While I have flashes of retained images from very early on in my life, the first concrete memories I have started at age 4.
I remember playing games with my two older brothers. I remember meeting my best friend of the past 34 years, for the very first time, on the sidewalk in front of my childhood home after she moved into the house next door. I remember her older sister Tracy, teaching me how to ride her old, blue bicycle. I remember my parents redecorating my bedroom in a Sesame Street theme – with white curtains and comforter that were covered in letters and drawings of Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Bert and Ernie. (Elmo wasn’t around back then.)
I remember my Grandma Kisel teaching me how to draw houses at her kitchen table – the table that always had bowl of plastic fruit sitting in the middle of it. I remember being very confused by plastic fruit at age four. She used to watch me during the day while my parents worked and I would play in her gravel driveway alone. (It was the 70’s.) Mostly, we would sit on the couch together and watch the Price is Right. I remember standing in my Aunt Sandy’s bright, red, teen-decorated bedroom and shooting pretend arrows at her poster of Andy Gibb while she laughed and told me how silly I was.
I remember visiting my Grandma Harrish’s house in Cleveland. How my Grandmother would do my hair and take endless photos of me (sounds familiar). I would play Cherry Ho with a neighbor girl my age on her back patio. The girl’s name I can’t recall, but she had a dark, Dorothy Hamill haircut.
I remember splitting my eyebrow open after sleepwalking, waking up on the bathroom counter with blood on my pink pajamas while my poor, frantic mother tried to calm down my cries. I remember how my dad used to carry me up three flights of stairs in our split-level home to bed when I fell asleep in the family room. I always woke up on the way up, but would pretend I was asleep because I loved being in his arms.
I was lucky. I had a pretty wonderful childhood. We didn’t have a lot of money and our family had issues like any other, but my childhood was filled with love, laughter and many memorable moments.
And the memorable moments all started at aged four.
This is it. Your life, as you know it, is about to begin.
You’re not my toddling baby anymore, tearing through my house as you destroy everything in sight. You’re a girl - a brave, wonderful, funny, endearing, beautiful, stinky girl. You walk, run, climb and dance with thought and purpose. You speak in a way that always leaves me wondering where you could have possibly learned to use such words and phrases.
You are going to remember the places we take you, words we say to you, the moments we share. From this moment on, when we talk about “creating memories”, I don’t just mean for your dad and me. These are going to be your memories as well.
I feel like I need to up the ante on my parenting game a little.
Four is a special age. It’s that magical moment a person transforms from a toddler to a child. But in all honesty, the most magical thing about four, is that it’s no longer three.
Seriously…three. WHY did no one warn me about three?
The past year was a good one, but it was definitely our most challenging one so far. There were many moments we definitely questioned our parenting. Moments when I was pregnant that we wondered, out loud, how we could have possibly thought bringing another child into the world was a good idea when we couldn’t even handle one. There were many, many days at work when I dreaded coming home because I knew how difficult the evenings would be. There were constant issues with bedtime, dawdling, defiance, talking back, ignoring us, aggressive behavior – you know, normal three-year-old behavior that no one tells you about so when it happens, you feel like you’re the only one who has ever gone through it. It was rough.
But, that’s the charm of three. Because it was also silly, loving, beautiful and wild. Your personality really began to shine. We can now see, for the first time, who you really are – not as a cute baby or growing toddler – but as a person. And as we approach four, all the tyrannical three stuff is gradually fading with every day that clicks by. And you’re back.
You’re a sweet girl. When you talk about the things that you love, you always stretch out your arms as wide as they can go and end with, “I love the whoooooole word.” My little hippy.
You have all the typical favorites of a four-year-old girl: rainbows, sparkles, unicorns, princesses, tutus, shoes, and all things purple and pink. You won’t leave the house without putting on a skirt or dress. You change your clothes at least four times a day. I have given up picking out your outfit and have embraced your contrasting yet flavorful sense of style. You’re a total girl, but with the sense of humor of a college frat boy. Potty humor seems to make you laugh the loudest.
You love to laugh. And more than that, you love to make other people laugh. You goof around and act like a fool, all with the sole purpose of making one of us crack up with you. You’re a total clown and I love it.
You are a little shy initially in a new social setting, but as soon as you warm up, you are leading the charge. Your teachers tell us that the other kids flock to you and you are very helpful and kind to them all. They also say you are reliable to help out in the classroom and of course, to make people laugh.
You talk incessantly. You ask a ton of questions and if you are still confused by the answer, you dig deeper until you understand.
You say please and thank you. You give big hugs and sloppy kisses.
While it takes a while to calm you down for bed at night, you’ve been doing better. And once you fall asleep, you are a great sleeper. But, you are not a morning person. We have to drag you out of bed every morning. You are worse than a teenaged boy. It makes our morning routine a little challenging, but I can’t really blame you. The only person who hates getting up in the morning more than you is me.
You thrive off of activity. You’re constantly running, skipping, jumping and tumbling. You like to go sledding and ride your scooter or balance bike, which you were getting better at before all this dreaded snow.
And you dance. Forever, you dance.
You’re really into ballet but you will shake it to any style. You put on a dance show for us almost every night. It’s amazing to me that someone who has never seen an episode of Seinfeld, could dance so much like Elaine Benes.
You have an active imagination. You constantly play pretend with your dolls and stuffed animals. You make up these long, elaborate stories and when we ask you to explain them deeper, you always have to clarify, “No Mommy and Daddy, I’m just playing pretend.”
You love to play Candyland and tell knock-knock jokes. You love to draw pictures and have gotten really good at drawing people. You have mastered writing your first name and can recognize almost all of the letters and numbers. Your favorite song is “Roar” by Katy Perry, but you make me sing, “I Just Called to Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder every night 3-4 times before bed. Your favorite movie is Frozen and you would watch Doc McStuffins, Tinkerbell and Sofia the First all day long if we let you.
You love macaroni and cheese, pasta, yogurt, apples, red peppers, baby carrots and Dum Dums – not necessarily together. You love water and you think it’s funny to say you drink beer, because it makes us laugh.
More than anything, you love Ruby. You will do anything to make her smile. And when she does, you laugh as loud as you can. It fills my heart to see you enjoying bringing joy to your baby sister. The way you two interact with one another, we already know you will be conspiring against us in no time.
You’ve endured so many changes this year – getting rid of your pacifier, starting your Pre-K classes, getting a baby sister – I’m actually surprised we didn’t have a harder time. But, as always, you surprise us with how easily you adjust to it all. You are strong, kind, funny and a joy. Even when you’re not a joy – you are.
Happy birthday Quinn. You fill our lives with so much love and you make us proud every day.