We've called you the Wild Orange for several years because of your tendency to wreak havoc inside (and outside) these log walls, but--aside from my still-constant reminders that I have ear drums you're likely to burst--the nickname hardly fits, now. You seem to have developed, finally!, a respect for others' property, and it's become unusual for you to tear something up "just because." I hardly worry, anymore, that you'll bolt from me and get hurt, or accidentally injure a smaller person.
In fact, you've turned into a remarkably gentle big sister. I don't know of many not-quite-four-year-olds who can be trusted to watch a younger sibling or two while Mommy goes pee or starts the minivan, but you can. You love to hold Baby Chip, and I saw you, earlier, holding the tissue for Charleigh to blow her nose; thank you.
Your papaw commented, once, that you really love your family, and he was right. You love to advise us ("Don't fight, ok? Be kind to one another!" or, "You should be thankful, Cade, that you have a mommy and a daddy!"); help us with your hands; and gift us with artwork.
You love to learn and are apt to throw a temper tantrum when I say we've done enough "school" for the day. You know your letters (and their sounds), and you can write most of the capital ones. You know your numbers (in Spanish, too, it seems; thank you, Dora!), and you understand the concepts of addition and subtraction. You adore patterns and see them everywhere. You know your shapes. You know your colors and use them inside the lines.
You love ballet and tap. Dearly.
You love puzzles and board games and stories. Two days ago, I was reading aloud from my Kindle, and by the look on your face, I knew: it made no nevermind about the absence of illustrations; you could see that rheumatic rabbit and his striped cane in your imagination, and the hungry bear, too. It was such a happy moment for me, as your mother.
And I've been hard on you; I know I have. You're very young to have two younger siblings, and I'm very old to have three children ages three and under. You've worked my nerves, Pretty Girl, but you've grown me into a more patient mommy. Charleigh and Chip thank you. Cade thanks you, too, come to think of it.
I brushed your hair from your forehead the other day and said: "Clementine, you've grown up so much! You're not a baby, anymore!"
Your eyes welled up with tears, actual tears!, and you cupped my chin with your soft, little hand. "But I still love you, Mama," you said.
I love you too, Clementine. So much. In three days, you will be four. May this be your best year of life, yet.
**Writing along with the Imperfect Prose community, today, in response to the prompt "joy." To read others' offerings, click on the image below.