One morning as I scurried through the living room, gathering what I needed before taking you and your brother to daycare, you ran downstairs ahead of me. You got your shoes on, opened the garage door and the door to the car, climbed into your car seat and buckled the whole thing. When I finally caught up to you (and I feel like all I do is try to catch up to you, my sweet girl), you showed me how you did it all by yourself.
“I’m growing up, Mom! I’m almost 19!” you told me, proud.
How right you are, my four-year-old. You’re closer to 19 than you realize, than I’d like you to be. And there’s nothing you want more than to grow up.
I see it in your fierce independence, in what you want to learn, in your frustration when you don’t get it right the first time. You want to talk like a grown-up and write like a grown-up and do everything that grown-ups do.
I understand, my sweet girl. I do. I remember being the same way. I couldn’t wait for adulthood, when I would finally know everything. I would be the person God wanted me to be, living the life God wanted me to live, and I would know it. I craved the certainty I associated with adulthood, craved both its freedom and its responsibilities.
Take it from me, someone who heard no higher compliment than, “You’re so mature for your age!”
It’s OK to be little.
Be four. Revel in the four-ness of your life, as you learn how flowers grow and how to trace constellations in the stars. Enjoy the four-ness of making your own friends, as you and your peers learn to converse, negotiate, and imagine together. Enjoy the four-ness of step stools and bubblegum-flavored toothpaste, of bedtime stories and the elation of reading words you recognize.
You seem to understand innately that four is a growing-up age. It will be the year you read to me as much as I read to you, the year you’ll pour your own cereal and open your own fruit snacks. Your drawings will start to catch up to your imagination, and you’ll have the letters to painstakingly write down your stories. Four will be a year when you’ll wander farther ahead on the path before I ask you to wait for me.
But every age is a growing-up age. How grown-up you were just before your first birthday as we walked through Target together, hand in hand. How grown-up you were at two-and-a-half as you sang every word to “Belle” and imagined your way to Beast’s castle.
How little four will seem when we’re looking back from 10. Or 19.
The nineteen you long for is coming, and when you reach it I want you to revel in the nineteen-ness of it. An age of transition, where you are both: both an adult and a teenager, both free from and bound to your parents.
The nineteen-ness I remember was the nineteen-ness of all-nighters and energy drinks, of college and minimum-wage jobs and minimal bills I could still barely afford to pay. The nineteen-ness of video games and Friends re-runs and online conversations with a friend from high school that 20 would make my boyfriend, 22 my husband, and 25 your father. The nineteen-ness of endings and beginnings.
Your 19 will look different, because 19 is an age of possibility. Enjoy it when it comes. Revel in it. Nineteen-ness is unique.
But revel in four, too. And in five and six and seven, when they come. In the middle school years and the high school ones. Enjoy the 365 or 366 lucky days you get to be that age before it slips into nostalgia.
And please, for your sake and mine, grow up slowly.