The anticipation of four is almost better than the actual birthday. She's been talking about it since just after she turned three, and inviting everyone she meets to her birthday party. Four became this dividing line between present and future. She would be brave when she was four, and sleep in her own bed. (She has since revised this plan to occur when she is five). She would learn to read. She would be a big kid in her class.

Four years, we said to each other, drying dishes and packing lunches in the kitchen after the children were asleep, have we really only been doing this parenting thing for four years? It feels like forever. It feels like always. The other day, we stopped at the car wash. A year or so ago, Laurel freaked out when I went into the car wash - full on tantrum, crying, terrified. Since then, we had honored her request to avoid it. (Also, you know, we suck at remembering to do things like wash the car.) But recently, she got over it, so there we were on a beautiful sunny autumn day, music blaring, etc. When we pulled up, she got very still in her car seat and held onto a stuffed animal. Her eyes were focused on something else - maybe on Four - and she whispered to herself, "that is a machine to wash cars. I am not afraid." She willed herself out of the fear and in that moment I saw so much of myself in her, and remembered why I have never been happier in all my life.

Being a parent to small children is a series of ridiculous anecdotes. Someone is always shitting their pants or throwing up on you. Things are tossed out the car window. You get soaking wet at bathtime every night and sometimes eat leftover baby food for dinner. Your house is always littered with blocks and pacifiers.

But being Laurel's mother has also forced me to answer hard questions, to be more honest than I am with nearly anyone else, and to say I'm sorry. Laurel coaxes out the Me that was always in there. She convinces us to take pleasure in an ice cream cone, finding acorns in the woods, and bedtime stories. She calls us out when we do something stupid or mean. She can be very wise. It's like being on stage in front of an audience of psychotherapists 24-7. She tests limits, she screams loudly when she is disappointed or angry. She cries, hard. She asks us for what she wants. She asks everyone for what she wants.

We are going way overboard with her birthday, in a way that is rather uncharacteristic of us. She's getting three parties, lots of gifts, too many sweets. I'm blowing up dozens of balloons and running out to the grocery store twice a day to prepare for the various meals we're cooking. But I can't stop. She delights in every little bit of it, from the card that arrived from my grandmother with two dollar bills in it, to the balloons hanging on the wall.

So, happy birthday, Laurel. Happy Four.


Anonymous said...

And happy birthday to you, katy and mark, cause if not for you....Laurel wouldn't be here...

Anonymous said...

Hurray for 4 ! Hurray for Laurel ! Hurray for her parents and grandparents and her whole family !

Elaina said...

This may be the best description of being a parent that I've ever seen. Beautiful! Happy 4 Years, Laurel!

lizandbrian said...

happy birthday, laurel!!!