We celebrated Hudson’s half-birthday on the 17th. He’s four-and-a-half! Which means he’s almost five. Oh my goodness, a real boy.
But while the squish around his wrists is disappearing, his limbs looking impossibly long, he’s still our baby. And he is the sweetest…
He is so full of love, spontaneously professing it to his family and friends. He draws hearts and calls himself “a lovey boy,” but is also interested in the reaction he can get if he draws an X through one.
He rarely stops moving, but when he does he’s content to snuggle. He’ll still often pretend to be a cat and ask to be pet as a means to curling up and cuddling. Cats continue to figure prominently in his imaginative life: his favorite superhero is “super kitty” and lots of play begins “pretend I’m a kitty…” Lately he’s been a kitty named “Cotton” who answers in meows until Aron or I grow tired of the game and tells him it’s time for Hudson to come back.
Super heroes also continue to be of general interest to him. He’ll ask about Superman on rides to school, talk about the giant Hulk we saw in Target, use a Captain America shield in play, and run “super-fast” in capes made out of T-shirts, but he doesn’t know much about them beyond the whole “good guy/bad guy” concept. Many of his friends at school are far more devoted and so he picks up bits and pieces of the story. One day he came home asking about Star Wars. We took a trip to Target that same day and he wanted to know all the names of the characters in the Lego aisle, almost as if to study them and use them for cultural caché. I pointed out Storm Troopers and he sort of mouthed the words over and over (“Storm trooper, storm trooper…”) until finally he shouted “Storm Trooper!” in a low, tough voice as if it were a power-phrase, while one-two-punching the air.
Speed and strength seem to be the powers he values most: he loves to race and to do “strong things,” like carry logs for a fire.
In fact, one of the best ways to get him to eat vegetables is by reminding him that they’ll help him have strong muscles, and then pretending we can actually see his muscles growing. He’ll hold up his fists, as if something like biceps then appear, and I’ll say “bigger!” but “Daddy’s still look bigger because he ate more broccoli.” Those kinds of comparisons seem to be the only way to get him to clean his plate (and usually result in both father and son feeling flattered, so it’s a win-win).
In general he continues to be a picky eater. “Tell me what you do like,” I asked him in frustration one day. Basically we came to a list of berries, carrots, peanut butter, some pasta, bananas, yogurt, edamame, and treats. He is always asking for treats, and while we did our best not to make them frequent or to give them the allure of “forbidden fruit,” he is obsessed with sweets.
He uses lots of superlatives: “this is the best granola ever,” “you’re the best daddy ever,” or “Sawyer is the best doggy in the whole wide world.” And he’ll confuse “too” with “so” when he says “This is too fun!” or “This is too spectacular.”
His enthusiasm is contagious. If he only knew how easy it can be to get us to do anything for him when he’s smiling and laughing and excited. (Maybe it’s best that he doesn’t.) He tends to narrate most of his activity (quiet is a rare thing at our house these days), and one of the most wonderful things about being around a four-year-old is the joy that comes through in his voice. “Sure!” “Let’s go!” There’s an exclamation point for almost everything.
He’s full of curiosity and questions—why’s and what if’s and what does that spell’s—and requests to try to do things himself. This morning he asked why his feet move when he tells them to but don’t move when we tell them to, which lead to talk of the brain and of the word neurons and so on… until at some point he gets distracted, generally by having been still for too long, and the conversation ends with something like “Watch me!” and a sprint down the hall. Like many children his age, he is a living, breathing ball of energy—so sometimes he just resorts to jumping while speaking.
While we were taking these pictures he asked “One day can we go to Madagascar?” and started (loudly) demonstrating everything he knows about Lemurs from watching episodes of “The Kratt Brothers” (aka the PBS cartoon Wild Kratts). As you might imagine, the idea that ring-tailed Lemurs have stink fights is particularly thrilling.
He talks about travel a lot and I of course love the thought that Hudson is catching the travel bug, too. He likes to talk about Idaho since our trip last November, and asks if we can move to Hawaii. “Let’s go back in a flash!”
He is very affectionate toward Skyler (except of course when he’s not). She is more likely the one to say “No” when she’s had enough of his hugs and kisses. Unfortunately he rarely listens the first time she says it and the encounter ends with her pinching or pushing him. He tells me that she’s not his best friend, however; “but she will be when she comes to school with me.”
Hudson plays mostly with the younger set of kids at school. He has a few friends in his year as well, but he is the youngest of that group. He prefers to play one-on-one to playing in groups, and generally we only hear about his one best friend, Aidan. “I want to live in the same house when we all grow up.” We had a parent-teacher conference recently and his primary teacher suggested that one of the hardest things about moving onto Kindergarten may be that he’ll be leaving Aidan behind.
We don’t know everything that goes on at school, of course, but at home he is good at sharing. He loves having people over and playing with his toys with them. And he’ll invite anyone over to come play with his toys—fellow dog owners at the park, store clerks, or anyone else with whom he strikes up a conversation.
He is generally as happy to talk to an adult as he is to talk to a child when we’re out, telling them about his bike, his sister, his dog, or whatever else is on his mind. He begins with “I have to tell you something” and then we all wait while he talks and forms the thought simultaneously. To the store clerk at Target: “I have to tell you something. … The reindeer… with the black noses… They wouldn’t let Rudolph play reindeer games. Does that make you sad?”
This same enthusiasm for talking to everyone means that not interrupting remains a challenge. (He strongly prefers to order his own food at restaurants—and at the drive though, which can be exasperating if I neglect to put the rear window lock on.) We’ve asked him to put his hand on our shoulder if he’s waiting his turn to talk, rather than interrupt. Sometimes he remembers. The other day he tried it on a worker who’d come to our house: he walked up to him and stood on his tip-toes to lay his hand on the man’s shoulder while facing him, which, as you can imagine, made no sense to the man at all. “Um, yes?” “I have to tell you something…”
He remains very confident on his bike, biking great distances as long as he has water, and as long as we don’t mind taking frequent stops for him to wipe his eye or adjust his clothes. He hasn’t mastered the one handed biking yet—and we don’t really want to encourage it.
He started swimming “competitively” (for a 4-year-old) this year and wants to do it again in the spring. And he started playing soccer—but had more fun running after the ball than actually trying to play on a team (he was not alone in that perspective).
He can show real determination: he was climbing on the outside of a play structure when he fell the other day and had the wind knocked out of him. First he wailed with tears (loud, dramatic tears are still an unfortunately common reaction—even if this time they were justified); but once recovered he insisted on climbing up again and scaling the outside wall again. He is so excited about any bit of newfound independence to do things previously unsafe for him to do—it can be hard to let go, but of course it is also thrilling to watch.
Reading is still a favorite activity, but other interests now include music! It finally seems to be of genuine interest to him—he loves “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music (but little else from the musical), and really enjoyed all the Christmas music around the holidays (particularly “I Want a Hippopotamus“). He even enjoys dancing now—something he almost never engaged in (and only rarely as a baby). And he comes home from school with a lot more art.
He still loves bugs. Another note we got from his teacher is that there is a large pumpkin decomposing in their garden that has been a great source of discovery. We imagine this has contributed to the increased interest we’ve seen in apple seeds and the like.
But pretend-play is definitely the biggest new theme of late, and if allowed he will direct scene after scene.
The other day, we sat down at a busy communal table at a restaurant, waiting for our order, and the people across from us remarked on how cute our children are. We started making small talk and the man, thinking back on his own children, remarked that four was his favorite age of all and to enjoy it! “It goes so fast.” We hear that a lot, as I imagine most parents of young children do, but there was something about the way the man called out this age in particular that made it stick.
It goes so fast: enjoy it.
Four-and-a-half. Almost five. We enjoy and love you so much, Hudson!