Happy Birthday Alex.
This number, for me, marks a significant milestone.
Your big sister turned four the year you were born. She seemed so old, so mature somehow, with her chatter and her pig tails and booster seat and toddler bed. And then came you, and I was right back where I started, with a rear facing car seat and soothers and diapers and sore nipples.
OK, sorry. You probably don't want to know about that.
I thought then that once you turned four, I would be back to the start again. I would regain all my lost ground.
Because while I had always counted on a third child, I had never counted on a four year span in between the second and third.
But things don't always work out the way we think they will.
And so there I was, starting all over again. The exhaustion of endless night feeds, the wobbling first steps, the toilet training mishaps, the temper tantrums. The trials and tribulations of the first four years, which I had just survived, unscathed- but barely, all loomed ahead, again, like little land mines waiting for me to come along and step on. Though- I looked forward to every one, truly, oddly, but at the same time that four year mark seemed like- well I don't know. It seemed like freedom.
And now here we are.
All those milestones come and gone.
You are a big boy now. With Spiderman underwear and a messy bedroom and friends and race car sets and an upcoming dental appointment. I don't feel freedom, precisely. Maybe a little bit, I guess.
I feel a mix of emotions, which is usual for me. But I feel, more than I thought I would, a sense of loss.
My little sideways baby. My last child.
I call you my sideways baby because that's how you were, when I was pregnant. Sideways, though they called it transverse. With fascination I watched on ultrasound as you flipped yourself from transverse to frank breech in the blink of an eye during my appointment which was supposed to involve you being coaxed into a proper position. But you would not be coaxed.
The OB shook her head.
I wondered how you could do that. Full term babies aren't supposed to.
"He hasn't read the textbook" the doctor joked.
And in the blink of an eye you were back to sideways.
I look back on it now and knowing what I know now about you and your personality, this should not have been a surprise to me.
You are a mover and a shaker. You don't like to stay still, and truly, you never have.
I remember our first night together, the solitude of the hospital surrounding us at night when it was just you and I. You just refused to give yourself to sleep, and still we go through this every night. I remember being so completely exhausted the next day, but forcing my sluggish muscles to run a bath for you. I looked at the water and the tub, thinking 'I could just do this tomorrow'. The baby will not die without this bath at this moment. The task suddenly looked so daunting. But stubbornly I persisted on, unable to concede defeat to what should be an easy task. I wondered whether it was a good trait of mine or not- to be so stubbornly determined. The woman in the bed across from me was a sobbing mess in her husbands arms, crying about having to give the first bath. "I just don't think I can do it," she cried. It occurred to me it probably wasn't a bad trait after all. And after your bath was over, and you were swaddled and smelled like Dove Baby soap, and I held you close and breathed you in, I knew it was worth it. And I knew I would do it a thousand times over, tired or not, just to smell that smell. And I think, by now, I probably have.
We read that first night- a book that I now know by heart. "Oh the places you will go"
"Congratulations, today is your day!" I whispered to you, feeling for some reason foolish and self conscious while the lady cried on across from me. (Was she depressed or what? I wonder about her sometimes, even still.)
Four years have come and gone. Your presence in our lives has been huge. It is the lavish lipstick coloring on our walls, the permanent marker inside our fridge, the nail polish on our bedding, the absence of a DVD player in our home due to a scrambled egg related spilling incident, which may or may not have been related to a bumble bee attack. It is the exhaustion and the fatigue and the joy of raising you, our spirited and determined and just plain loud child. You have amazed me, shocked me ("But I thought fuck was the bad word?" You managed to make the sentence sound innocent, which, in itself shocks me.), made me laugh ("I'm so disappointed in you," when I told you I wasn't going to make you spaghetti for lunch), and made me cry ("but mom, sometimes I just don't know how to be a good boy.").
Sometimes when I look at you I cannot fathom the potential you possess inside of you.
Other times when I look at you I simply think you need Concerta.
It hurts my heart to think like that.
But even through all of the noise and all of the chaos, I choose to see the beauty instead of the frustration.
Of course, sometimes I am also drinking wine, which seems to help.
Other times I force myself forward, just like I did on our first day together one with that bath, to push myself to my limit and then just a little bit beyond it. To do it anyways, even when I'm tired. To go to the park. To push you on the swing one more time. To be more patient. To have the energy to be present. To have the resolve to remember at the end of the day what's really important and what really isn't. Because I know that the next four years will come and go as quickly as the last. And the four years after that, and after that. There will come a day when all of this will be a distant memory, blurred and distorted by time and all of the things that seem so stressful now will seem charming and whimsical then.
It hurts my heart to think like that, too.
Because, ultimately, at the end of the day, who even cares if there's nail polish on our bedding, or lipstick on our walls?
And, ultimately,you can get by quite nicely without a DVD player. You can order your movies off Shaw on Demand quite nicely. DVDs are becoming antiquated concepts anyways.
It's not the end of the world.
But to see you laugh so hard that you shake; to hear your enthusiastic, often fabricated chatter; to cuddle beside you on the couch; to have you tell me "I am SO having fun growing up"; to have you wrap your little arms around my neck, to walk hand in hand with you.
That is the world to me. Because at the end of the day, I got everything I wanted and hoped for and dreamed of four years ago today- and a whole lot more than that, too.
So Happy Birthday Alex!!! I love you more than you will ever know. Not only in spite of your energy that is infinitely exasperating, but also- strangely, because of it. Life without you would seem just plain boring! Without you, I would never have occasion to utter the sentence "I hope your birthday cake doesn't taste too much like Caesar Salad. I think I got most of it off."
"And will you succeed? Yes! You will indeed. 99 and 3/4% guaranteed, kid you will move mountains!!"
July 11, 2012