To my darling Teddy,
Today is a big day! Today you are four!
Boy, do I remember that morning when you were born! I was in labor for what felt like an eternity. In fact, I’d been pregnant for what seemed like forever. I was so sure you’d come early, like your sister (especially since the 32 week ultrasound showed you were already six pounds!) but you waited until the day before your due date to make your appearance. I just kept getting bigger and bigger and the summer kept getting hotter and hotter, until finally you decided maybe Mommy’s tummy was getting a little too cramped for you.
Then when you finally arrived—all 21 ½ inches, almost ten pounds of you—I’ll never forget the doctor picking you up and exclaiming, “He’s a moose! An absolute moose!”
Your birth was a little bittersweet. Your big sister’s birth had been so traumatic, given the fact that we found out that she had Down Syndrome and she was taken away from me immediately for surgery. But your birth was exactly the birth I had always imagined: being pushed in a wheelchair up to the maternity ward with a sleepy, content, greedily nursing baby in my arms. Instead of racing around the NICU, I got to snuggle in bed with you and eat sushi and watch really bad reality TV.
That being said, you weren’t the easiest little guy in the world. You’ve always had a mind of your own! Your second night, the nurses kicked you out of the nursery because you were bellowing like a large drunken frat boy and disturbing all the other babies. The only way I could get you to sleep was if you were latched onto my right boob. You stayed that way for about four months.
I remember marveling at all the things you could do so effortlessly. The way you flipped yourself over at five days old because you were so outraged that Mommy had dared to place you on your tummy. The way you looked up at me on the changing table at six weeks and gave me a huge, toothless, heart melting grin. The way you were a champion eater and could devour everything in sight, even with no teeth.
I think if I had had you first, I would have spent a lot of time obsessing over things like Ferberizing you and the color of your poop. But given everything I’d had to go through with Jo Jo, I didn’t have the energy to sweat the small stuff. Everything about you seemed miraculous and not to be taken for granted.
From an early age, you seemed to have such an intense bond with Jo Jo. When you took your first steps at 14 months, you tottered over to her. When you were 17 months, Jo Jo fell into the snow and you were so worried you raced over to her to help her get up. Even yesterday, at your birthday party, the one day it should have been all about you, you were concerned about your sister: when she got too hot and needed to go inside, you insisted on missing visiting the rest of the animals to stay right near her.
I used to worry that you were too protective of her, that you were shouldering too much responsibility at an age where you shouldn’t be having angst about anything other than Legos. But gradually I’ve realized that it’s okay, that it’s just part of who you are. You’re like a little man in a preschooler’s body, with your insistence on wearing ties and belts and taking a few minutes to hang back and survey new situations, rather than just jumping into the fray like the rest of your friends.
And you’re so much like your Pop Pop. I don’t like saying that too much, because I don’t want to make you into something you’re not, but everything about you: the way you stick your tongue out in concentration, the way you calmly and methodically attack a project until it’s done, the way you’re so solicitious of others and how they feel. When I went to your spring preschool conference your Morahs mentioned that a few days earlier, they’d been blown away by how well you sewed. They showed me a picture of you, forehead furrowed, mouth set in concentration, and I cried because you looked exactly how my father did and your small fingers seemed miniature replicas of his skilled surgeon hands.
Over the last few months, you’ve really come into your own. I watch you as you insist on picking out your own clothes and getting dressed and making your bed and cutting your grilled cheese with your own knife and riding your brand new bike with training wheels and marvel at how grown up you’ve become. You’re no longer a baby voiced chipmunk cheeked preschooler. Your face has thinned out and your gait is more forceful and you drop my hand as soon as we arrive at camp and walk away without so much as a backwards look.
It saddens me in some ways, that you’re growing up so fast, but then you come home in the afternoons and insist on crawling on my lap for a cuddle and I smell the sunscreen on your skin and the little boy sweat in your hair and I know you’re still my baby for a little while longer.
Happy birthday, Teddy Bear. I love you very, very much.