Hello, dear and long-neglected blog.
It’s been a while, huh? I think this is the one that stumped me, this note to Henry for his fourth year. And not because I have nothing to say. It’s just that Henry, at this age, is so much more than I can put into words. Daily he astounds me with cleverness, his tenderness, his reasoning beyond his years, his kindness, his eagerness, his adventurous spirit, just… everything. He catches me by surprise at almost every turn, and makes me laugh and ponder and delight so often.
He’s so witty and thoughtful. Deeply thoughtful. His questions make me look at the world in a whole new way. They remind me to be filled more with curiosity and wonder and less with reasonable explanations. He has a big heart that wants to care for others. And he always loves the best things about other people. He is patient and optimistic and determined.
Let me give you some examples of the wonder that is Henry.
We went to Disneyland and at the end of our time there he used the money he had earned to buy a special toy. His chose to get a remote-control Cruz he had seen in California Adventure. Well, CA was closed and there was only one place in Disneyland we could get it. He and I ran all over the park trying to find it, being misdirected by staff who didn’t quite know where it was and trying to race against time and return to Main Street before the fireworks started. I was a bit panicked, but he ran eagerly “quick as lightning” without complaining and when we finally found the last two remote-control Cruzes in all of Disneyland, he felt very lucky indeed. And then, when he brought it home, after all of that, Archer saw it and immediately wanted it. And Henry let him have it. Because he’s just that sweet of a big brother. He waited patiently for Archer to get bored so he could snatch it back up.
I mean, he’s not perfect all of the time, but when it comes to Archer, he is kind and giving and generous beyond what I think 4-year-olds are normally capable of. And I so appreciate that about him.
More things to love about Henry at this age:
- He loves school. I was hoping he would be sad to leave me, but he isn’t at all. He just runs right into his classroom, so eager for the day to start. I think it comes from wanting to be so much like his big sisters. Being just like them is so important to him that he even assigned himself homework to do while they work on theirs. Every night he has himself draw a circle, a square and a triangle and then count how many sides each one has. Afterwards he shows me his homework with such pride and matter-of-factness, because it’s homework after all, and you have to do your homework.
- And all he wants to do is play with the girls when they get home. They are not always the nicest to him in this regard, and so I’ll hear him sobbing from the next room, begging to be included, “I’ll be anything you want me to be!” The three of them generally play so nicely together, but it is mostly thanks to Henry doing whatever they want him to just to be included.
- He is so down to adventure at any time. Before school started I took him on a last little date of his choice. We went to Powell’s for a book and then we got some lunch. I was suggesting nearby restaurants he might like and he said, “I just want to try anything that is new.” So we had a kimchi burger.
- He is so good to his brother in so many ways. It all started when Archer was just 2 months old and started sleeping in his room with him. In the middle of the night when Archer woke up for a feeding, Steve would bring him to me to eat and a few minutes later Henry would burst into the room, slightly panicked, “Do you guys have Archer?” When we assured him we did, he just sleepily climbed into bed with all of us until Archer was done and they both went back to their room. They can’t stand to sleep apart. And now that they’re older, they stay up until all hours of the night signing or laughing at each other. I don’t even know what they could be laughing at, but it’s pretty cute.
- Oh and how could I forget how his love for Archer leads to an over concern for his well-being. His candle wish for his fourth birthday was for “Archer to feel better”, even though Archer was perfectly fine. And it was a constant prayer request of his, that Archer not be sick anymore. (Archer hasn’t really been very sick.)
- He loves to help in the kitchen. He likes to roll and cut and bake. I’ve started spacing the kids out so that only one helps with dinner or kitchen prep each day of the week, and it works so well because then we get that special time to catch up and work on new skills as well. He is one of my favorite kitchen helpers. He peels carrots down to nubs and opens all the cans and measures the quinoa. He can cut celery and he’s great at stirring. But his special skills are taste-testing and sneaking extra chocolate chips and licking spatulas.
- Oh and how could I forget about his thoughts on miracles. At the lake house this summer my grandmother found that the exact number of hot dogs and buns was remaining. She remarked that it was a miracle like one we’d never seen before! We giggled about “the miracle” and how we it will never happen again in our lifetimes. Well, months pass, and one day as we’re driving home from school Henry pipes up from the back seat, “I wish I had seen the miracle.” “What miracle?” “The miracle of the hot dog buns. You know, before that I didn’t think that miracles were a real thing.” And so it goes, that every so often Henry will be sitting at breakfast and start talking about “the miracle” again. “Do you think grandma remembers the miracle?” “Do you think the miracle will ever happen again?” He’s on the constant look out for other miracles now.
- He always has these obsessions which are the best. Currently he loves space and rockets. So he is always asking questions about that. He told me that the Earth is one of his favorite planets! But also Pluto because it is blue. (I didn’t have the heart to tell him that Pluto isn’t a planet anymore.)
But after pondering space for several months, he declared, “I don’t think I’m going to be an astronaut anymore because I like going outside. And when you’re an astronaut you only get a teeeeeeny, tiiiiiiiiiiiny, little bit of air, so you can’t go outside very much.” And then a few days later he asked me about black holes and afterward exclaimed, “See! That’s why I can’t be an astronaut! What if I didn’t see a black hole because it was just blending into the darkness and I got too close to it and got sucked into it?!” So he still loves space, but he’ll just let it stay right where it is, thank you very much.
- He has a very tender heart, that I feel like I have accidentally broken a time or two. Because he just wants so badly to make you happy and for you to think he’s done a good job. He’s a bit of a perfectionist as well, so when I’ve unfairly scolded him or thought he should know something he didn’t, it’s very hard for him. I have to remember to hold his little soul ever so gently, not because he’ll break, but because he is trying so hard and I don’t want to overlook that. It can be hard for me to let go of my expectations of what the kids can be capable of, but he reminds me to just take it all in stride, to remember that they’re still little and still learning and that’s exactly as it should be.
- He has the best laugh in the history of laughs. I don’t know what it is that makes it so perfect. But it is an infectious one. And he loves to talk in silly voices and make funny faces. He can lighten any mood by talking in a funny accent about nonsense.
- He loves his aunties, especially Mallory and Georgia. He has always had a special connection with Mallory and he loves to have her sing him a million bedtime songs and play with her rings. And since Georgia lived with us, he’s had his special place in her heart, too. They especially like to chat while she’s getting ready for the day. And snuggle after school. And listen to music.
- He is always planning for his future careers. It started out as “Someday, I’m going to be the best pony.” And then he was going to be an “Outer Space Man,” which would be his career before being a farmer and then a mom. Me: “Why do you want to be a mom?” Henry: “So I can drink coffee with daddy.” (Although once when I asked him this question he said it was because he wanted to take care of everyone, and that pretty much made my heart explode.) But now, he’s always talking about when he walks on the sky. He’s going to be a super hero called the Iron Spider, who is part Spiderman part Iron Man. He’ll be able to fly across the ocean and sling webs. I sometimes get confused thinking that he is just pretending because he will talk about flying and I’ll ask, “Are you going to go flying now?” “No, silly! I can’t fly yet! I have to wait until I’m a-dult.”
- He is so generous with his love. He often pauses throughout the day to say, “Mama! I have something to tell you! I love you.”
- He’s always making keen observations. “Mama, heads help eyes stay on your body.” (Thank goodness, because eyeballs everywhere would be gross.) And, whispering, “Daddy, we have drumming music in our hearts.”
- He has such a special connection with Olivia. She is the perfect bridge between Ellie and Henry. She told me once, “I said Henry had a cute voice and he said that I have a beautiful voice. And that’s why I want to marry him.” Those two are thick as thieves and will certainly be up to plenty of shenanigans in the days ahead.
- He loves to tell jokes. The other day, Henry was the only one who knew that his grandparents were coming and bringing something special for dinner. So he told Ellie, “We’re gonna have some oxygen for dinner. All we’re gonna do is go outside and catch some air into our mouths.”
- He seeks out people with gentle souls and kind hearts, older kids who pay special attention to children and really listen when they talk. For months he told us his best friend was Andi, a fourth-grade girl at school who said “Hi” to him everyday at school pick up. Andi really is a lovely girl who is takes an interest in Henry and other kids who are younger than her. I find this to be kind of a rare attribute of 4th graders, and appreciate that she spends her time making him feel special. And Henry loves her and picks her flowers on the side of the road and waits until he sees her every day to give them to her.
- He is fearless. He will try anything. Well, except putting his face in the water. But other than that, he will try just about anything. And he always takes new experiences in stride. If you ask him about them immediately after they’ve happened he’ll say they were “good.” Everything is “good” at first. Then, after a while, he will start to tell how excited he was or how cool he thought this or that was. It takes him a little bit to come up with his words, but then he loves reliving his adventures for whoever will listen.
There are hundreds of other stories I could tell, but the truth is that I have such a hard time putting him into words. He’s something special, that kid. And I feel so privileged to be a witness to it. I sometimes think that as far as I go and as much as I do, nothing will compare to mornings spent making chocolate chip cookies with Henry Bear or taking walks through the forest and stopping to see every snail and pretty leaf and colorful rock.
We bonded through the most difficult year of my life. It was hard and miserable and I was weak and broken. But, this little being came into that darkness. At first he wasn’t a great help, he was a crabby baby and I was short on patience, but somehow, we both made it through that first year and ever since, he has been a source of joy and light for me. His tender heart is full of such compassion and wonder. He never ceases to amaze me. And if I could somehow keep him this age forever, I totally would.