A few days ago, both the girls woke up at 4am. Eric tried to get them back to sleep, but Peeper was having none of it. “Yesterday Mama told me I have three days until my birthday. But now I have only TWO days until I’m 4!” This girl is just a little excited for her fourth birthday.
We’ve been talking about her birthday for a while now, but only recently has it seemed concrete to her. After all, concepts of months and weeks are a little abstract for a preschooler. So the week leading up to her fourth birthday, we talked about how many days were left until she turned 4.
And now that day has come. Happy birthday, my sweet, fierce, loving, compassionate, hilarious, sassy daughter!
Four years of birthday memories
Four years ago, I woke up with contractions I was pretty sure were the “real thing.” Labor was the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced, but it turns out that the pain was a part of my transformation into a mother. I became a completely different person the moment the midwife placed Peeper on my chest. It felt as if I gave birth to a baby and an entirely new reality.
Everything had changed.
Three years ago, Peeper celebrated her first birthday by learning how to walk. Those trusty feet have since taken her so many places—across playground bridges and through the ocean surf, up mountains and to her first day of school.
On her first birthday, I nearly broke down in tears when I bought her a birthday candle with a little “1” on it.
Two years ago, I was relieved and grateful that Peeper’s second birthday came and went with Baby Kiwi still in my belly. I was excited for Peeper to be a big sister but wanted just a few more days to celebrate my older daughter. On her second birthday, Peeper was an only child—for another 12 days.
One year ago, Peeper insisted she was still two years old. She wouldn’t turn three, she said, until her birthday party when she would blow out a candle on a cupcake. No amount of reason would convince her otherwise, so she had a few extra days of being two years old.
Approaching her fourth birthday
In the days leading up to her fourth birthday, Peeper has been excited. She keeps asking for a chocolate cake and asks if it’s July yet. “I’m 3 1/2, but I’ll be 4 in two days!” she tells everyone from the grocery store checkout clerk to kids at the library.
A few days before her fourth birthday, we headed to Target to get a few things—including some presents for the girls. (I know, I know, I’m not super smooth. But when else do I have time to buy birthday gifts for my kids except when they’re with me?)
“What’s my birthday present going to be?” Peeper asked as she hung off the end of the big red shopping cart.
“If can’t tell you. It’s a surprise.”
“But what is it going to be? Is it down there at the bottom of the cart?”
“Don’t look!! That’s the whole point of a surprise!”
“Is it a pooooooooool?” Peeper asked, her signature sideways smile making me break into laughter.
Of course it was. I can’t sneak anything past this kid. She doesn’t call herself a princess-detective-astronaut-monkey for nothing.
Celebrating our new 4-year-old
In addition to being a super-observant sleuth, Peeper is kind. She hugs me and says, “I’m sorry for Kiwi,” whenever her little sister kicks me during a diaper change. She is gentle with the world around her, carefully picking up a worm to examine it or holding a mosquito eater we find.
Peeper has become outgoing. When she was a toddler, just the sight of an unfamiliar child made her sob; now she goes up to kids on the playground—especially kids a year or two older than her—and makes fast friends. “Hi!” she says to people passing us on a walk or at the grocery store. Her friendliness is an unexpected surprise to strangers.
Peeper is loving. Sometimes she’ll hold my face in her hands and plant kisses all over me, from my chin to my hair. “Wo ai ni“—I love you—she’ll tell me in Chinese, out of the blue. And the other night she started to cry because Kiwi had forgotten to tell her goodnight. When Little Sister ran back into the room, the two of them hugged each other so tight I thought one of them would cry out. They love each other so much that they simply can’t hold back.
All the feels on her fourth birthday
Life has been moving so fast lately that I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to reflect on how I feel about my preschooler’s fourth birthday. I tend to have a lot of feelings, so I’m sure they’re there—I’ve just been focused on, say, arranging backup childcare so I can work during the day and sewing the girls’ birthday presents at night.
But that’s life with a toddler and a four-year-old. We are busy, but with things that occupy a preschooler’s life: blocks, making collages, jumping on the trampoline, dancing to Disney songs I sing off-key at the top of my lungs, pretending we’re dogs, painting mazes and jungles and family portraits.
One of Peeper’s favorite imaginative games is pretending she is a princess-explorer. She solves mysteries and points her flashlight into the darkest pretend caves.
Even when she’s not pretending, though, she is a princess-explorer. Everything we do together ends up being an adventure. She sees wonder in everything, from going to the store to visiting a new playground, from walking to the end of the block to hiking a mountain.
Here’s to many more years of adventures, my love.