My oldest son just turned 4, and I distinctly remember this being the age at which people said life would fall into a rhythm.
The physical exhaustion of carrying a child is no longer there, but the mental angst is heavy. I worry about preschool teachers, nutrition, and answers to hundreds of questions that I know will leave an indelible mark on his life.
In addition to my oldest we also have an 8-month-old and a 2-year-old, and the parallels are often striking. The little boys aren't potty-trained, but the big one is. Sort of. He goes on "poo strikes" where he refuses to touch the toilet for days. I inevitably bribe him with my tablet: he's allowed to sit and watch "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" if he'll offer up a trying grunt or two. I've learned about every bowel-regulating dietary food. Prune juice, raisins, grapes. We have the snack selection of a nursing home!
With the middle child, we have a strong focus on developing verbal skills. The big boy, on the other hand, could afford to backpedal a bit. He inquires demandingly about every object and unfamiliar entity. "What does that sign say? Why is my peanut butter chunky? Who threw up the fish nuggets?" We haven't eaten fish in a week. I don't know what he's talking about. Your guess is as good as mine.
Creativity runs deep, which leads to a whole new level of destruction. While I'm trying to get his brother to color in the lines, the big boy declares that his fork is a sword and he's going to vanquish this enemy we call "the television." There goes $1200 down the drain, and now I'm seeing Technicolor streaks. I blink, unsure if this vision is really happening, or if my eyes are playing tricks from a lack of sleep.
My boy can do all of these things. All of these dangerous, destructive, ADVANCED things.
Nightmares are a new thing now, too. We've been up much of the night explaining that velociraptors are not going to burst through his window since they are, in fact, extinct.
At least he can clean up his messes, now. At the same time, he can create disasters that were utterly unfathomable a year ago. Stools get pulled up to the refrigerator so he can reach the milk on the top shelf. I'm suddenly redecorating around a theme of immobile decor. While I was occupied with that for a few seconds today, he decided he was going to try out his new bike. Without a helmet.
Helmets weren't a concern until a few months ago, when we determined that he's mobile enough to do some real damage when he gets those pedals rolling.
I'm caught in contemplation about all of this when he comes racing by me in a streak of bright yellow handlebars. Over a vista of rug-smashed raisins, I catch a glimpse of his pride beaming from ear-to-ear. My boy can do all of these things. All of these dangerous, destructive, ADVANCED things. I pull out my phone and snap a picture, reminding myself to cherish this moment. His difficult and messy progress is, in fact, progress nonetheless.
It gets easier, they say. But that's still a long way off.
In the meantime, I'm adjusting my expectations and finding joy in the challenging days.