Letter to Nora: Four Years

Dear Nora,

You are artistic, imaginative, talkative, dramatic, silly, stubborn. A rule follower and a perfectionist. You are equal parts sweet and sass. You are all of these things and so much more. You are FOUR!

This past year with you was a fun one! We explored new parks and playgrounds, the zoo, and several museums. We climbed rocks and splashed in waterfalls and played on the beach. We spent summer afternoons learning about science, petting exotic animals, watching the solar eclipse, and reading books at the library. You are interested and attentive when it comes to learning.

In the spring, you played soccer with your favorite Coach Grilled Cheese, and you continue to enjoy gymnastics with preschool friends. You took eight weeks of swimming lessons and gained tons of confidence in the water. You love scootering at Loantaka Park and even mastered the “big hill,” with encouragement from Sam.

You easily scale spider’s webs and hang from monkey bars. You climb railings and jump down steps. You have no problem playing catch or tag with Sam and and his buddies. And, girl, you are fast on your feet! Especially when wearing your favorite lightning bolt high-top sneakers.

You prefer to wear a spider man costume over a tutu, a superhero mask over a princess crown. You wanted to be a football player at Jets training camp, not a cheerleader. A gymnast, not a ballerina. And you want to be an astronaut when you grow up. So “I can go to the moon and get back my balloon” (that you lost at a baseball game almost two years ago). I love your confidence, your persistence, your determination. You can be anything you want to be, young lady!

You use your imagination to make everything come to life: a plastic cowboy riding a horse, crayons, nesting blocks, utensils, paper airplanes, a LEGO pig and dog, baby dolls, Hatchimals, figures from your favorite TV shows (Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, PJ Masks), even your toes. You play family and school and restaurant. You get completely lost in your stories and scenarios, and I absolutely it.

You have amazing dexterity for a four-year-old. And I think you are officially a lefty! You can easily trace and copy the letters of the alphabet, color within the lines, draw recognizable people and animals and monsters. You love to manipulate play-dough and sand and slime. I’m tempted to keep almost everything that you create!

You are also a perfectionist. Your teachers say they always ask you to demonstrate art projects because you recreate every detail that they ask. This was most obvious in the group of owls that hung on your classroom wall. You placed the wings and eyes and beak in precisely the right spots, while many of your classmates took a more abstract approach. I know, however, that this perfectionist tendency can also be detrimental. You get really upset really quickly if you can’t do something the “right” way. I’m trying to teach you that not everything has to be perfect to be beautiful. It’s a good reminder for your momma, too!

You are sensitive and passionate. Your emotions are often too big to contain and spill out in the form of tears and impulsive phrases like “I don’t love you” and “I don’t want to be close to you” … quickly followed by “I’m so, so sorry” and “I love you.” Apparently this is not uncommon in girls your age. And we are trying our best to be patient during this phase, teaching you ways to cope and calm and control your emotions. But it can be exhausting.

Fortunately, every day ends with great big Nora bear hugs, sweet kisses, and nose squeezes. And when you say things like … “I still have some crying in my feet, but I won’t let it come up” and “I’m going to go to my room and let happiness come inside my body,” … I know we are doing something right.

You surprise us daily with your sophisticated vocabulary. You say things like: “on the surface” and “beneath” and “I’ll distract Evie while you change her diaper” and “I didn’t realize that our babysitter was coming tonight” and “We have three options to play today.” You remember details, recount memories, make up stories. You are just like your mommy.

Because you have such a large vocabulary for a four-year-old, some articulation issues have become apparent. Your teachers mentioned this to me during our winter phone conference, and I’ve been paying special attention to the sounds that you mispronounce. After an evaluation through the school district, we learned that you are “fronting,” which means that you replace hard sounds made in the back of the throat, like /k/ and /g/, with sounds made in the front of the mouth, like /t/ and /d/. A good example: kindergarten is tin-der-dar-ten.

I can understand almost everything that you say because I listen to you every day. But you get frustrated if others can’t understand you. The last thing I want is for this to affect your confidence and love for storytelling. So we will likely start speech therapy later this year, and I’m sure that it won’t take long for you to make the corrections.

Until then, I will admittedly enjoy every “tootie pie” and “tin-tel tin-tel wittle tar.”

You love mac and cheese (the “round” kind), pretzels and hummus (with “sprinkles,” a.k.a. everything seasoning), cheeseburgers on sesame “seed” buns, cinnamon raisin bagels with lots of cream cheese, bacon, bulls-eyes (especially the ones that Poppy makes on his “magic pan”), cherries, marshmallows, fancy Belgian chocolates, crunchy carrots, big apples with the skin cut off, letter cookies from Trader Joe’s. Have I mentioned that you’re a little bit picky right now? Another oh so wonderful four-year-old phase.

You love music and always request “Uptown Funk” as soon as we get into the car. You also have memorized every song that comes after that on my running playlist. You’ve seen the movie, Trolls, at least 32 times. I’m not exaggerating. And you got to meet your (and my!) favorite storybook character, Ladybug Girl, at the book festival in the fall.

Recently you said, “I have three special things about me.” (Oh, you have SO many more than three!) “I have an extra tooth” (you do), “I have a superhero tooth” (your first filling), “and I’m in the middle.” And I think you love being in the middle! You love following Sam, and you love leading Evie. You are so proud to be both a little sister and a big sister. You are also such a sweet friend. I genuinely believe that your friends enjoy your company. We obviously, do, too!

Nora, we appreciate every moment with you: the big ones, the small ones, the challenging ones, the sweet ones. You are truly one of a kind, and we couldn’t love you more. Happy birthday, sweetheart!

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