My Noah is four. Last week, he had a dinosaur-themed birthday party at the local park which consisted of an hour and a half of outdoor activities. From the moment I booked it, I worried it would rain on the day, but it didn’t. It was lovely. My dinosaur cake also turned out well (if I do say so myself) but there were a few hairy moments where I thought it was going to be a lost cause and I felt like throwing myself on the floor in a Noahesque tantrum.
As I watched him at his party, I couldn’t help but marvel at how much he has grown up since last year’s birthday. Rather than ignoring all of his guests, he revelled in being in the thick of it. Some things remain the same: the tendency to whinge, the emotional rollercoaster he rides every day, the unshakeable wilfulness. I had hoped the threenager would become a distant memory, but he has merely turned into a fournager. Oh, well.
But he is also a good boy.
“I’m not a baby,” he responds indignantly, when I call him such. “I’m big!”
“You will always be my baby,” I tell him. This week, I got a tiny leaf, about the size of a grain of rice and showed it to him. “This was how big you were at first and then you grew into a baby in my tummy. That means you will always be my baby because I grew you.”
He contemplated the leaf for some time (at least five seconds) and then agreed that he would always be my baby and went back to eating his dinner.
But the truth is, he really isn’t my baby any more. He is a remarkable little person in his own right. Here are 10 things I love about Noah as he turns four:
- He is extraordinary at colouring in. He favours A3 colouring books and Crayola Supertips. Nothing else will do. And he is very possessive over them. He uses one colour at a time, forms an orderly line until he has used every colour and then goes back to the beginning. He often colours a tiny spec of the picture then abandons it, but occasionally he will persevere and finish one. Twice, he has finished one of these fantastic pieces of artwork, only to get angry at something and rip it up. Both times I was devastated. Everyone wants one of Noah’s colourings. He has a backlog of orders. Only very lucky souls will eventually get to own one.
- At least once a week he goes to nursery in one of his fancy dress costumes. This week, I went into nursery for his birthday walk, a little ceremony they have when it’s someone’s birthday. Noah had to wear a huge birthday cake hat. It even had candles on top. As if this wasn’t funny enough, he was also dressed as a Power Ranger.
- He speaks to his toys. When I am in another room and I overhear him having a conversation with his lion or one of his dinosaurs or Buzz Lightyear, I stop what I am doing, stand very still and listen. It never fails to bring a smile to my face.
- He knows all of the words to the introduction and song for P J Masks. The tempo is quite quick and he struggles to keep up, but this doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the task.
- He will sit and watch a film. Finally. I thought the day would never come. We can actually sit and watch a film together now. He won’t get fed up after twenty minutes and ask me to put a different DVD on. He won’t stand on the arm rest of the sofa and hurl himself at me. Over the Easter holidays, we watched lots of new films together: Brave, Inside Out (my favourite), The Good Dinosaur, Penguins of Madagascar, The Princess and the Frog, Dino Time (Noah’s favourite).
- He is ready to learn. I bought him a lift the flap Usborne book for his birthday about the human body. He is full of facts such as: “Mummy, did you know, that when we eat food, our tummies break it down into tiny pieces to give us energy?!” Or, “Mummy, did you know, that we could fill ten thousand balloons with the breaths we let out every day?!”
- He thinks Father Christmas is the most magical person in the world. I suppose he would be if he actually existed.
- He has mates. Proper little mates. As each friend arrived at his birthday party, he greeted them with a hug. Whenever we go to soft play, he always finds himself a friend. He makes friends easily. This is a gift and I hope he retains it throughout his adult life.
- He will speak to anyone: the postman, shop assistants, delivery men, old ladies walking down the street. I find delivery men are the least likely to want to engage with him. He often disappears to get a toy to show them only to find they have gone on his return. For some reason, this leaves him heartbroken. I truly think half of Essex must have known it was his birthday last week, because he told every single person who crossed his path.
- He is so much more confident and independent. Over the Easter holidays, I booked him into a “create and play” session at the local theatre. We went along and I imagined it was something we would be doing together, or I would at least be watching. When the woman running it asked me whether I intended to stay in the building whilst it was going on, I was taken aback. The children would be taken off upstairs to the session on their own?! I also felt a bit panicked as I didn’t know how Noah would react. A few months ago, I’d have had to play gooseberry and sit in or else he wouldn’t have taken part. But my Noah was happy to go off without me. After I watched him disappear up the stairs with the other kids, I hurriedly phoned my husband and my mum to share the momentous news. I was proud of him. And it was nice to sit there and read my book for a couple of hours. But I also felt a little bit lost. He really isn’t my baby any more. The world will have to be adapted accordingly.
I can’t help but wonder if all birthdays will be this way now. Every year he will get bigger and stronger. Every year he will need me less and less. It’s the way of the world and the way it should be. It means he is being raised properly. It means he will have the tools he needs to tackle the big wide world out there.
But it hurts just a teeny, tiny, eeny, weeny, minuscule, little bit because I know that the day will come when my Noah no longer needs his mummy at all. By then, of course, I won’t even be Mummy any more: I’ll just be Mum.