Joe was 4 last Monday. I know that’s a fact, but I don’t really believe it. How can he be 4? I don’t feel like I just had him – I can’t remember life without him, I can’t believe we ever thought it would be weird to have another child, I know he’s not a baby anymore because he’s so bossy and chatty and weird – but still… 4? Seriously?
I still get a monthly email from a parenting website. For the first three years it counts the child’s age by months – so you get ‘Your six month old’ or ‘Your 36 month old’ – but then it changes to years and months. Halfway through last year, I got one that said ‘3 year old, seventh month’ and I realised he was closer to four than he was to three. And it floored me. At first, I genuinely didn’t believe it. I counted on my fingers. I thought hard about whether he really was born in 2009. Then I remembered I watched President Obama’s inauguration the night before my c-section and I knew it was true. My baby was almost 4.
As it turned out, Joe was even less cool with it than I was. We’d talked about it – he went to a friend’s party and asked if he could have one of his own (managed to talk him out of it, thank goodness) but as the day got closer he went off the idea. He kept saying he didn’t want a birthday. When I put him in bed the night before, I kissed him and told him how proud of him we are. Said, “Goodnight, 3. Tomorrow you’ll be 4.” He said, “No, I’m not.”
In the morning, after I wished him Happy Birthday, he said, “I don’t WANT a birthday!” Then, sweetly, “Can it be YOUR birthday?” I told him no, it was his. “I DON’T WANT A BIRTHDAY!” I said, “Well, it is your birthday whether you want it to be or not.” He said he didn’t want to be 4. He wanted to stay the same age and be a baby.
A while ago, I favourited this quote tweeted by one of my favourite Twitter people, QuiltingMuriel, a 94-year-old New Yorker: “Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, yet the youngest you’ll ever be, so enjoy this day while it lasts.” I love that. I love the bittersweetness of it. I wouldn’t have thought an only-just-4-year-old would understand it too, but I think he does. Or, you know, not.
Later there were balloons. And presents. And a doughnut with a candle in the middle. And everything was fine. But in less than 12 months he’s going to be 5. WTAF?