Cake crumbs still spotted the table and chairs, remnants from his brother’s birthday party when LT first began asking if it was now time to plan his celebration, an event that wouldn’t take place for several months. Each time he asked, he announced loudly and repeatedly that he was done being three and ready to be four.
Over the next several weeks, there were few mornings (or evenings) in which LT did not ask us for an update on the number of days left until his birthday. This was new for him as he’d never expressed all that much interested in his birthday before. Eventually, I came to realize that he had gotten it into his head that his world would suddenly be made different by the simple act of raising one additional finger when adults asked him how old he was. He told me he was going to get a bunk bed and sleep on the top. He was going to stay up late every night and was going to get to do homework (the boy is actually looking forward to this – proving ignorance is bliss). I didn’t quite have the heart to tell him that no, not all his dreams of big-kid-hood would be coming true, at least not this year (except the part about getting a new bed – let’s be clear, LT, that’s not happening).
Then the countdown was over and it was the evening before his big day. I told him, this is the last day you are going to be a three-year-old. Tomorrow, when you wake up, you are going to be four. His eyes got big as the reality of his situation sunk in. As I pulled the blankets around him and leaned in to kiss his forehead, he looked at me and said, “I no wanna be four. I wanna be three forever.”
I did what most mothers (or fathers) would in this situation. I gave him a bone-crushing hug and told them that I would like him to stay three very much too. Then I wished him good night and snuck into another room to wrap his presents, because, unfortunately, a wish to stay forever the same is about as likely to come true as is him actually enjoying homework once he starts bringing it home on a regular basis.
I adore my littlest boy. I love his hugs, his laugh, and his insanely honest observations. It makes sense that I want him to remain exactly how he is now, but, as I sat there on the floor trying to avoid papercuts while keeping tabs on the tab, I started wondering about that look on his face and what he said. After so many weeks of anticipation, so much yearning to be four, what now caused the about-face? Sadly, the only thing I can come up with is this – he is my son.
I am the kind of person who falls in loves with the idea of things but can then become terrified if there is even a fraction of a chance of the idea becoming reality (I love the beach, but am scared to swim in the ocean for example). It is one of the reasons it took me so long to start pursuing writing in the first place. I have to admit, I take comfort in the status quo. I know exactly where my place is and what is expected of me. I am fortunate. The status quo has thus far been good to me.
But the status quo is not what dreams are made of. It can be like never going hungry but also never enjoying a slice of cake (and oh, how I enjoy a good piece of cake). And so, as he blows out his candles (and I blow out mine because it was my birthday party too), I am promising myself that I will challenge it. It may not be today or tomorrow, but when the opportunity comes I am going to squash the butterflies in my stomach and face it. So then, when it is my son’s turn, he might do the same, unafraid, for no other reason than this – he is my son.