Four Years of You

Four Years of You

Dear Jenna Paige: 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!  You’ve been counting down since Christmas, so I know you’re excited. And I’m excited, too, when I’m not looking at baby pictures of you and sobbing. 

Jenna, the craziest thing about this birthday is how grown up you seem to me now. You’re not a toddler anymore – you’re a little kid, and you have grown and changed in dozens of ways. 

One word to describe you is “independent.” You want to do everything yourself. If I tell you what you want to do won’t work, you will stand there, hands on hips, and say we can find a way to make it work. I constantly find you dragging the kitchen stool around the house in an effort to reach the places you “meed” to be. You would rather spend eight minutes climbing into the car while holding three toys all by yourself than let anyone help, even just a little. It drives me crazy in the moment but that attitude will serve you well when you’re inevitably running your own country one day. 

This year, you learned to use the potty. I think the real motivation for you was getting an m&m every time you were successful – you still ask me for one sometimes. You love picking out which undies you will wear every day, which is good, because most days, that’s all you wind up wearing. You have told me more than once that you can’t wear clothes because you need to be free. It is extremely hard to keep a straight face while you stand there in your Minnie Mouse boots and Tinkerbell undies and try to convince me it’s fine if you go play in the yard like that. At least you have shoes on, right? 

I loved seeing you grow and learn in your three-year-old class this year. You learned a lot about your numbers and letters, but I really love the new ideas and social skills you picked up. You learned how to be a friend and how to navigate the tricky waters of someone not wanting to be your friend (although I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t be!). You fell in love with two little chicks that came to your school and decided to become a farmer when you grow up. You have told me all about your farm – there will be chicks, unicorns, and genies. I look forward to visiting. 

Seeing you in ballet was probably one of my favorite things ever. You loved ballet – well, you loved watching yourself in a giant mirror, which turned out to be the same thing for you. You told me being a “bah-la-lay” girl was all you ever wanted in your whole entire life, and it turns out dreams do come true. I think you would wear your ballet costume to bed if I let you. 

Jenna, I just love seeing your personality shape itself as you grow. You are sassy and strong and brave. You want a pet bug to keep in your room and you love to help your Barbies dig in the mud while wearing the prettiest dress you can find. You have a wonderful way of reminding me which choices are “green” and which are “red,” and which ones Jesus would like the best. 

Speaking of, I was so proud of you when you told me what Jesus did for you and for all of us, from start to finish. You told it in your own inimitable way, and I could tell it is really starting to register for you. And I’m just so excited for you! You also learned a lot about the struggles Joshua faces this year. I think you were finally able to really understand about some of his needs, and I was so incredibly proud of you when you told him he was made just the way he was supposed to be. You have been dragged from appointment to appointment, dropped off at countless playdates and sitters’ houses, and still you are my smiling, generous girl. 

There are not enough words in the world for me to describe you the way I want to. This age has been my favorite, just like all the rest. I love the way you share your candy with me. I love the way you invite me to play princesses in your castle. I love to hear you play by yourself and listen to you make up stories for all your characters. I love the way you shout “BOOM, SHAKALAKA” when you’re excited. I love your “monster” voice, which you like to use to sing songs and greet me in the morning. I love the way you start your sentences with “Wellllllllll” every time you’re about to tell me no to something. I love the way you call people by the job you think they have – “Candy Lady,” “Art Ladies,” “Music Lady.” I love how you are such a great talker, and yet you still have some of those toddler quirks where you mix up when to use “her” and “she.” I love how you wave your little hand around like a socialite from the 60s when you are talking about something that is “soooo adorable.” I love to watch you do your own make up, even if you look like Groucho Marx after. I love how you love “beautiful fings,” like princesses and trapeze artists and literally anything with glitter. 

Jenna, I just love you so stinking much. You are my sidekick, my grocery shopping buddy, my joke-teller, my laundry folder, my dish washer, and so much more. You are fierce and determined and aren’t afraid of a challenge. You are my Jenna girl, my Neener bear, my Nae-Nae Puddentain, my Jenner-Benner. I love you now and I will love you always. 

Happy fourth birthday, baby girl.

~ Mommy

 

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It Goes By Fast

It Goes By Fast

 Let’s set the scene: I am in Kroger with my offspring, both of whom are behaving very well, but who have apparently recently started eating Pixie sticks by the pound because they are both SUPER EXCITED and firing off questions like firecrackers on America’s birthday: 

“Is that a bug?”

“How long do butterflies live?”

“Have you seen my magic wand?”

“Can we get a butterfly to live in our house?”

“Is THAT a bug?”

“DID YOU KNOW MY MAGIC WAND IS JUST A PENCIL?”

There was no bug. And I did know about the pencil, but I pretended not to because lying to little kids is totally acceptable. 

I passed another mom and her teenage daughter as I was answering these questions as fast as I could while also trying to read through a grocery list. The other mom and I made eye contact and we both smiled. 

“It goes by fast, doesn’t it?” she said, giving my kids a wave as she walked away. 

We made it through the list of insect questions and were now deep into a series of queries over which animal would eat you the fastest, a dinosaur or a lion. Our answers were inconclusive, by the way. If you see either, just accept your fate. As Joshua began listing out the reasons a dinosaur would have a hard time eating a person (the word “omnivore” was thrown out, which is 100% Daniel’s doing), I passed a store manager. He smiled at my kids, too, and offered his thoughts on our wildlife dilemma. He was #TeamLion.

As he said goodbye, he winked at us and said, “Enjoy it – it goes by fast, Mom!”

Both this man and the mom from before were kind, sweet people (based on the thirty seconds I spent with each; they didn’t seem like serial killers or anything). They were not scolding me, or judging me – they were just living a life 10 or 20 years ahead, and wanted to pass on the wisdom they had learned. They, like so many parents, knew that the time with their kids was fleeting, and while these young ages could be exhausting, all things come to an end eventually, so I should savor the moments that I could. 

I say all that to let you know that I am not mad at either of these people. I totally get where they are coming from. But when you have a kid with delays, those comments can really catch you off-guard. And, sometimes, they can hurt. 

We are in somewhat of a unique position in our family: My son is chronologically and cognitively five years old. Socially and emotionally, I would put at him at a little younger, maybe three-and-a-half or four in some areas. Physically, his skills average out to be those of a child who isn’t quite two years old. None of this is bad news; what matters most to us is that he continues to progress, which has always been the case. 

But as I came home from the store and walked inside, those comments stuck with me. They stuck with me as I pureed food for my five-year-old, who needs to be fed like a baby several times a day to maintain his weight. They stuck with me as I filled out a form for financial assistance with swim lessons through our local special needs adaptive swimming group. They stuck with me as I remembered that I needed to buy diapers on our next trip, because potty training has been a difficult skill for my son to learn. 

For some of us, it doesn’t go by fast. Have the years seemed to fly by? Do I double-check the calendar daily in disbelief that another school year is ending when I’m sure it just started? Yes and yes. The days and the months and years do go by fast. But these early days, the days of diapers and baby food and dressing and parenting a toddler – they have remained with me, and with my son, and with our family. 

I’ve said before that I feel like we’re stuck in space-toddler continuum – Joshua does AMAZING work, and he is learning a ton. But because he takes longer to learn new skills, and because his little body is not always ready to take on these challenges at the typical age, it’s like he’s moving in a different time zone, one where days are months and months are years. A place where he grows so fast in some areas and doesn’t change at all in others.

It’s hard to put into words that match the picture in my head. I guess you could imagine a clock, where “typical time” is on the minute hand and “Josh time” is on the hour hand. He moves, certainly; things change and develop and grow. But by the time he has made it from one number to the next, the rest of the world has made a full circle, and he is left to start again.

Do I wish things were different? No – Joshua is who he is on purpose, and to wish he didn’t have these struggles would be to wish him away entirely. He is a wonderful, smart, enthusiastic kid who is already everything I want him to be. But that doesn’t mean small, well-meaning comments don’t hit me in a spot that can cause a lot of pain. 

Sometimes, it doesn’t go by fast. Not for everyone. And please know that this isn’t a call to action or a plea for you to stop telling people that time passes quickly. Many people have said that to me before, and many people will say it in the future. It’s almost always meant in love and as a friendly reminder from a mom who just wants to share what her decades of parenting have taught her. I can’t ask you to stop saying it, and I wouldn’t want to.  No one can live in a bubble where they never hear difficult things.

I suppose if there is anything I want you to take from this, it is to remember that those age-old bits of wisdom aren’t always true. 

Sometimes, it doesn’t go by fast. 

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