For the first time in forever, you let me sing you to sleep.
Your head is resting on my lap, your arms hold two stuffed animals I slept with as a child, and I’ve had the most amazing fifteen minutes reliving cherished moments of your infancy while running my fingers through your now four-year-old hair.
I can’t believe how much you’ve grown and how independent you’ve become over the past year. You insist on going to the bathroom all by yourself and are fully capable of everything — from turning on the light when you start, to washing your hands when you’re done. You enjoy dressing yourself and making up elaborate games while you play on your own. You ride a scooter and a bike. By yourself. You make up songs and recite Qur’an when you think no one is watching. You play with your sister and take care of the smaller kids at school. You are extremely thoughtful and caring.
You’re usually very friendly and chatty with everyone we meet. And if there are times you don’t want to speak to a stranger, I give you the autonomy to say no and hide behind my leg. It’s okay, you don’t always have to smile and perform for others. Especially when you don’t want to.
But when you do, you’re hilarious and strangely brilliant. You love telling jokes, like:
Ooooh weeeee-oooooh! Weeeee ooooh-weeeeee!
And the other day you told me the moon is cold, like ice — that if anyone touches it, they’ll freeze their hand. When I said, “surely the moon must be made of cheese,” you corrected me and said with absolute certainty, “It is cold. The moon is a rock where you can fly and jump forever. But you can die up there.” Now, I know I didn’t teach you that.
You make a fantastic pirate and a really enthusiastic tiger. I hope that a decade from now you’ll still be dancing to Numa-numa and Gangnam Style with absolute, self-choreographed abandon. I love watching you at gymnastics and when you’re jumping on the bed. Your face-plants are hilarious. I love making you happy with bubbles and ice cream and home made scones.
I see you growing up so quickly, and while I’m encouraging your development into an amazing person, I’m also selfishly holding tight to the parts that still make you my baby. Even when you fight with your sister over toys, or are cranky because you’re tired, or scream bloody murder over a tiny bump, or you miss me because the time is long gone that you get to have me all to yourself.
We sometimes struggle through these moments because you need help navigating through frustrations and emotions. But when it’s all over and we have a little talk about why you’re upset, you surprise me with kisses on my face and a huge smile. You carry on.
I indulge your whims to read the same storybook three times, and then “read” it again for a fourth time, but with a new, made-up storyline — just so you can see the same pictures, but hear something new and exciting. I saw you take that cookie, and I didn’t say anything because you’re just so darn cheeky. Yeah, okay, I taught you how to move the mouse so you could get access to your video playlist. And yes, I will let you eat another halal marshmallow — but no, you don’t get another video. I mean it this time. Last one.
All of this makes me think that we did something right with all that attachment parenting-esque co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding. Your fierce independence means that you are seriously okay with having no one to play with at school. Every day I ask who you played with during lunch, and every day you say, “I’m big to play by myself.” That simultaneously makes me proud and a little melancholic.
Because I know soon enough the fun and easy days of playful childhood will melt into the stressful, petty nonsense that comes with the shifting allegiances of best friends, jealousies over hair, status, popularity, shoes, and the isolating insecurities of social pressure. Insha’Allah not this year, or the next. Or even the one after that. I just hope that you hold on to this — your four-year-old independence — and carry it with you throughout your life.
I hope you will always continue to be a friend to everyone, including yourself. Don’t forget to be awesome my dear, because you are.