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Dear Rhenner: A Letter to My Four-Year-Old

Personal

June 4, 2018

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Oh Rhenner.

It feels like not much has changed with you in the past year. You’ve grown older, taller, faster, but are still just so loveable, even when you’re being a troublemaker. You steal – not exaggerating – EVERYONE’S hearts. You are quirky, imaginative, funny, cheerful, and sensitive. Adding Mirabelle to our family was not as natural for you as it was for Axton. But you’ve come around: You now not only notice her presence, but sometimes you even interact with her! Positively!

You get away with so much, because you always have something funny to say, a logical response that actually makes sense and causes me to stop and consider, or else just a plain old big stinker smile on your face that I can’t say no to. Rhenner, I love that you still sit in my lap. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, it never occurs to you that I might not want you squishing my legs. You just know you still fit there, so you’re gonna still sit there. When your big heavy body comes plopping down on me, those same arms and legs that once were so much smaller and fit so much better, you are content to just be part of whatever it is I am doing. It makes me smile, having you there, even when it’s inconvenient or less-than-comfortable. You still love snuggles. You give the BIGGEST hugs and kisses. I am starting to think that physical touch is one of your love languages. Sometimes when you’re upset or your feelings get hurt, the only way I can get you to open up and talk to me about what happened, is if I pull you into my lap and cradle you like a baby. You don’t let just anyone into your world: You need to feel safe before you share your emotions.

You are such a content little boy! You go with the flow, are easily satisfied and easily entertained. This doesn’t mean that you are simple-minded. Far from that! I can tell, from the way you play, that there is a lot more going on in your mind than you sometimes let on. I love hearing you playing with your stuffed animals and toys from down the hallway (or, now that we live in the trailer, from the bunk bed above me). Your innocent little voice, your sweet imagination, the stories you come up with! Oh, you are a story-teller! You have been that way for the last 2 years now. We have started a new relationship this past year, you and I: You are the dictator, I am the transcriber. You like to see your stories written now, and you are sure to illustrate them thoroughly.

We have slowly started to introduce a more regular preschool schedule with you. For awhile, you were opposed to any kind of “school-like” setting or activity. If it felt forced, you would lose interest. But in the past few months, things have started to click a bit easier for you and sometimes I am surprised by how much you do retain from things I teach you, or things you pick up from Axton. You connect with numbers far easier than you do numbers, but both are coming along much better lately than from a year ago.

Your hair still has a complete mind of its own. If it’s not completely sheared short, then it sticks straight up. It’s not until it’s long enough to swoop behind your ears that it will lay somewhat flat. I love you with long hair.

You’ve started to have a hard time hearing again, little buddy. It makes you frustrated when, if we’re in the store or another loud place, I have to hold your arm, kneel down, and talk right into your ear – it makes you feel like you’re in trouble when really I just want you to be able to hear me without it seeming like I am yelling at you. I was able to take you to the Doctor, just me and you, while they did a hearing test. You were so brave while they poked and prodded inside your ear, and so patient while they played loud and soft beeps in your ear, over and over again. While we waited for the results (“Your son’s ears are FULL of fluid”), I made you laugh so hard you fell on the floor. Again, you were on my lap and I was acting a story out with your hands in mine. I’ll never forget after the appointment, you came home and told your neighbor friend, “I went to the Doctor with my mommy today and we had SO MUCH FUN!” Because that’s just the kind of person you are. You make the most of every situation. You find fun and adventure in the mundane and the daily. You find joy in the routine.

I have always told everyone that you were born a middle child. Like, not just in birth order, but also in personality. From the time you were a baby, you have made your presence known. You were never made to get lost in the shuffle. You are brave enough and different enough to be your own person, and that makes me so happy to watch as you unfold into this unique being.

Rhenner, you are sensitive to people’s reactions to you, and sometimes that worries me because I never like seeing your feelings get hurt. But I have also seen you stick up for yourself. You tell your friends when they’re not being nice, when you don’t like something, or when you’re ready to go home. You’re never mean about it, you just know what you want and are bold enough to be honest. I admire this quality in you. I hope you use this for good in your life. I hope you continue to be bold in truth – bold for yourself, yes, but also bold for those that aren’t. You have a voice of power and influence, I can see it in you. I hope you use it to stick up for your friends, to soften your enemies, to right wrongs, and to fortify the weak.

Despite your ability to speak your mind, you are much more of an introvert in our family. Don’t let the world tell you that this bad. Home is your safety net: use it to recharge, and then go change the world. You think outside the box. You throw the instructions away. You build your own inventions, color outside the lines, and write your own stories. You create a world worth living in for yourself, and the world needs people like you to show them how to do that for themselves. You don’t accept “normal” at face-value, but think for yourself. When you do that, Rhenner, you show others how to do it too, by your example.

My hopes for you this year as we travel is that you never feel lonely within your own family. I hope you feel secure in YOUR abilities, and stop trying to keep up in a race you never wanted to run anyway. This year and always I hope you get off that track and go run through the field like I know you want to anyway. Four years old is a hard year. Emotions are bigger and knowledge clicks quicker. I know you’ll handle it well, but I also hope you don’t stop sitting in my lap. I hope when the feelings build up in you, you don’t stop telling me about them. Like your mama, you feel things through and full and heavy. But unlike your mama, sometimes you try to handle it on your own. Sometimes you get mad and squeeze your fists and you just want SO bad to be mad instead of sad….and then you realize that’s not who you are, and you collapse into tears.

I hope you always remember that anger is not who you are, that emotions are not weakness, and that feeling things is a gift. Don’t let anyone trick or tease you into believing anything different. Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed. Share those feelings with us, and together we will interpret the world around us, and use what we learn to spread love and friendship.

Rhenner, our family needs you. We need your silliness, your humor, your unique view on life and “the rules.” We need your stories and your giggles, your playfulness and logic. We need your hugs & kisses, your lap-sitting and your cradles in my arms. We love you now, we love you forever. Happy Fourth Birthday, my Rhen Rhen.

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