Andrew was home sick for most of the week last week. His eardrum ruptured the Friday before last, and while he seemed fine that weekend, he obviously wasn’t himself last week. He was tired and peaked and didn’t have much interest in doing anything other than lying on the couch, reading books, and watching TV. We tried daycare a couple of days, but both days we got a phone call to pick him up early, so he spent the majority of the week at home with Joe. I’d have loved to have stayed home with him (giving TLC to my sick babies is one of the parenting areas in which I really shine), but since I’d been so sick the previous week, I really couldn’t afford to take any more time off.
What struck me about Andrew not feeling well this time is how...grown up he was about it. He let us put his eardrops in without making a fuss. He took his ibuprofen right out of the little cup that comes with the bottle rather than from the medicine dropper. He didn’t cry or lash out when I cleaned his ear. He was patient with me when I checked his temperature. He was such a...well, such a big boy about it.
Every day I shake my head at the fact that my firstborn is going to be four this year. FOUR YEARS OLD. Four somehow seems like so much more than three. Four is one year away from kindergarten. Four is no longer toddler; four is preschooler. Four is boy; four is, definitively, no longer baby.
He uses the bathroom now, just like any other functioning member of society. He colors inside the lines. He writes his name (even though most of the letters look like “A”) and he writes his numbers, from 1 to 10 (the 8, in particular, is something to behold). He gets up all on his own in the mornings, comes downstairs, uses the potty, plays quietly until his brother and I join him. He applies his own toothpaste to his brush and cleans his teeth thoroughly, drinks from his little cup and swishes the water around to rinse out his mouth. He invents magical worlds for himself, worlds of dinosaurs and bicycle races and mountains made of pillows and fuzzy slippers that, if placed just so over his hands, help him to fly. He is an astoundingly awesome big brother and is full of encouragement (and also stern admonitions) for Will. He tests boundaries more than ever, and knows that his actions will have consequences even as he is misbehaving. He was the sweetest baby, he was a truly awesome toddler, and now he’s becoming the most remarkable, outstanding little boy.
It’s the little things that make him seem so big: getting his own juice box from the refrigerator; putting it in the recycling bin when he’s done without being asked; putting his own plate and silverware in the dishwasher and his own clothes in the hamper. It’s the way he recalls things that happened days and weeks ago in exquisite detail, and watching his eyes as he sorts things out in his head. He is so capable now. I have to remind myself that he doesn’t need me less; he just needs me in a different way.
Parenting is so bittersweet and it’s full of so many contradictions. You’re so sad to see the baby go but so excited to see the boy arrive. You’re so proud of all of his accomplishments, but a part of you is bereft because he’s accomplishing them without you. You’re holding on a little tighter, knowing that soon you’ll have to start letting go. It’s a heartbreaking and amazing ride, and one you’ll get to be on for his entire life.
What a tremendous honor.