mine for four years : river

River, you've been around this place for four years now. I've been sitting here for the past thirty minutes, trying to figure out what to say. I don't feel like much has changed over the past year. I wonder if it's because you have grown into the person you will be always. You are still my explorer, scared of nothing, my bright-eyed extrovert who knows no stranger, my sweetheart who cares deeply about people and often sits there silently while your little sister attacks you, my independent boy who helps himself to snacks and pours his own milk and isn't afraid to try something new.

I know exactly what your fifth year of life has in store for you. I know you are right at the cusp of becoming a Big Boy; I know this year you will learn to read, you will continue to learn about responsibility and how to work efficiently and excellently (cleaning your own room can be tough!), about routine and good habits. Before this year, I feel like I've been raising a baby. Even at three, you still had no many baby qualities. Now, I feel like I have my first big boy. I am excited. This is going to be fun!

But I don't want to talk about this coming year -- I want to talk about last year. From three to four. It has been a year of growing pains and shrugging the last bit of toddlerhood off your shoulders. You still come to me when you get hurt. You still cry when I leave the house and don't take you with me. That doesn't bother me -- I love that you love to be with me, and I know that won't last forever. Before I know it, you'll be fifteen and wanting to be on your own. You'll want your space, your privacy, your secrets, and your freedom. Right now, all you want is me. You want me to read to you, to snuggle with you, to kiss your ouchies, to play catch with you, to wrestle with you, to eat with you, to dance with you, to sing to you, to hold you. I'm okay with that.

This year, you truly enjoy things. Not in the way that you enjoyed me nibbling your toes as a toddler, or picking flowers, or watching things happen from afar. You understand so much more, and you want to be a part of things -- for the first time, you truly can be a part of things. This year, you learned how to make your own pizza. You drew the face that would be carved into our pumpkin for Halloween. You threw snow balls and didn't care that your cheeks were red and frozen. You help make decisions about what clothes to buy and what food we pick up at the grocery store.

I have watched you become more and more independent. You can pour your own almond milk straight from the half-gallon carton, without spilling a drip. You eat tidy and clean, and show me how spotless the table and your shirt are when you are done. You can brush your teeth, and I watch you as you are careful to get every single tiny tooth. You love to pick out your own outfits, and I let you wear them, even if they don't match. You hate wearing underwear; I don't know why, but I go with it. You still eat three bananas a day.

You are proactive in doing things for yourself. You aren't afraid to try something new. Sometimes it gets you in trouble -- like that time you climbed the counter to get a new toy off the top of the fridge, and then got a pair of scissors from the drawer, and tried to open the package... all before Daddy and I were even awake. You take the dog out in the mornings. You set the table. You take your dishes to the sink. You pick up the living room for me. You can make your own PB&J sandwiches. Sometimes, you even load the dishwasher without me having to ask -- and you do it well, too!

You are mischevious and sneaky, the quiet-naughty type, but ever patient and kind. It's just not in your nature to be violent or mean. You are so sweet, that when someone mistreats you, you don't know how to react. You make goofy faces at your sister to annoy her, but when she is being mean to you, you mostly take it quietly and rarely hit and push. And if you do, it's because you are tired or overwhelmed, or are having an uncomfortable growth spurt. One time this past year, you grew an entire half inch over night. You cried all night long that your legs hurt, and Daddy and I took turns massaging them, and when we measured you the next day we saw how much you grew. You could scale buildings, if you tried -- you can do anything you set your mind to, I'm convinced of it.

I know, I know I say this every year -- but this year, you are officially not a baby anymore. Not a trace. Except maybe in those little cheeks. And your still-pudgy hands. And the way you ask me to carry you and when you rest your head on my shoulder.

I love you, River. I still watch you sleep and my heart still does flip flops for you. Every night after you've fallen asleep, I stroke your wild hair and kiss your little sleeping lips and scooch you over so you won't fall off the bed, and I thank God for you. I thank him that he's let me have you for four years. I pray you will be mine until the end of time. I pray that you will grow up to be wise and compassionate and hard-working, and that you will love Jesus with all your heart. You bring me joy, you light up my life. You are an amazing person. I would be so empty without you. Happy birthday, my sweet boy.



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