My firstborn turns four years old today!
I am so excited for you on your fourth birthday, to celebrate your four years of life and make you feel super special for a day. I have planned a lot of little things today to make you smile - hopefully they work. :)
You are such a lovable boy, full of inquisitiveness and silliness both. You are growing into quite the character, and I’m definitely feeling as if I’m raising a little person now rather than a toddler. You can have deep, contemplative conversations with your daddy and me (on Sunday you wanted to know how it was possible that God made us but we made Him [through Jesus’ birth]...a question I wasn’t expecting for, oh, another 10 years or so). You rattle our brains with your constants “whys” and “hows” about everything. But then you make us chuckle when you throw in words like “eiver” (for “even”) and “uhprize!” (for “surprise!) and help to remind us of how naive and young you still are.
When excited, you are loud, crazy, and bounce off the walls. You love to scream and screech and jump off the furniture and flip your body around doing crazy dance/karate combo moves. But overall I would describe your character as sensitive, emotional, cautious, timid, and pensive. I know I’ve said this many times before (it seems to be a recurring theme), but I’ve found myself overwhelmed with your emotions, moods, and “shyness.” Fortunately, I’ve recently found a book on “the highly sensitive child” and the description fits you perfectly. I’m reading through the book carefully, being sure to weigh each recommendation against what I believe to be biblical parenting, but I’m finding myself feeling SOOOO relieved and so much more understanding of your personality!! So many things are starting to make more sense, such as your extreme sensitivity to warm water, bright lights, smells, and itchy clothing, why you take ten minutes to answer a simple question such as “Which of us do you want to pray?”, why you freak out when thrown into new or crowded situations, why you notice such subtleties such as how a guitarist places their fingers when strumming a guitar. I have even found my eyes watering up at the realization that there is a common thread behind many of your behaviors, that there is guidance for how to parent you, and that I’m not alone in my struggles with what to do. It’s such a relief. I’ve even decided that you are not “shy,” rather, you are “timid,” and I’ve begun using this word to describe your “shy” behavior to new people. “Timid” suggests that you need to feel safe and confident before proceeding, while “shy” suggests that you just need to be familiar with a person before you’ll start participating. You are definitely the former, not the latter, and I hope that using “timid” will better guide people in interactions with you.
We’ve been having troubles getting you to fall asleep at night (you’ll lay in bed until 10:30pm sometimes, wide awake, staring at the ceiling) and so we’ve pretty much eliminated your naps. This means that if we happen to be in the car in the evening, I often have to tickle your legs and feet the whole trip to keep you from passing out (and thus taking a forbidden nap).
You love to play hide and seek, practice karate moves, make believe, swing (a current obsession), put together puzzles, dance to music, build (blocks, legos, lincoln logs, magnetic toys, etc.) and play a whole assortment of sports. You love to help with anything and everything your daddy and I are doing. Yard work, cooking, baking, cleaning, laundry, shoveling the driveway, you name it.
You’re still a little guy, measuring at about 38.5 inches tall (~13th percentile). Over the last year or so, you drastically slimmed down and lost most of your baby fat. Also, your feet have not grown much in the last year, and you’re still wearing some shoes you could wear a year ago (size 10 mostly). You’re wearing mostly 3t shirts and 3t bottoms.
You’ve become a more picky eater, which may be the reason for your loss of baby fat haha. One day you’ll chow a certain meal down, and the next time I make it you’ll scrunch up your nose and refuse to eat. It causes struggles for me, because until you were about 3 ½ you were such a good eater. I haven’t established my parenting philosophy for picky eaters yet, but I’m working on it as fast as I can, because your little brother is way worse than you. I get so frustrated at meal times!!
We’ve signed you up for preschool in the fall, you started swim lessons on Monday, and you are taking a month and a half of dance classes starting in April. And so begins our life of scheduled children’s activities. Goodbye freedom, it was nice knowing you.
As for the organized activities and lessons, your daddy and I put a lot of prep work into getting you there and willing to participate, thanks to that “highly sensitive timidity” I mentioned above. For example, on Monday you had your first swim lesson. You were very reluctant at the thought of it, so I first took you to the pool last week, and we walked around the building and watched some other kids swimming. As we left, you told me you were too shy to do the lessons. So your daddy and I talked it up the whole weekend, about how awesome and exciting it was going to be. You still weren’t convinced. Then on Monday we bribed you with a candy treat and told you if you did well during the first lesson, you could have the candy afterwards. Thanks to the candy, you put on your swimsuit, went to the pool, and prepped for the lesson without much argument. About ten minutes into the lesson, you were still shrugging away the instructor (and based on my observations, thoroughly explaining to him why you didn’t want to do what he asked but would perform an alternative action for him at your recommendation) and so we held up the candy in your line of vision and waved it around. Boy, that changed your attitude quickly! :) You started (somewhat reluctantly) doing everything the instructor requested and even jumped off the side into his arms, letting your head go under water (!!). Afterward you were so proud and had a huge grin on your face, and you told us you had fun. So bribing with candy we will do. I’ve always thought the bribing was something that shouldn’t be done, that children need to learn to do things that make them uncomfortable without any type of extrinsic reward, but I’m also learning that your level of anxiety for such activities seems to be MUCH higher than most other children and so giving you some extra incentive helps you to overcome your fears. If that’s what it takes, I will do it. Watching my child have an emotional breakdown over swim lessons, Sunday school classes, and similar situations is just not easy for me, especially when I have flashbacks to feeling the same way (and I did!). What matters is that you are overcoming your fears and getting to do activities that I KNOW you enjoy. That was one recommendation in the book I’m reading about highly sensitive children: don’t push them too hard in general, but if you know it’s a situation that down the road they’ll be glad you pushed, then do it. I feel that way about swim lessons, and also about dance lessons which you’ll start in April. Both sets of lessons are short in length and commitment (4-6 weeks), so if they do flop that’s ok. But already I’m seeing (at least with swim lessons) that we’re doing the right thing and that you’re happy after you get over the initial angst.
We are doing a little get-together birthday “party” for you this weekend at a park, and I hope it makes you feel special. We are just having a few of your friends and their families come meet us out. We’re going to let you kids run around and play and then sing to you. There isn’t really a “theme” to the party, but we did have to pick out plates and napkins. I really wanted something little boyish, such as race cars or dinosaurs, but you got attached to these ridiculous Ninja Turtle plates and napkins in Target and I could NOT change your mind. After many attempts at convincing you otherwise, I finally gave in, because it is your birthday after all. I’m going to have to plan a better strategy next year. :)
Alright little boy, you are awake and running around downstairs now, so it’s time for me to end this blog post. Love you SO much, your daddy and I are so proud of you, and we can’t wait to see what the next year holds. :)