Thursday, August 27, 2015

48 Months, 1460 Days

Dear Noah,

I examined your face at breakfast this morning, your almond-shaped blue eyes still a little crusted with sleep.  You were talking a mile-a-minute, I’m not sure about what.  You talk so much that it’s easy to tune you out—not in a mean way, just because I’m used to your chatter being the soundtrack of our home.  As you jabbered, I looked closely at your face, and it struck me that even though you are getting so big, so grown up, I can still see my little baby boy in those blue eyes.  You look the same—you are the same—even though you grow smarter, more independent, and older by the day.

You are four now.  It’s so hard to believe.  We have spent 48 months together—1460 days.  Through it all, you’ve become my buddy.  I know you, heart and soul. 

You live life BIG.  Big voice, big expressions, big laughter, big emotions. When you are happy, you are elated.  When you are mad, you are raging.  You aren’t sure what to do with all of that energy, and neither am I, but we are working on it every day, and I feel like we are learning.  I feel like we get each other, and even when you drive me absolutely bonkers (which you do on a regular basis), I still feel like we are the best of friends.

You are perceptive.  You can read me, and you can read your environment.  You ask me questions about life that surprise me for a four-year-old, but I answer them straight.  There’s nothing that I want more as a mother than to teach you.

You love to dance to Justin Bieber's "Baby" when you unload the dishwasher, and your favorite part is when "that funny guy" (AKA Ludacris ) starts rapping in the middle of it.  We listen to it on repeat. 

You are smart and insightful and you love books.  I hope you are this way forever.  On library days, I read you all six of your books in the hammock for bedtime, and it is a treat for both of us.

You are loving and good, and you are very willing to give me kisses and snuggles on demand.  You call me “Mother” which always makes me smile. (I think you got it from watching Peter Pan, one of your current favorites.)

You are certainly a firecracker.  You are feisty and strong-willed.  But you also make me laugh every day—admittedly it’s sometimes just in retrospect, after the moment of frustration has passed, but you really are hilarious.  I keep a note in my phone of the funny and frustrating things that you say, and here is just a sampling from the last few months:

When approaching some older kids at the park, you said, “Excuse me!  I’d like to be your friend, and that means you have to listen to me!”

When we took our bikes to be serviced, you were amazed by the repair guy and all his tools.  You sat and watched him while he worked (meaning you sat and jabbered at him and asked him a million questions that he wasn't able to answer because you just kept talking), and I went up to the front of the store to pay.   Over the din of the shop, I heard you stop with your questions for a moment and then ask in an awestruck tone, “Excuse me, sir.  Are you called a bike expert?”

When we were telling you a story about Jesus at family night, Dad said, “Jesus had some friends who traveled with him and helped him teach.” You interjected and said, “Dad, they’re called disciples!!”  Surprised that you knew that word, and wanting to test your knowledge a little, I asked, “And what did the disciples do for work, before they started traveling with Jesus?” You paused to think and then answered confidently, “Mom, they were fishermen!” Well alright then.  I guess someone has been listening when we read to you from your illustrated Bible at bedtime. 

When we went to a local candy shop, the elderly store owner told us that his wife makes all of the caramels.  A few minutes later, a white-haired lady appeared from the back of the store, and you said matter-of-factly, “She’s about to die.”  Hahaha!  I don’t think she heard you, and maybe it’s a good thing!

When your electric train developed a short a few months ago, you were devastated, but then Grandpa saved the day by fixing it.  I heard you telling the story to your babysitter, Baylee, and you told it just like one of the storybooks that we read to you: “Once upon a time, a long long time ago, this train that you see right here stopped working.  But then Grandpa came from Pocatello and took it back to his workshop…” It was a very dramatic tale!

When we were looking through my wedding album recently, I said, “Noah, I’m so glad I married your dad.”  “Why?” you asked.  “Because he is my best friend,” I responded.  You thought about it for a moment and then said, “Okay, I will marry Callum then.”

When you were talking to a friend about this beloved older cousin, you admitted, “Callum is better than Noah—but no one else is!”

When you pray, you almost always end by saying, “And bless me, Noah.”  I’m so glad you clarify who you are, just in case God isn’t sure. ;)

When you were recently stalling on the way to Quiet Time, you insisted, "But Mom, I'm hungry!" I asked, "How can you be hungry when you just ate lunch?"  You thought about it for a moment and then replied, "I don't think the food is in my stomach anymore; I think it's probably in my large intestine by now!" (Thanks to your Usborne See Inside My Body book for teaching you all about the digestive system!)

When I ask you not to do something dangerous, such as grab sharp steak knives out of the cupboard or climb onto the top of the minivan, you often say things like, “Mom, I know what I’m doing.”  You even said this when you went flying with Grandpa and he wouldn’t let you land his plane!

When we went to the Farmer’s Market, you asked me if we could pause and look at a little irrigation pool nearby.  I said of course, and as you looked at that muddy puddle of water in the middle of a field, you sighed and said, “I just feel joy when I look at this.” 

When you are telling me a long story or making a point, you often smack your lips between words for some sort of dramatic emphasis.  I think you listen to the subtleties of the ways that adults talk and you mimic it.

When you are frustrated and want to hit or yell, you suck your lips in and subconsciously start making a machine gun type of noise.  You have no idea that you do it, but it’s a good warning sign for me because I know I need to grab Sally out of your line of fire before you lash out. 

When I wouldn’t buy you a donut at the grocery store recently, you were so angry and started shouting things like, “Now I will never know what that donut tastes like—not ever, until I die!” 

When you’re mad at me and I ask you to do something, you often say in a sassy, dismissive voice, “Whoever cares!”  Oh my--it’s like you are fourteen, not four.  

When I have to haul you out of church because you are being rambunctious or into your bedroom because you are wailing during family dinner, you are full of threats like, “You’re not my mom anymore!  I’m not going to do anything you say, not ever! Even for your whole life!”

And yet even though you can be sassy, when I sneak into your room and kiss you goodnight before I head to bed myself, you sometimes mutter something absurdly sweet like, “I love you more than anything in this whole world.”  (I think you’ve heard your mama say similar things to you!)

When we play your favorite game “Chest” (Chess), you tell me, “This is a killing game.”  Haha!  Whoever thought that the quintessential nerd game could be seen as a killing game?  But you simply love taking out my pawns and bishops.  The other day while we were playing you told me, “I killed him because he killed my brother.” I laughed aloud, thinking of our chess pieces challenging each other to duels like a scene from my favorite 80s movie: “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya—you killed my father. Prepare to die.”

When you recently stole a plate of brownies off the counter and hid in your room to eat them all (you have an insane sweet tooth), I demanded angrily, “Noah, what were you thinking??”  Obviously this was a rhetorical question, but you looked at me so seriously and said, “Mom, I don’t know what I was thinking!  My brain got all zig-zaggy!”  I had to hold back a little giggle at that explanation—it’s actually pretty accurate and profound!

Oh, my boy—you make me laugh.  You make me smile and shake my head in amazement.  But you also make me feel frustrated and inadequate at times, with your huge emotions.  I’ve started being more diligent about planning a weekly Family Home Evening, now that you are old enough to learn and understand.  I love having a weekly opportunity to teach you, in an environment that isn’t heated.

Last week I cut out two pictures that I printed from the Internet: a knife and a Band-aid.  We talked about the difference between “cutting words” and “healing words.”  You certainly have the ability to do either with your big vocabulary.  You have fixated on the words “hate” and “stupid” lately, and though I know that’s a normal phase for kids who are testing their limits, I never like to hear you say that you hate me or that I am a stupid mommy.  Both of those insults have been hurled at me occasionally, such as during the grocery store incident when I wouldn’t buy you the donut, and they have been hurled at your dad and your sister as well.  It makes my blood boil to hear those words used at the ones who love you the most—but I also know the anger that you are feeling when you lash out, the unthinking "zig-zaggy" anger.  I have felt that before, and I have learned to do other things with my anger than yell mean words.  You will learn too.  

These are laminated pictures.  My son is not wielding a huge sharp knife.

After warning you that if it happened again I would wash your mouth with soap, you told Dad that you hated him a few days ago, so I had to follow through.  I put a tiny bit of soapy water on my hand and wiped it in your mouth.  Even though it was almost no soap, you were furious.  You told me, "That consequence needs to be thrown out the window!"  Hahaha!  You went on to say angrily, "Mom, that doesn't make me want to say healing words!  It makes me want to say more cutting words at you!!"

Again I was shaking my head at how well you express some pretty complex emotions.  Maybe you're right: maybe putting soapy water in your mouth invites a power struggle more than it invites learning--I don't know.  (But in my defense, you haven't said "I hate you!" again since receiving that consequence.)  As I told a friend recently, "I have no idea what I'm doing in this parenting gig!"  But I am sure trying, and I know that you are too.  We will just keep teaching and growing and loving and learning—all of us.

I recently went to a religious class where the teacher talked about God’s tender mercies.  She asked us if we’d ever experienced miracles in our lives, and the very first thing I thought of was you.  Tears sprang to my eyes and an awe settled over me, a deep and internal acknowledgement of what a gift it is to be your mother.

You were my first miracle, Noah Atticus Nielson, and you continue to be my miracle every day. 

I love you, and I love mothering you.  You teach me so much, and I am growing just as much as you are as we spend these days together.  Here’s to another year of months and moments spent learning from each other.

As I tell you often, and as you sometimes tell me in your sleep, I love you more than anything in this whole world.  I truly do.

Hugs and Kisses,


  1. I sure love Noah and his big personality. He is a good boy, and is so funny and so smart. You are the perfect mother for him and are doing an amazing job. I'm glad you are both in my life!

  2. Love this. I also appreciate the wash your mouth out with soap bit. A child of mine recently got very angry when they remembered I had done that to one of their siblings and told me how horrible we were.

  3. :) I love this! What a funny buddy you have! I'm glad you can laugh about it all (even if it is in retrospect) and appreciate the now.

  4. I think that Noah and Titus would be pals. Can't believe they are both four!


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