Four. The number of times I got to hear that first cry from my babies. Four. The number of children who should be here now, celebrating today. Four. The number I want to SCREAM at anyone who asks how many kids I have. Four. You should be four today. Are you 4? Do you look the same? How tall are you? Is your hair longer? I should know these things. As your mother, I should never have to ask any of these questions. So many people don't ever have to wonder about these things. When did I become a member of the club of those unfortunate souls who do? I don't even know what size shoe you wear now. That should be a given. I should know. At one time, I knew every gram of food and drink that entered your body. I knew every scratch, birthmark, and scar. I knew every movement and every sound. Why can't I hear you now?
I try so hard to remember the good moments we had. Four is the number of steps you took unassisted in the pool on one of our MANY play/therapy excursions. I remember your crazy belly laugh every time your brother and sisters repeated the same line from a movie over and over in the van. I remember the way you used to sneak the game chips from Sequence into your mouth and then look at me like you were daring me to punish you. I wish those memories didn't burn. I wish they didn't sear my soul in such a way that makes it impossible for me to get out of bed. But, they do.
I looked for a picture of the two of us today. I finally found one, but it was difficult. I, like most Moms, was behind the camera most of the time. This is one of those things that makes me want to tell every mother I know to take advantage of the moments they have. I want to say, "Forget that your hair isn't fixed just right. Forget that your make up isn't done. Who cares if you're 10+ pounds heavier than you'd like to be? Get in front of the damned camera. Capture that moment that your skin is touching your baby's and you're feeling the evenness of their breath. You'll need that someday when you can't get out of bed." But, I know I can't say these things. My need to convey these thoughts comes from a place of hurt and a place of anger. It's never directed at anyone in particular. I'm mostly angry at the old me. I'm angry for not knowing that I wouldn't get to see you turn 4. I'm angry that I didn't take a few more seconds of snuggling time instead of pushing you to do more on your own. I'm angry that I didn't get in the picture.
I wonder what you would like today? I know only those interests that are frozen in time. Do you still like cows? I hope so. That's what's on your cake today. Sara made it for you. Do you know her? Did you see how perfect it is? Do you still love things that light up? We're sending your 4 floating lanterns up tonight. Please look for them. If you have a moment today, we'd love to hear a squeal or a moo. You may have moved on from those sounds, but remember that they are the ones that are locked in our hearts.
I would give anything to hug your 4 year old self, today. I'd drink in every second and soak up every scent. I'd take a thousand pictures of the two of us with my hair undone and my makeup gone. I'd take you on a paddle boat ride and watch you lean over the side just enough to freak everyone out. I'd love you longer, stronger, and with more conviction than any mother has ever known, because I would know the gift of those moments. Help me to stand today, sweet boy. Help me to physically get up and move forward without you. Help me to feel the love and comfort from my children today. All four.
Happy 4th Birthday, my big boy.