You are four years old, going on fourteen and I swear every day is one day closer to you turning into that teenage boy who thinks his mother is the most annoying woman in the world. As much as I'm nervous for those years, I am excited for them too. Because if they prove to be even half as fun as the past four years have been, I know we're in for even more fun, a wild adventure for certain.
Every day I am in awe of you. Of your soft heart, bright eyes and kindness beyond your years. You play hard but you love even harder and as much as I want to take credit for your sweet soul, it's truly of your own doing. We can only show you love- we cannot make you love others but you do it so, so well.
You are the coolest person we know.
You are quick to make jokes, quick to make people laugh and you've realized, at a very young age, that people love to laugh. The more they laugh, the more they love you. You are the funniest little boy and you will go out of your way to make people, on their best and on their worst days, laugh until their sides hurt.
You greet everyone with a smile and a cheerful hello. Whether we're walking the aisles of the grocery store or traipsing through the neighborhood blocks, with every newcomer we pass, you shout a hardy "hi there!" Your Dad and I jokingly call you The Mayor for this very reason. As soon as they say hi back, you immediately launch into introductions. "My name is Carter Me-----. This is my Mom, and my two brothers, Mackie and Baby Collins. How are you today?"
We're so proud of you.
Being the oldest is tough and what's even tougher is that sometimes your Daddy and I forget just how little you truly are. Sure you're older and bigger than your two little brothers and sometimes that means that we expect too much from you. But you handle the pressure we unintentionally place on you with a grace beyond your years. I know some days it may seem like you can't do anything right but know that sometimes your Daddy and I don't know what we're doing when it comes to raising the three of you and we make mistakes. We yell. We hope you always know how much we love you, even in those moments when we seem frustrated and upset. Three was tough. Four might be just as tough, if not tougher. It also might be awesome. Regardless of what lies ahead, we love you more than you will ever know.
I remember the very first minute we met. That moment when we locked eyes four years ago and you were forever mine. I know I won't forever be yours and I will admit, that stings a little. Okay, a lot a lot. But even now, I pray for the partner who gets to love you and be loved by you. Next to me and your Dad, they will be the luckiest person in the world.
I remember holding your tiny hand in mine- praying for you. For us. That we would figure out this crazy ride together. I look at those same hands today, your long skinny fingers, your palm in mine, spanning a greater breadth than it did back then- the lines of your hand dirty and sticky with sidewalk chalk, marker, Oreo cookies mixed with a touch of little boy sweat. I try to imagine where those hands will take you. I squeeze your hand tighter.
I remember, as most new parents will, that we had absolutely no idea what to do with you when we brought you home. We knew the basics of course but for the majority of the time, we were flying through parenthood by the seat of our pants. You broke us in. You changed us. You showed us what it meant to love someone other than ourselves. To love someone so much that it literally steals your breath away when you think of them.
I still have those breathless moments and I'm sure I'll have them for many, many years to come. When I see the way your eyes crinkle at the corners when you smile. When I see you rush over to a fussing Baby Collins and rub his cheek, singing him Twinkle Twinkle and reassuring him that "everything will be alright, Baby Collins. It's okay. I'm here." When I see you give up, albeit unwillingly, your most beloved toy because Maclane begs for it. I am breathless.
When you stop whatever it is you are doing, when I beckon you to come over for a hug or a quick snuggle, I love that you don't think twice about me because, again, I know those moments will look much different in a few more years. It's okay though- I know deep down you will still love me, I hope. You just might not want anyone else to know. Remind me of this when you're, oh, say six. Okay?
There isn't a shy, reserved bone in your body. You want to be everyone's friend and I hope against all hope that this incredible, selfless trait won't ever be taken advantage of. If it is, I pray to God above for the one who abuses it. I worry about you because you are so kind. So sweet. So mindful of others feelings. But I'm your mama. It's my job to worry over you (and your brothers) and I will continue to do so for as long as I'm living.
You are four. You are a bright light and an indescribable joy to love. As much as we love you, you love your brothers, construction trucks, painting, drawing, fishing and racing your bike up and down our street. As quick as you are to love, you are stubborn. Indeed you are your mother's child. It's good to be stubborn though- sometimes it's your determination, your passion for something that is misconstrued as such. Don't lose that.
Carter Michael, you are one of a kind. God knew what he was doing when he chose us as your parents. We are the luckiest. Happy 4th Birthday, sweet boy of ours. We love you more than carrots.
Mom and Dad (as you have lovingly taken to calling us this year).