Kick, today you are four, and I am ready.
I am ready to give up.
I have had fights about food and fights about toys and fights about TV and fights about books. I have listened to you argue convincingly that you should not wear a hat when it is five below, that you should wear your boots to bed, that we should find a Lego Moana figurine for you in the bottom of the car upon arriving home at 10:30 p.m. after an absolutely bitching 3-hour drive in the snow. I have listened to you argue that you did NOT just promise to pick up your crayons when you DID, I have listened to you argue for another story after we’ve read five, and I have listened to you argue that baths are for staying in until they’re almost outdoors-cold.
It’s impossible to justify the cost of the fight any longer. I can’t do it. I’m done.
These are the terms of my surrender:
First, you will not give the kittens any peanut butter. Or any chicken. Or any peas. Or any bacon. Or any human food at all. Nor will you entice them onto the table, inside the dishwasher, into your room, under the bed or anywhere else you know they are not supposed to be.
You will not instigate bad behavior with the kittens. They are not soldiers in your resistance army. You’re going this alone.
Second, you will go to bed on time. I don’t care what you do while you’re in bed. You can sing to yourself, play with your stuffies, have one hand tell stories to the other hand, whatever. You can launch the space shuttle from your rocking chair for all I care, so long as you are in your room. I cannot make you sleep, but I can make you go to bed, so you’ll do that at a time of my choosing.
Third, you will not be rude to people, nor rude to me in front of people, especially if you are hilarious about it. The other day we were at your Nana and Papa’s house and I asked you to help clean up the toys there because we were getting ready to leave. At the top of your considerable lungs you yelled, “I’m BUSY!” I would prefer you rephrase to something like, “May I please have a moment to finish what I’m doing first, mama,” because your grandmother almost choked to death laughing and we’d like to have her around a bit longer.
Fourth, and most importantly, you will stay approximately this age forever. FOREVER. This age is awesome.
Let me tell you something about you right now, as you drive me absolutely up a wall: You are so freaking happy. You are delighted, as always, by everything, but now you are old enough to poke holes in the dirt with a stick by yourself, and run past me up trails and down hills, and you are a mere HALF INCH from being my roller coaster buddy (your father being, as I’m sure you’ll one day learn, a chickenass about rickety carnival rides).
You are not a chickenass. You are afraid of nothing. Oh, you pretend you are sometimes, to get attention, to get snuggles, to get an extra story or a treat or some time with the kittens, but really nothing scares you. This past summer you and I rode in a Ferris Wheel so high I could see the lake from well inland, and I was clutching the sides of the tiny bench we sat on, and you looked around serenely confident that that which had lifted you up high would set you safely down. You patted my hand condescendingly and then told everyone we met that afternoon how scared your mama had been but not you, you had been brave.
You’ve learned so much in the past year: how to write your name, how to dress yourself, how to play games that involve counting and turns, how to play almost half of hide and seek (you tend to wander off, leaving your poor friends hidden waiting for you long after you’ve forgotten them), how to pet cats gently and talk to littler kids sweetly and hang up your backpack each day, clear your place at the table, put your coat on its hook.
You like ponies and princess things and dinosaurs and books, but your ongoing and violent lack of interest in “playing mommy” never fails to warm my heart. The other day one of your little friends really wanted you to play with her baby doll. She kept trying to hand it to you. “Hold the baby,” she kept saying, shoving the (naked, natch) (mangy, kind-of) doll at you, until finally you lost it and slapped it out of your hand and said forcefully, “I DON’T WANT A BABY.”
“Use your words and say ‘no, thank you'” I told you.
ATTAGIRL, I thought.
That’s my fourth condition. Stay this age forever, cuddled up under my chin as we read in your rocking chair, your tiny hands always in motion, making shadow puppets and butterflies and now and then reaching up to twine through my hair the way you did when you were a baby, both a moment and a thousand years ago. Stay this age, rolling out of bed all sleepy and confused, asking why the bears in your dreams have such big feet and don’t like flowers in their hats.
That’s all I’ve got. That’s all I need.
Beyond that, have at it, kid.