Henry : Four Years

My darling Henry,

Four years ago, you took your first breath. You were placed in my arms and you just looked at me, not crying, just taking it all in, this strange journey you had just managed from inside to outside. I loved you from the moment I found out you existed, growing inside of me, but in that moment, untethered of me and your own self-existing human, I loved you more than I ever dreamed possible.

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Of course, as any parent knows, those first few dreamlike moments of meeting your child give way to realities. The helplessness of a crying baby. The exhausting nights and days. The feeding struggles, the constant self-assessment of “am I doing the best thing?” But, also as any parent knows, those newborn realities turn into beautiful moments too. More beautiful than imaginable.

The first smiles. And all the smiles after that. The first giggle. And all the laughter from that moment on. The first “mamamamama” and “dadadadada”. And all the chatter after that. There are so many firsts in a baby’s life, but I’m here, four years in, to give testimony that the firsts aren’t the pinnacle. They are just the start of even better things to come.

The funny things you say now—and, oh, you are hilarious with the stuff you come up with—are ten thousand times better than those first gibberish sounds you made. And that’s saying something because those were amazing. And your giggling now when something really hits your funny bone makes me laugh right along with you. There’s something so pure about your joy.

This past year has flown by in a blur and I attribute that in many ways to the fact that just 6 weeks to the day after your third birthday, you became a big brother. You had stayed overnight on January 1st with your grandpa and grandma and I had cried when we left you there that night. I missed you before we even left. It wasn’t even 24 hours later that I heard your little voice, excitedly, coming down the hospital hall to my room. I had missed you so much, my darling. You came into the room and said, “Are you feeling okay, mama?”

Since Perrin was in the nursery at that point, you and your daddy went to get her. A few minutes later, I heard the nurse wheeling the basinet and you proclaiming to anyone in the hall, “We got a baby!” You were thrilled until you tried to share your animal crackers and we said she couldn’t have them and then you abandoned her.

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Those first few weeks were the hardest. And not for the reasons I expected, having a newborn again and all. I missed spending time with you. I missed being able to hang out with you. Where I used to get excited for your nap time so that I could get stuff done, I now looked forward to her nap times so I could do nothing but play with you or read to you.

We found our way. Perrin grew, as one does, and became less needy. Now, nearly a year later, I’m playing referee on you two as you fight over toys and then, seconds later, fall into fits of giggles over something the other did.

You didn’t leap into being a protective big brother right away—it wasn’t that you didn’t like her, you just also didn’t really care that she was around—but as she started smiling, then rolling, then laughing and crawling and pulling up and climbing and getting into things, you have embraced the role. She just needed to become more interactive for you to understand the dynamic, I think. You’re very much siblings and I won’t sugarcoat it and say that you dote on her, but you do love her, even when she makes you crazy and you fight with each other.

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Becoming a brother very much defined your fourth year of life. But it wasn’t the only thing. You grew leaps and bounds this year and not just physically (you’re so tall now!). You continue to love books, which is, I’m convinced, the source of your fairly advanced vocabulary. You construct sentences I never thought a 3 year old would say. Sometime this past year, I discovered that you can read too. Not full books or anything, but you know tons of sight words and can contribute quite a bit to reading books, even new ones you’ve never read before. (You can also guide me around the grocery store, which is a hoot, by reading the aisle-title words like, “bread”, “cereal”, “baking” “canned goods”. “Okay, mama, let’s see…aisle 7 is where we need to go next to get bread. See? It says ‘bread’ right there.”) And while we still read endless picture books, we’ve also expanded our reading variety to include chapter books. We read through the first 8 books of The Adventures of Sophie Mouse in 3 days.

Of course, one of the biggest changes this past year (aside from the previously mentioned and obvious change in our family size) was that you started preschool. When we went to the meet and greet before school started, you were not having it. Like, you panicked. But that first day of school, you walked right in and that was that. You only go two mornings a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), but you love it so much, you would happily go every day if you could. You ask every morning if today is a school day. It is so fun to watch you learn things. It’s especially fun to hear you sing to yourself new songs that you learned in school as you’re playing.

You have an imaginary friend. His name is Norman. At parent-teacher conference last week, your teacher, Mrs. Winstead, said, “Are you aware Henry has an imaginary friend?” “Oh yes. Is his name Norman?” She just started laughing. Apparently, Norman has joined you in class a few times. He comes with us everywhere. You buckle him in the car beside you. He sometimes sleeps at our house, but also sometimes sleeps at his house, which is apparently nearby. He bikes a lot, sometimes on the interstate going faster than our car. And even though he is invisible to us, he is just as real to you as your stuffed dog, Puppy, is. Both are opinionated, constant companions.

You are still just as much (probably more) into farming as ever. You love watching two YouTube channels: Minnesota Farmer and Big Tractor Power, both large farms that video their field work. You know more about farming machinery than I ever did, but I can now easily have conversations with you about discs and plows and planters and 24- versus 16-row corn heads. But sometimes you still throw me for a loop when you say things like, “Whoa! That’s a classic 89 combine bean head.” I still don’t know if you are making up things or if you know more than we bargained for.

Four years ago our lives changed and I am grateful every day for you. You are fiercely opinionated, exceptionally smart, a little introverted, mostly happy, and always ready for a hug. The world is lucky to have you in it and I am so grateful to be your mama.

I love you so much, Henry Pie.

Mama
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