the last bowl of Cup O’ Noodle soup.

And then you finish school, you find a job, you find yourself in the midst of adulthood, not yet feeling adult, and maybe you get married, and maybe you have kids. And then, all of a sudden, when you were least anticipating it, your people have changed. Your people are now crying, irrational, small little beings that need your constant attention, your constant assistance. You thought you knew mood swings, but wow, your two-year-old’s sudden change of attitude when he realizes the cup you gave him was purple, purple. The world-caving-in tantrum that ensues . . . You’ve never had this happen with any of your people in the twenty to thirty years of having people. The other of your people decides she will no longer sleep through the night. Because, after trying it out for the last 6 months of her life, she would prefer to regress to how life was in that first year of life, because, why not? And so now, you and your people are a hot mess. You and your daughter are sleep-deprived, and your son, well. HE GOT A PURPLE CUP for lunch. There is no coming back from here. You quickly do a sweep of the room. Is there anyone else here? Will anyone be casually walking through between classes or to catch up with you after lunch? No. It’s just you. In your house. With your people. Not until dinner time will another familiar, reasoning face walk in the door. So there you are. Hiding in the pantry, sneaking those Oreos with no one to trade them with, just to get a minute alone without your people.

And we wonder why we feel lonely.

Our days are packed. Packed with commitments, whether it be work outside the home, work inside the home, taking care of our families, embracing all the responsibilities of adulthood. But one thing that we need so very much is now missing. And that is the presence of friends and your people that related to your life on a daily basis. Wasn’t that calculus test ridiculous?  I’m pretty sure I made up the answer to every question!  Were you as bored as I was through that guest speaker’s presentation?  Can you believe what that guy said in class?

All of a sudden, you are not spending most of your days with people that are in your same boat. Instead, you are spending your days with little people trying to sink the boat you are emphatically paddling to keep afloat. This boat you are desperately trying to keep moving forward, and tidy, and with regulated screen-time. It is a tough boat to be on, and without all the people that used to row alongside you, its not only tough, but also lonely.

I have always valued my friendships, but I was never aware of the value of mom friends at this season in my life. This season when you can feel so alone in your struggles to just make life run in a semi-smooth fashion. So many days, I feel like I am tackling these battles myself. Facebook and parenthood memes tell me I am not, but it is hard to remember when you are in the midst of an emergency bath time evacuation of your three children after realizing your youngest has proudly demonstrated her ability to be potty trained and produced her #2 while sitting in a haven of bubble gum scented bubbles.   “Mama, poo poo bath!” She exclaims. Wow. What I would have given to have someone with me at that moment to tackle the logistics of how to . . . or at least to laugh with at in that moment of hysterics . . .

Do you ever catch yourself screening people you meet, wondering if they could be your friend? Your person? Wow, you have three kids? Ages 6 and under? Hmmm . . . where do you live? Not to be too forward, but could you be my best mom friend, please?? I want to blurt. Instead, I nod, and smile, and finish our small talk in the bread aisle at the grocery, and move on, because I have exactly 20 minutes until I have to leave and pick up the kids. But I do wish . . . I wish you could be my friend, and maybe make me feel less lonely, be my buddy to commiserate in the hilarity, the exhaustion, the constant juggling of this season of adulthood.

I guess what I have to say, is that friends are hard to come by in this season of our lives. For those of you who have found your mom friends, your people that aren’t walking runny-nosed, spirited beings with sticky fingers, I know you are thankful and I am happy for you. And so envious.  For those of you like me, that still chat a little bit longer than is comfortable with that person you meet in the store, you are not alone. We are not alone in feeling lonely. It’s okay, and we will keep our separate boats afloat until we find each other.

 

 

 

My Mistake: Imperfections are Real

Previously Published:  http://www.scarymommy.com/parenting-open-about-imperfections/

Since having children, I’ve started living my life in unexpected ways. I’ve changed my attitude and daily life in ways I never imagined I would or could. I’ve done these things to be the example I want to be for my children.  I’ve dug into my inner confidence and shown them that I am confident in who I am, I am confident in the body I was given and take care of, and I am confident in what I do. I’ve tried to show them I will put forth my strongest, best efforts, and that I will never shy away from responsibility. I try to show them I am passionate about what I do.  I try to show them the importance of a work ethic. I try to show them the importance of resiliency.   I try to show them that nothing matters more than love and your family.

Today, I realized that in all my efforts, what I’ve failed to show them is that imperfection is part of who we are and that it is okay. Please don’t get me wrong.  I am far from perfect, and I am the first to acknowledge that. I have insecurities, I am more likely to win the “most improved” award on any given day than “most likely to succeed”, and there are a million things I wish I could learn to do. But, in the eyes of my five year olds and 1 ½ year old, their mommy can do anything. They know that there are some things that mommy is better at, that daddy is better at, but they truly believe, we can do anything. And what I came to think about today is perhaps I am doing them a disservice by nurturing this impression.

This past week, our nanny that had been with us for four years before she moved, came to visit for a week. Today, she left to go home. Minutes after she left, we were driving away in the van. I looked back at my five-year-old son, and saw him biting his lip, blinking his eyelids rapidly, red circles forming around his eyes. My sweet, sensitive boy was sad and missing our nanny. When the van stopped, I crawled into the back seat, and wrapped my arms around my sweet boy. His tears brought tears to my eyes. I was just as sad as he was that our nanny had left. “I know buddy. We all miss her right now.  Look what you’ve done. You’ve made mommy cry.” I chuckled lightly. I saw my son look at me, wide-eyed, startled at what was happening. I realized then that my son had never seen me cry. Me. Sap that cries at every “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” episode. Me. Sap that cries at every Ellen DeGeneres give-away clip. My son, searched my teary eyes in panic, to make sure that everything was still right, that I was still me, and this was going to be okay. I smiled at him, “You know, buddy. It’s okay to cry. Mom cries too.” He looked at me unsure, and continued to stare, slightly bewildered, but slowly became reassured as I smiled through my tears and joked with him.

I realize that in trying to be an example to my kids, I have ignored a huge part of life and living and success: failure and imperfection.

I haven’t set my new year’s resolution yet, but I suppose my new year’s resolution, and maybe my new parenting resolution is to show my kids real life.  Show them the bad with the good. Show them the challenges I face, the failures I confront on a daily basis whether they are big or small. Show them that tears happen. That disappointment is part of life.

Without showing them I’m not always the best, I can’t show them how I regain my confidence. Without showing them my mistakes, I can’t truly show them strength. Without showing them my imperfections, I can’t show them how I try my best. Without admitting that I have to do things I don’t like to do, I can’t show them how I own my responsibilities and pursue my passions. Without telling them about the challenges I face, I can’t show them the importance of a work ethic.  Without telling them about my failures, I can’t show them the importance of resiliency. Without all these things, I can’t show them that no matter what, there is still love and there is still our family.

I guess what I want to say to my kids is, sorry. My bad. Let’s try this again tomorrow. And that’s okay.

This is the Time of Our Lives

Previously published: http://www.scarymommy.com/family-life-time-of-our-lives/

My baseline default mode for the last five years has been “frantic.” I gave birth to my amazing twins, and if I thought I was “busy” before, I was sorely mistaken. The kind of acrobatics I came to accept as normal with juggling life and these “darling” newborns of mine was nothing short of chain-my-right-arm-to-a-40-pound-weight-and-ask-me-to-balance-a-stack-of-fine-china-on-my-forehead kind of acrobatics.

I remember a conversation I had with a colleague who confessed that he was not yet ready to have kids. “I’m not ready to give up my freedom,” he said. I didn’t think twice about what he said, really. Not ready? My ovaries have been rioting with their readiness for years! This conversation faded over my pre-baby months, and resurfaced with a vengeful vigor post-babies as I began to understand exactly what “give up my freedom” truly meant.

Giving up my freedom meant holding onto my full-three-hours-ago bladder just 10 more minutes (or 15 or 60 more minutes) while I finished changing my daughter’s dirty diaper, got their snack ready, and wiped up that weird stain on the carpet, and—is that another dirty diaper I smell? Dear lord, children! This is not a race to fill up the diaper pail!

Giving up my freedom meant forgoing brushing my teeth today because I had just finished breastfeeding the twins, and my daughter was already asleep, but my son was bright-eyed and ready to goo-goo and da-da-da, until of course, my daughter started to stir and wake up again.

Giving up my freedom meant staving off the surfacing panic as I came to the realization we were out of diapers in 3, 2, 1…and I needed to go to the store with both my infant babies.

Giving up my freedom meant date nights with my husband—wait, I can’t stop rolling with laughter. What are date nights with my husband?

I never knew what “I’m not ready to give up my freedom” meant. I could have smacked my colleague. Why hadn’t he shaken me ferociously and waved his hands frantically in my face while shouting and knocking some insight into my head so I truly knew what he meant? And by the way, was he some kind of secret sensei for figuring this out without ever having experienced it himself? Or was I just blinded by my ovaries?

“I’m not ready to give up my freedom” is an ever-changing phrase these days. As my infants grew into little toddling an-injury-is-a-step-away cuties, it was a game of chase and keep track and forgo finishing that sandwich you have been craving for the last six hours. As they became so smart and so verbal, it was a game of respond to their every demand for blueberries, milk, their favorite stuffed dinosaur and clap vigorously at their potty-training-in-training achievements. Today, it is a game of “why?” and congratulatory compliments over their new family portrait with house and tree and sun.

I think back to before I had kids and how much that is all I longed for—to have a family. These idealistic daydreams I had of family life, of Janie and Jack-clad children playing sweetly with their not chipped or half missing set of wooden Pottery Barn Kids blocks. I think about the things that kept me busy before kids, that I still try to accomplish with a fraction of the attention and energy I paid it in the past. I think about my constant struggle between enjoying my kids and maintaining this person in this life I lead before them. And then, it all came together. I came to realize that maintaining this pre-children life was no life to be maintaining, because it wasn’t my life.

This is my life. This is our life.

This is the time of our lives—this life that my husband and I have nourished and that is the center of our world. These three kids of ours, that are constantly in tow, like our very own pack of three little ducks clipping at our feet. And it is a full life and an amazing life. And this is what I yearned for and am so, so lucky to have in all its imperfections and all its fullness.

When life changes, let your expectations change. This is the time of our lives. This is the time of our lives when the dishes can wait in the sink after dinner, because it is the holidays and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is on TV, and you are so excited to share this part of your childhood with your children.

This is the time of our lives, when my hair might (will) still be wet when I pull it back, because there are kids filled with joy who want to be a part of my day right now. There is my daughter who wants to show me her latest dance-twirl-robot move in her pink tutu with stars and flower-print leggings and princess slippers. There is my son who has 20—make that 40—questions during a football game as he discovers his love of the sport, and I discover the unexpected love I have for witnessing his flourishing passion for something.

There are their questions and commentary and the way they process and regurgitate information and memories when we engage in undistracted conversations that make me marvel at how their brilliant minds are growing.

There is the time when I step on another Cheerio and resist the urge to run for the vacuum and Swiffer WetJet, because my 18-month-old squeals in delight when she sees me break for the vacuum, thinking instead that I am coming to chase her, and she takes off in the cutest diaper-butt shaking baby sprint, clapping her sticky hands with pure glee. Why would I want to do anything but chase her? There are still the occasional 3 a.m. wake-ups when I pick up this sweet, sweet baby of mine and indulge in her warm tired body, snuggling on my chest as she falls back to sleep, burying her head deeper into my shoulder.

“I’m not ready to give up my freedom” these days means that I will never go back to those pre-kid days and I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is the time of our lives. The time I always daydreamed about, and now it is life and it is reality. This life is bursting at the seams. It is love. It is full. It is joy. It is tiring, exhausting, unrelenting. But it has never been better.

The Anticipation is Killing Me

My twins are 6 months old. They are the quintessential marshmallow babies with rolls upon rolls in their healthy little legs. They are eating an array of mashed up steamed veggies that include spinach, green beans, carrots, and squash. They are ravenous eaters, and I am a proud mommy. I am proud of the choices I have made for my kids and I am proud that they are gobbling up all this healthy goodness. A sweet mom of two kids, 2 and 4, passes me in the restaurant. “Oh, your kids are adorable!” She exclaims. “And what good eaters! Oh, my kids use to eat everything too. But wait until they hit toddlerhood! They’ll be fighting you over every last pea you put on their plate, and then all they’ll eat is mac n’ cheese!” she chuckles and passes on by.

My twins are 12 months old. We are out shopping for the holidays. They sit in their stroller and stare at the crowds of people while munching on raisins. “Your kids are so well-behaved! Just wait until they hit their terrible two’s! Oh, what a nightmare!”

My twins are 2 years old. We are at the grocery, and they happily hold boxes of crackers I hand to them or bottles of condiments. We are at the cash register. “How old are your kids? Two? Oh my, twins! Just wait until they are three, they won’t be good listeners anymore!”

My twins are 4 years old and my baby girl is 13 months old. We venture out as a family on a Friday night to the local pizzeria. My twins giggle and pass toys back and forth across the table, and my little girl stares at the people at other tables, then stares and babbles at her siblings. “Your kids are so sweet! Get in all the family time you can now, because when they’re older, they won’t want to have pizza with you on a Friday night anymore!”

My 4-year-old girl and I go out for a mommy-daughter date. I introduce her to shopping for her own things for the first time. She is in awe of all the little girl jewelry at the jewelry store. “Your daughter is so sweet! Wait until she’s a teenager! You’ll be singing a different tune then!”

Here is the thing. I know you have good intentions, but your anticipation of what horrible things I am to expect is killing me. Maybe in the years to come my kids will not want to spend a Friday night with me. Maybe my daughters will be a handful as teenagers. (I can hear it now, “you have TWO daughters! Oh boy! Just you wait! They are awful!) But right now, I am a mom of three young kids, proud of how I am raising them and proud of the kids they are. I am enjoying them when they are good eaters, I am sappily admiring them when they are adorable and well behaved. I am not preparing yet for puberty. I am not preparing yet for Friday nights when all the kids are out with friends and I am hopeful they will be home by curfew. I am sure that time will come, but the last thing I am thinking about when my kids are giggling over my silly only-funny-to-four-year-olds joke is how this won’t be funny anymore when they are 10 or 15 or 23.

I understand that I am beyond lucky having three healthy kids. Don’t get me wrong, we have our moments, but for the most part, we are enjoying every milestone as it comes.  I know that every child and every mother’s experience is different and unique. I appreciate you reaching out to me, trying to connect with me, reminiscing of a “simpler time” with your own kids. But please allow me to enjoy my kids for who they are right this minute and maybe at another time, you can share your own experiences of what came after this stage for you and your kids. But not right now.

Letters to my Four-Year-Olds, Part II

Today is the last day my twins are four. I wrote them each a letter on this last day of being four. Here is my letter to my son.

Dear Max,

Today is the last day you are four years old. The thought of you turning five fills me with pride, fills me with excitement, and anticipation. There is a small part of me that feels bitter sweet, realizing that you have left everything baby and toddler behind you, but mostly, I can’t wait for what is to come. I say this not for generic reasons, but I say this because of who you are becoming.

You, my four-year-old boy, are one of a kind. Yes, I say that because I am your mother and all mothers think their boys are one of a kind, but I say that because I know, like the back of my hand, who you are. You are sensitive, you have a kind heart, you have a moral conscience, you want to be good, you wholeheartedly love and care about your sisters, your grandparents, your friends, your mom and dad. You are aware and considerate of the company you are in, and you are observant and have a ridiculous memory for last summer’s vacation, last week’s Vikings game, and that time we went out for pizza and your baby sister didn’t want to eat her peas.

You are my sensitive boy that wants to hug me just a minute longer before you go to bed. You startle me in the still, dark hallway at 6 in the morning before I leave for work, “You are my favorite mommy in the whole world.” Your face falls with devastation when you get in trouble for something you know you shouldn’t have been doing. You fight back tears welling in your eyes when you are disappointed and your expectations have not been met. You can’t help but let out that pure joyous giggle when you learn about a surprise that is to come your way.

You are dedicated and responsible, which are things I am not so sure can be taught entirely. This past Friday, you had your holiday program, and you were sick and vomited on stage, then proceeded to sing and dance for an hour-long program, including starring as Mr. Turkey in Hello Mr. Turkey. And you did so, unfazed, singing and dancing in a pile of your own vomit. Unbelievable. Your perseverance is unparalleled.

You are so smart. You remember scores to football games from three weeks ago. You memorize the most obscure dinosaur species from your big book of dinosaurs. You can add. You can read. You are inquisitive and asked your dad the other night, “what was the first thing that lived on earth?” You use logic and reasoning in ways I had no idea a four year old could do.

You are gentle. You adore your baby sister and want her hugs and kisses. You watch out for your twin sister and protectively put your arm around her when you are both timid in a new situation. You tell her how she hurts your feelings when she is sad.

You love football, making crafts, playing board and card games—your new favorite is checkers. You love being outdoors, you love adventure, you love books. You love dinosaurs, superheroes, and robots.  You love to eat.

You are confident. You are sensitive. You are kind. You are smart. Your smile is infectious. Your dimples are to die for. You have the sweetest words, and I couldn’t ask for a better son.

To you, my four year-old son, on the day before your turn five. Thank you for giving us these five wonderful years with you and for giving us so much to look forward to as we watch you grow. You are my favorite little boy and I am so lucky and thankful to have you as my son.

All the love in the world for you, my baby Max.

Your mom and biggest fan forever and always.