I am still baffled sometimes when I think about the fact that I am one of the lucky ones that has a little boy who is four. I only get him this way for one year and then I won't ever get him as a four-year-old ever again. And he just might be the greatest four-year-old boy to ever exist.
He's not perfect. In fact, four (okay, it was more like 3 1/2) has brought more limit testing and defiance. We have also dipped our toes into the ponds of Not Always Being Kind to Friends and Sneaking Out of the House to See the Neighbor Girl (for real). But along with those challenges is the opportunity for my parenting thoughts and philosophies to evolve. Where I once felt that every parental request or command should be met with compliance, I now feel like it should be okay for him to tell me "no thank you" to some things and I should respect his independence. I am realizing that he needs me to honor his choices (and therefore, him) more than he needs me to demand that he be respectful of authority. Of course I still want him to be an obedient and respectful little boy-- I just feel like modeling that in the way that I treat him (Montessori would call this "following the child") will be more effective than pounding in precision commands.
The four-year-old George is assertive and confident. He is still just as friendly as ever with strangers, and especially loves boys/men between the ages of 7-25 (he thinks that they are seriously just as happy and excited to play/hang out with him and he is with them and calls them all "dude"). I sometimes have to bridle his excitement so that he doesn't drive my siblings' friends/boyfriends crazy. He isn't intimidated by adults and asks for what he wants. In fact, my mom bought him a brand new booster seat once when she wasn't planning on it (he needed one anyway, but she was going to wait until I was there so she told George it was too expensive and wasn't on sale) because he went over to a salesperson and said, "Excuse me, we want to buy this carseat, but we can't because it costs too much money so is it on sale?" And for whatever reason, the salesperson decided to put it on sale for George. So they bought it.
The four-year-old George is still my cuddly lover boy. He is still so tender-hearted and affectionate with the people that he loves. He often just kisses and hugs his baby sister for no particular reason, and he'll stop what he's doing, look over at me and wink (oh how I love his winks) with an "I love you Mama." He loves to have his back tickled and he'll lay on me forever while I scratch his back. His favorite person in the world is still his daddy. He loves me, but he'll say things to me like, "Mom, Dad is a star and you aren't a star." They have a club and I'm not invited :). I did once acquire star status for a brief moment when I let him go swimming with his cousin, but it was short lived. By bedtime that night I was informed that I was no longer a star, but of course, Daddy still was. His second favorite person in the world is probably his sister. He seriously loves that girl. He is so patient with her, and is so, so willing to share with her. I am actually often amazed at how readily he helps her and shares his things with her. He is a fantastic brother. I am probably his third favorite person. And I really am okay with that :). I love the way he loves his dad and sister. And he really does love me too, promise :).
The four-year-old George is a thinker. He always has been. He wonders about how things work and asks good questions. He pays attention to details and knows about them long after I've forgotten. He knows all of his letter names and sounds and asks what things spell and wants to make words all of the time. He wanted to type out a letter to his friend one time so I made the sounds of the letters in the words, he figured out what letter it was, found it on they keyboard, and typed the letter all by himself. Four-year-old Georgie is also starting to think about and be curious about things like how babies get out of mommies (I explained this all to him and he was very happy that I am not a mom that has to get her tummy cut open to get the babies out and then wanted to see exactly where the baby came out of me. We didn't go there :)), and is starting to wonder what is underneath the clothing on the mannequins at department stores. We're trying to find that balance between helping satisfy his curiosity (because it is totally normal) while also being respectful and appropriate. It's a delicate thing, answering these four-year-old questions.
The four-year-old George is still very cautious. He isn't a thrill-seeker. We went to Lagoon last week and he didn't really want to go on any rides except for the tiny boats that go in a circle (and were made for babies), and the bumper cars. He loved the bumper cars. He was happy to walk around with us and watch everyone else go on rides. The highlight of his day was when he begged his daddy to try to win him a plastic bat by throwing over 70 MPH, and John did it and won. George was ecstatic, saying things like, "You are the biggest star, DAD! If I can find a gold medal in our house I will give it to you!"Who needs rides when you have a strong daddy and plastic baseball bat?
The four-year-old George is learning to do chores and is actually an impressive little cleaner when he wants to be. The other day I asked him to clean up the floor in my bedroom (he and Pearl had been playing in there so there were toys all over and Pearl had ripped up little pieces of toilet paper and thrown them on the floor) while I nursed Pearl down for her nap. Pearl's naptime is usually when I allow George to have some time to watch a movie or play a game on the ipad, and I told him if he got it all clean he could get on the ipad. When I walked back into my room and saw George laying in my bed with the ipad I almost started to get after him (because I really didn't think he'd clean it all up by himself), but then I looked around and realized that he had totally done it all. He had even put some of my clothes into my drawers and in my closet. I just started to laugh. He has been picking up his own bedroom and making his bed and helping with the dishes after dinner for quite sometime now, but this whole "clean up my bedroom while I nurse the baby" is a new thing for us. A new thing that I may just have to take plenty of advantage of. All in the name of teaching him to work, right? :)
The four-year-old George is still such a delight and miracle to me. I cannot imagine loving any person the same way that I love that little boy. There are parts of my heart that he opened and that will always just belong to him. He is my little buddy and is one of my favorite people in the world to hang out with. He makes me laugh and fills me with joy and gratitude in ways that I hadn't ever felt before he came to me. I say prayers of thanksgiving daily that his beautiful, sweet presence is in our home, that we get to spend so much time with him.
For his birthday this year we invited his two favorite friends over to my parents' house for a little swimming. At first George was concerned about the logistics of it all ("But Mom, Logan doesn't know Sevrin. Do they know Ne Ne? How will they get to her house if they don't know her?"), but once I explained to him that it would all work out and they all knew each other he was ready for the party.
Here are the three four-year-olds in the pool showing me how old they all are now.
(Sev, Georgie, and Logan)
I can't believe that my tall son is the shortest of this bunch. We have some tall friends!
Georgie and Logan had fun jumping in. Sevie wasn't quite ready for that yet :).
For being such a cautious soul, this little guy sure doesn't have any fear of the water. He would seriously swim for 8 hours straight if I let him.
My beautiful BFF Rachael got in with her boys.
The party was right during Pearl's naptime, but I let her splash around for a little bit before I put her to bed. She is obsessed with the water just like her brother, and would dive right in and drown if we weren't careful.
One of the best things about my parents' pool is that there is the whole waterfall area where little ones can play in the shallow water. Pearlie loves it.
Grandma with Pearl, taking a break from dipping her in the water, and Logan showing off his pet toad with his mom, Aunt Lisa.
We wrangled the boys out of the water and up to the patio for cake and presents. I love this picture of them in their towels. Little boys are the best.
I love this of all the little boys so excited about the superhero presents George was getting. So cute.
Georgie was one happy little boy.
Mama and Daddy with our birthday boy.
After presents we moved on to cupcakes. John and I spent the morning making these fun little jungle animals. They turned out pretty cute, even if my grandpa was totally dismayed that I made pink flamingoes for a boy's party :).
Here is G blowing out his four candles. (If you look closely you can see the hippo cupcake that my father desecrated. He was trying to put pretzels in the nostrils with blue frosting. Because he is a grown-up.)
Sev and Ollie liked theirs :).
This is when Baby Pea woke up and joined us. Nothing like a cupcake right after a nap :).
The boys stayed out of the water long enough to eat a cupcake, but then they jumped back in and happily began splashing Hannah's boyfriend.
A group photo of most of the people that came to celebrate our boy.
George was ready to jump back in the water, but first he had to say goodbye and thank-you to his guests, and then take a picture with all of us since Pearl was awake.
He wasted no time in trying out the water mask that Grandma had given him for his birthday. (He also insisted on jumping in with his dinosaur from Hannah, as you can see.)
After George swam for a better part of the afternoon, it was time to go home. We still had one more present to give him and wanted to get there before it was late and he was tired. We thought that leaving around 6 would be fine, but as you can see, it was pretty hard to keep him awake on the way home. I kept asking him questions and having him show me how old he was to try to keep him up. Sooo exhasuted, little cutie.
But we made it home, and he immediately perked up because his little friend from next door (yes, the one he snuck out of the house to play with when I had already put him to bed) came running outside to see him open the present that her mom had made for George. Darling, right? (The gift and the girl :).) And Pearl took a book that my grandparents had given George and started reading it on the sidewalk while this was going on, so I took a picture of that, too.
George's present from us was a balance bike that he can use to help him learn to ride a two-wheeler. He loved it and was so excited to ride it, but we think he might be too tall for it. We are actually still going back and forth about whether to keep it or not. It was a fun surprise anyway, even if only for that day :).
Then, since George had gotten a second wind, John helped him set up the marble block toy that my parents gave him. He was in heaven.
And to top off a pretty perfect day, "our Bucherts" ("Buchert" is the last name of our neighbors and I think George thinks that the word "Buchert" means "neighbor" because he is always referring to them as "our Bucherts" or saying things like "Mom, can I go play with my Buchert?") came over to wish him a happy birthday and play with the marbles.
It was a happy day indeed, and in case you were wondering, it took George about 7 seconds of laying in bed before he fell fast asleep. Happy 4th Birthday, Little Boy.