I’ve been sat here for the last hour, staring at a blank screen, thinking back to four years ago when you still kicked inside my tummy, so wrapped up in all of our hopes and dreams. I guess your birthday will always be the most emotional day for me, unable to stop the tears as I see how fast you’ve grown, to swallow that lump in my throat as you blow out the candles on yet another cake, to accept that our last little dove is not so little after all.
I’ve never shied away from the fact that you were never a part of our plans. After the girls were born just fifteen months apart, with Lewis already ten, we knew that for the sake of my physical and mental health, and, in truth, our bank balance, there would be no more babies for us. And so when we discovered that I was pregnant again, with Eva and Megan just eighteen and three months old, although it was a shock to say the least, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that you were Heaven sent. And you are.
From the moment you came into the world, completely grey and silent, as the crash team pumped oxygen into your chest, hooked you up to wires as alarms sounded around us, I held my breath and prayed you would be okay. And I’ve been doing the same every day since.
Because you, my beautiful baby boy, are wild. You run, you jump, you swing and somersault, you fly, you roll, you launch yourself about with astonishing bravery, and often stupidity, and we spend every second of every day grimacing as your head hits the floor, rushing to scoop you up as you go flying, rubbing bumps, nursing cuts, icing bruises, and yet nothing at all phases you. Infact I’m not even sure that you feel pain at all.
But for someone who is so rough and so oblivious to the dangers around him, you are the most loving and kind little boy I have ever known. Every night when I tuck you into bed, you ask me to crawl in beside you, to have you lay your head against my cheek, and you ask me, “What shall we talk about today?”. And when I kiss you goodnight, a thousand times over, you whisper in that sleepy, irresistible way that you do, “Mummy, I love you all the day long.” And those are my favourite moments, reserved purely for you and I.
Our time together was cut short this year with the start of pre-school, where you disappear for fifteen hours a week, tearing indoors in a whirlwind of energy, and returning to me hours later, with sleepy eyes and mud stained knees. With school approaching this September, I am forever hearing, “I bet you’re looking forward to having every day to yourself?”, and whilst I nod along and make jokes about how my house will certainly be tidier, I am so sad that it will never again be just the two of us.
We’ve had some amazing adventures this year Harry – the six of us, and the two of us. We’ve holidayed in England, Scotland and Wales, travelled across the country for weekends away and fun days out, and whilst we have created so many memories, and experienced more than most children of four ever will, those aren’t the moments I will cherish from your fourth year.
I want to look back and remember the conversations we shared about dinosaurs, the way you got frustrated when I pretended not to know the difference between herbivores and carnivores, the frown on your face when I didn’t let your T-Rex eat my Velociraptor in quite the way you had ordered me to.
I want to remember your obsession with Paw Patrol, how you asked me, every single day for twelve long weeks, if Father Christmas would bring you the Look Out Tower, and the look on your face when he did.
I want to remember how you asked for nothing but jam on toast, cheese sandwiches and chicken nuggets and chips, and how you would clamp your mouth together should we dare to sneak anything else onto your plate.
I want to remember the nights you crawled into our bed, how you would fall asleep with your lips pressed to mine, how I would wake to find you stroking my back and telling me, “It’s morning time!”. I want to remember how you would ask me to pick you up when out walking in the winter, how you would pull up my hood, blow hot air into my face and tell me, “I’ll keep you warm Mummy!”.
I want to remember how your eyes sparkled when you laughed, the way you always made me feel happy even on the days I was feeling sad, how wonderful the world is when I see it through your eyes.
I want to remember the days we took flowers for Joseph, how you would sit there and tell him, “Hey big brother, we have the same name!”. how you would place your hand against his headstone and whisper, “I wish you could come down from the sky and play with me. I want to remember how seeing you there, older than your big brother will ever be, both hurt my heart and healed it, all at the same time.
I want to remember the moments I caught you and Lewis sharing a moment, the mirror image of each other, the way that you gazed at him with so much love and admiration, and how it still makes my heart swell to see you there together. My boys.
I want to remember how when I took a photo of you with your sisters, they would say, “Harry in the middle!”, placing protective arms around you, and how you would pretend not to like it whilst secretly revelling in their attention.
I want to remember how every day you would amaze me by learning something new, how you learned to recognise your letters and numbers, how you would insist on sitting down to read Megan’s reading book each night even though you and I both knew you were reciting it from memory.
And I want to remember that at three, you were the happiest, kindest, wildest, most crazy little boy I have ever known, and that not a single day went by this last year when I didn’t marvel that you were mine, and I was yours, and how very lucky we were to have a bonus baby as wonderful as you.
This next year is going to be a huge one for you starting school, growing fast, gaining your independence and growing in ability, and yet, although I am so sad that my littlest dove has to spread his wings, I will be right there behind you, championing you on, hoping that in a year where so much is about to change, you never will.
Happy 4th Birthday Harrison Joseph, we love you all the day long.