This post is the fourth in the series "This Is Childhood," which captures moments in our children's lives, from age 1 to 10.
"Knock, knock." He says.
I note the lilt of his voice, the glint of his locks inside this morning's first light. It enters the room in slants, framing our small space within it.
"Who's there?" I ask, leaning my forehead against his. He laces his arms around my neck. We're nose to nose, my arms wrapped around his small frame.
"Boo." He tries.
"Boo who?" My move.
"Boohoo you're crying and YOU'RE the banana baby!"
He throws his head back, mouth wide, eyes closed.
And he laughs.
His "punchline" is braided with the kind of giggles that fill the room from cool wooden floors, to high-beamed ceilings.
"It's time to go." I start, kneeling down, one yoga-pantsed knee to the floor, holding his jacket his way. My offering.
And then, I brace myself.
"No!" Arms crossed, brow furrowed, lips pursed. I know this look. He wears it well.
His body melts to the floor, afternoon shadows almost softening that look.
I lift him up, pull him close.
He pushes back -- pushes me -- away.
His hands are flat against my chest, tiny fingers splayed. He's stronger than I thought he'd be.
We sit like this, as two.
Once again in our own space.
This time it feels impossibly small.
"Mommy?" He says, his voice thick with sleep, as he walks toward me.
He slips by my side in one fluid sweep. My legs are curled beneath me, my arms are out wide. His body is small, his knees are curled into to his chest. We fit like puzzle pieces in the moonlight.
"Mommy I have something to tell you."
He tilts his chin; his hazel eyes -- that are so like my own in color and in width and in intensity -- are framed in long thick lashes, and are colored in the finest shades of tired.
"I have good news." A smile plays on his lips, and on those eyes.
He went to bed less than an hour ago and since then, I've gotten less work done than I should have. "What is it, buddy?" I ask, hoping my own shades of tired are thoroughly masked.
He pauses, the clock ticks in our background. I force my own eyes away from it, to meet his.
Finally, he says, "I grew a beard last night."
In one eyelash flutter, I lighten, and bite back my laugh. "Show me," I ask with all of the serious I can muster.
And he does. He tilts his head further and shows me his "beard."
My move yet again.
"It's a great beard." I say.
"I know." He nods.
We understand each other.
"Do you want me to carry you?"
"No!" he says, as he opens his arms up to me. I reach down low and lift my boy. My third child, the only 4-year-old I've ever deemed my baby.
I hold him close.
He fits his head beneath my chin.
His golden locks tickle my cheeks, my neck, just as they did when he was a newborn.
He'd curl his body against mine, pacifier held in place by the smallest of lips and the roundest of cheeks pressed against my shoulder. I'd fit my arms around him, one beneath and one in back. His tiny toes peeking below my arm.
He's still small, I think, holding him in this way that should feel familiar.
His arms tighten around my neck as he loosens his legs. I feel his toes graze my knees in a shocking reminder of how very big 4 can be.
I tuck him in beneath his covers. He pulls them tight, and curls inside them. "I love you," I say, brushing my lips across his forehead.
"I'm not tired," he says back, lids already setting.
"I know." I say back. Thankful, that by the light of this moon, we still understand each other.
And this, all of this, is 4.
Big, lightly kissed with small.