I know all about birthdays. I’ve had 23 of them so far and it doesn’t look there’s an end in sight. What I don’t know all about are fourth birthdays, specifically fourth birthdays of children that belong to me.
There’s something weird and special about the 4th year of life - you’re old enough to use the bathroom by yourself, but not to go to kindergarten; old enough to demand a certain item for lunch, but not make it; old enough to go on vacations with your Grammy, but not old enough to go to sleep without a bonafide bedtime story.
I’m telling you this because my daughter turned four this week and in her mind, she’s now a grown up.
In my mind, however, she’s still a tiny baby. Not because she’s tiny (hello, 99th percentile for height and weight!) or a baby, but because I can’t seem to mentally grasp that the years really are flying by, just like everyone told me they would.
So much happens in the span of a year for a child - they learn new skills, improve their vocabulary, and get taller. They grow out of a thousand pairs of shoes and that expensive dress you just bought three months ago. They go through countless phases and really grow into their personality.
The changes they go through are obvious, and I think that’s what makes it seem like time is moving extra fast.
In any case, the last four years seem like they’ve passed in the blink of an eye. The infant I held in my arms on June 24, 2010 has been replaced by a savvy little girl who can’t stand wearing shorts and insists on holding our kitten like a baby. There’s not even a shred of evidence of the toddler who was just learning to walk and refused to eat bread. Yes, I’m sad about this. But the awesome person she’s turning out to be is rewarding enough to make me focus on the present and try not to dwell in the past too much.
So, as she blew out her birthday candles this year, I made a wish, too. And I know I’m not supposed to tell you the wish, but here it is: I wished to be as present as possible for the next 14 years of her life, always available to answer her many “But why?” questions, remembering that every moment could be a memory in the making, and laugh at the things that would normally cause me stress.
If these years are going to fly by, we may as well be having fun.
Debra Carpenter is a mother, wife, social media manager, and college student. She writes a weekly column on the comedy of motherhood and blogs for The Huffington Post. She’s online at MotherInterrupted.com and Twitter @interrupted_ma.