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max 4 years old Max James Murphy, you sneaky rascal. How are you growing up so darn fast? You are four years old today. I am in awe.

When people asked how old you were today, you said: “I’m four. And then five and then six and then seben*.” (*Not a typo.) You are excited about getting bigger. You have your whole life ahead of you. Nobody knows what the future will bring, and that’s just how it’s supposed to be.

I still remember the day I peed on a stick and thought NO WAY. And now here you are turning four years old and I’m thinking the same thing. You can’t possibly be the baby I held in my arms four years ago today, straining to open his swollen eyes for the very first time. You are my endless source of disbelief and my constant reminder that anything is possible.

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Your father and I can barely remember the sleepless, screaming infant you used to be. (I said barely. We’ll never fully forget, which may explain why your only sibling is covered in fur and poops in the yard.) Boy, how you’ve chilled out these last couple of years. There was a time when you wouldn’t sit still long enough to be hugged. But you’re making up for it now, distributing love and affection on demand. I love your sudden, spontaneous smooches, with your arms slung around my neck or your hands gripping my cheeks. It’s like you’ve just rediscovered that I’m your mom, you’re totally stoked about it, and you’ll burst if you don’t let me know. Let’s hope you still feel this way when you’re a teenager.

You have your fiery moments, but Turbo Ginger has geared down. I see how you look at my face when I’m speaking to you now, your curious eyes flicking around, thinking about what I’m saying, asking questions to help you understand. You are a good listener (most of the time). You are a thinker. You are smart. There’s nobody on earth I’d rather talk to.

You are a creature of habit. You have “your spot” on the couch. If someone else sits there when it’s time for some Treehouse, they will be removed with brute force. You take an apple and a frozen yogurt in your lunchbox, every day. And you must have a puppet show at bedtime – the exact same show every night – followed by daddy’s rendition of Christopher Robin. Daddy can’t sing for beans, but you don’t seem to mind.

You need to wave to us out the window every time we drive away, and we must wave back — no exceptions. Waving to daddy as he leaves for work is what gets you out of bed in the morning. If he forgets to wave, you get upset, I call his cell, and he drives back to make amends with extra waving and airborne kisses. But we both know daddy never forgets to wave.

You’re always up for adventure beyond our humble abode in “Torbag.” But your favourite place in the world is right here at home. Our house is small and cluttered. Your bedroom is a matchbox. There’s barely enough room for your train tracks. But to you, this place is a palace. Knowing you see it that way helps me to see it that way too.

You are one of the tallest kids at soccer. You scored two goals on Sunday. “I winned two times,” you said. It’s so hard to resist touching the ball with your hands though, isn’t it? I don’t know how you do it. You took me quite seriously when I said, “listen to your coach and do what he does.” During your first class, every time Coach put his hands behind his back, so did you.

You can walk on the bottom of the kiddy pool at the Aquarena now. You think that’s pretty cool. Although, I suspect you’re thinking – why learn to swim when I can just walk on the bottom?

You’ve outgrown your tricycle. When you pedal, your knees almost touch the handlebars. It’s okay — you got some brand new wheels today. A blue Thomas bike with training wheels. Yesssssssss. Fist pump.

You are starting to get freckles on your nose. And your chubby toddler cheeks are melting away to reveal the young man you’re going to be. I find myself kissing those cheeks extra hard these days, trying to convince them to stay a little longer.

Your front tooth is still loose, but it seems to be hanging in there. Not bad for taking two smacks in the mouth from the same Tonka dump truck.

Your favourite food is “noodles and broccoli.” You eat so much broccoli, we may soon start growing our own. Whenever there’s something less favourable on your plate, you say you’re not hungry and pout. But a few seconds later, you’re clearing your plate. Your father and I snicker behind your back. Don’t be mad.

No food on earth will ever compete with “pock-a-soles.”

You’re putting on your own shoes now. (No laces yet though.) And you lie down on the floor to slip into your coat – the way they taught you at daycare. Your “Go Habs” mittens are the only mittens. There’s a hole in them now, which I guess I’ll have to sew up.

You are the kid who tells the adult in the room that something’s going awry. “Aidan is jumping on the bed.” “Owen said a bad word.” But there’s no emotion about it, just facts. You’re not a tattletale; you’re a reporter. Let’s go with that.

You’re fair and diplomatic. When I ask you who’s funnier, mommy or daddy, you say: Mommy… and daddy. When I ask you who’s a better singer, you say: Daddy… and mommy. When I ask you whose boy you are, you say: Mommy’s boy… and daddy’s boy… and Splash’s boy.

You never forget Splash. It’s probably about time you start calling her a “she” though. Not all dogs are boys, little dude.

You are an expert belcher. It’s all burping and farting and peeing and pooping — all the time. You told me you chase after the “bad guys” at daycare. I asked if you fight them. You replied, quite matter-of-factly, “I punch and fart at them.” I know you’re just playing. If I ever hear that you’re bullying another kid at school, I will do as my grandfather used to say and “take you down a button-hole lower.”

When you poop (yes, I’m going there), you immediately bend over and stick your butt up in the air. I walk into the bathroom and you’re already in the “wiping position.” I think you’d stay there for hours until somebody came. We were at a party a couple months ago and I lost you in the crowd. I passed by the bathroom and caught sight of your butt up in the air, awaiting the first person to come in and give you a hand.

You’re not shy. You’ll sing the Thomas theme song upon request, the Fisher Price microphone practically inside your mouth. And you’re a clown. You take off your clothes before bath-time and stomp around the house chanting “handsome, handsome, handsome,” shaking what your father gave ya. Crazy kid.

You love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You crack up when Donatello says, “butt sandwich.” You say “heroes in a half-shell.” I say “turtle power.” And vice versa. This can go on for hours.

But even crime-fighting turtles can’t compete with a cheeky blue train. We thought by now you would have left Thomas behind. Not even close. You’ve never had a pacifier or a blanket or a stuffed animal, but now I realize Thomas was all of those things for you, and still is.

You love playing hockey in the basement with daddy. You especially love to body-check. Daddy is looking forward to coaching your hockey team one day. But if you don’t want to play hockey forever, that’s okay too. We’ll always have the basement.

You love ketchup. When we ask what you had for lunch, you say: “Caesar salad, chicken nuggets, and ketchup.” Ketchup is a food. Daddy gave you a bottle of it for your birthday today. You thought that was pretty funny. You’ll always remember he did that, just like you always remember who gave you everything. Who gave you those Thomas pajamas? Aunt Robin. Who gave you Gordon the train? Uncle Glenn. When you open gifts, you say WOW, even if it’s socks. Today, you even took the time to open your cards.

You are master of the iPad. And you’re finally holding a pencil properly. (Oh how the times have changed.) You can write your name now. But you don’t care that the letters are supposed to be side by side from left to right. You put the M, A and X wherever you feel like it. Freestyle, baby.

You have an unusual concept of time. You often start sentences with things like, “When I was a little boy last night…”

You like to hide. But if someone finds you right away, that’s not cool with you AT ALL.

You love being outdoors. Summer’s almost here so I expect you’ll be spending some serious time in the backyard watering the clothesline post in your yellow rubber boots.

You are going to be a fireman when you grow up.

You love blue. But you’ll gladly drink out of a pink Princess cup.

Jogging pants over jeans, hands down.

You wouldn’t be caught dead without your sunglasses on. Even when it’s not sunny. Even when it’s dark! I think it’s because your future is so bright.

At least once a day, I find myself staring at you, utterly amazed that the likes of your father and I could create something so perfect. If I could have picked parts from a catalog, I would have created you just as you are.

It’s hard to resist, but I try not to tell you you’re handsome too much. Because how you look is not important. It’s who you are. I hope you always know that. If there’s one thing I want the world to see in you, it’s not your beautiful brown eyes but the kindness behind them. I think the world is seeing it already, even though you’re only four.

I realize as the years go by, the current you will replace the former you in my mind. It’s just the way it goes. One day, I’ll be looking at a young man before me and say “I can’t believe you were ever that four-year-old little boy.” So today, when you blew out your candles (all by yourself today, as requested) I made sure to take note. In that moment – right after you blew out the flames, right before everyone started to clap, just as the smoke from the candles was slowly climbing skyward – I took a mental picture of you. My big, brave, curious, affectionate, broccoli-munchin’, train-lovin’, kind-hearted boy who is four years old today.

I brought you in from the car tonight, asleep in my arms after a busy day. You’re getting so tall and heavy, I can barely carry you anymore. But I will always carry you, in one way or another, no matter how big you get. And you can’t stop me.

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