A letter to my son for his fourth birthday

Four birthdays in and I'm still learning something new every day as a dad. Here's some honest talk to my four-year-old. | instafather.com

Four birthdays in and I'm still learning something new every day as a dad. Here's some honest talk to my four-year-old. | instafather.com

Dear Elliott:

The best representation to describe what life has been like since I wrote you a letter on your third birthday is the fact that I am writing a letter for your fourth birthday a month late.

Daddy doesn't know where all the time goes. Most of it, I assume, goes into watching "Frozen" or finding whatever toy you have lost. But mostly, I mean that you aren't even close to the same toddler I had last year. In more ways than mommy and I can count, you are a big boy now. We are already getting a little teary-eyed thinking of you going to kindergarten, which at this point next year will be a matter of weeks away.

I love you a ridiculous amount. I'm celebrating Father's Day this weekend, and YOU are the reason I first got to call myself dad. I talk about you all the time, and I have photos of you everywhere. I also talk about the show "Black Mirror" a lot, but that's because it's the best. You gotta watch it. Well, not now. You are a kid and it's messed up. But eventually.

It must be strange and confusing for you sometimes when I say how much I love you, because you know in the past year daddy has had some tough stretches with anger and frustration. He found out a lot of other mommies and daddies do, too. What's difficult to explain to you, dude, is the very fact I love you so much directly can cause the most frustration — I would do anything for you, and that means having to balance priorities and let go of control. Daddies who pride themselves on getting things done don't know what to do when that's not the goal anymore. Daddy had to realize that on many days, it is enough being your dad — getting you dressed and fed, reading you a story, playing with you, and answering a million questions is in and of itself a productive day. I'm sorry for any day when I acted otherwise. 

What I love, though, is that you are quick to forgive and even quicker to love. You are the best.

So, as always, it's time for some candid conversation.


Honest talk with you for your fourth birthday

  1. A year ago, I looked back at what I wrote a year before that: 'I wrote this last year: "When you turned one, I was so proud of you because I thought you were the best one-year-old and I couldn't imagine how you'd get better. What an idiot I was for not believing you'd be even more amazing the following year." What an even bigger idiot I was for not realizing you'd be even more hilarious, curious, loving and cool in your second year.' Well, I'm a grand idiot for not realizing the best was yet to come. Your third year was even more full of laughter and imagination and creativity and empathy.
  2. After your fourth birthday party, you had me walk around the neighborhood with you so you could give away your birthday balloons to any kids you saw. Why, I asked. "Because people like balloons," you said. I will remember you doing that for the rest of my life. It was the purest kind gesture I've ever seen.
  3. You are dead set on being a "big boy." You want to know "how many days" until you can do something, like watch a movie with fighting in it or ride something at an amusement park. It's hard to explain to you now, but don't be anxious to be a big boy. Being 4, before you have to think about school or tests or schedules, is probably one of the best ages around.
  4. Your mom and I are really glad you are potty trained, and you've pulled off some minor miracles holding it in the car while we're stuck in traffic. You've also done the exact opposite while standing beside the bathroom. You don't always make sense.
  5. Almost every day, you hide when I get home from work so I have to find you. I think that's the best.
  6. When you say "Daddy, come find me!" while we are looking at each other, I am wondering if you think that by being the hider, you have a cloak of invisibility.
  7. I love how you write your name.
  8. You are so great with your twin sisters, even if they probably drive you crazy sometimes by wrecking your toys or crying over nothing (because it almost always is over nothing). Your mom and I couldn't have asked you to be a better big brother.
  9. One day you won't think the ultimate insult is adding the word "poopy" to something. Today is not that day.
  10. Your mom and I get very worried sometimes when we are watching the news. It's because we get worried that the world you grow up in won't be as nice as the one we grew up in. But we'll work very hard to change that ... that's why we do that voting thing we talked about.
  11. Some kids have the terrible two's. Or the terrible three's. Honestly, you were pretty great for both. You might have spoiled us. Your youngest sister might make sure we get our share.
  12. I still regret telling you that the little green light on your ceiling is from a smoke detector in case there is a fire. You are still convinced a fire is going to break out at any moment. #dadfail
  13. I would burst into a room on fire for you.
  14. When you ask "How many more bites?" at every meal, I'm wondering if you'll eventually realize the goal is to eat all of it and not achieve a certain level of obligation.
  15. You like to smile by putting your top teeth over your bottom lip. It's adorable.
  16. I take your photo a lot with your sisters when I drop you off from school. One, because you're all usually in a good mood and no one has stains (yet). But also because it's a good way to track how much you've grown. And you've grown too fast.
  17. Why do you love watching those YouTube videos of people playing with toys? Nothing happens. Literally nothing.
  18. It's kind of scary for us to think how much will change by this point next year, as you'll almost be done with daycare. I've been dropping you off at daycare for so long that I'll probably be reduced to a puddle when I don't hear "Schoooollll!" from the backseat as we turn onto the daycare street. 
  19. Every day, no matter my mood, no matter your mood, no matter what happens out in the world, no matter what, I love you. A big boy amount.