Four

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Mark had been looking forward to turning four for several months. He was probably interested in a cake and presents, but I think he mostly wanted to be a “big boy”. “I can do it now because I’m not a baby,” he often claims. To him, “four” was the ultimate “big boy stage”.

To me, “four” was just a number because I was focused on the milestones along the way. For a long time, Mark was stuck between the whiny toddler stage and the curious little boy he was becoming. Toilet training, letting go of his beloved pacifier, listening to instructions, looking for privacy, handling frustration and disappointment, getting along with other people, getting over separation anxiety, expressing himself, accomplishing basic self-care tasks… Damn, who knew that it took that many little yet crucial steps to grow up!

But I can see the difference now. Mark is taller, bigger, more confident. He is a happy kid most of the time. Everything is “wow, amazing!” and he learns new skills fast. He is able to analyse, reason out issues, elaborate answers and explain problems. He is eager to please and he knows right from wrong at his level.

Just this week, the fact he was actually turning four hit me. Was it really four years ago that we drove to the hospital, spent a night and came back with a newborn? Must be. The memories are both vivid and strangely distant as if I had been someone else then. And in a way, I was a different person for a short period of time—pregnancy, labour and early parenthood make anyone turn into an alien stepping on earth for the first time. Everything is the same but different with a tiny human being and shitload of paraphernalia at home. Caring for a baby is both instinctive and amazingly challenging between hormonal fluctuations, sleep deprivation, commitment and dedication to a level never reached before.

And then, weeks, months or years later, it settles down.

I like to think that I’m not a different person, I just installed an extension pack. Mark taught me to reflect on big issues—gender, feminism, the role of the state in society, cultural norms and education. I acquired skills I promptly forgot—despite making hundreds of bottles, I completely forgot the formula-to-water ratio now. Many skills stuck, though, like being able to pee and wash hands in less than one minute, getting by on less sleep than a candidate on the campaign trail, multitasking, nailing the perfect cooking time for al-dente macaroni and constantly keeping a mental inventory of the fridge content and the laundry basket. Above all, I learned to trust other people, to ask for help and to see the other side of the story in a non-judgemental way.

I wouldn’t trade Mark for anything in the world, and I wouldn’t have had a child with any other man.

One thing hasn’t changed, though: my abysmal baking skills. I’m a good enough cook but I can’t bake. So far, I kept this secret hidden from Mark by either providing store-bought cake, either volunteering for the “cheese and crackers” option at potlucks. At four, I considered he was old enough to help me mangle a North American classic: cupcakes.

So we made cupcakes, much to Mark’s amazement. Breaking eggs! Mixing! Adding chocolate chips! Adding rainbow sprinkles! OH MY GOD!

I’ll buy him a professional-looking cake from the store for tonight. Meanwhile, he seems to enjoy “his” cupcakes.

Happy birthday, Mark! I’m publishing at 11:04 a.m., his exact birth date!

Let's customize a cake mix...

Let’s customize a cake mix…

Here we go!

Here we go!

Step one, done.

Step one, done.

Yes, these are chocolate chips.

Yes, these are chocolate chips.

Yes, Mark, you can "taste" the chocolate chips.

Yes, Mark, you can “taste” the chocolate chips.

Now, let's get into cupcake mode.

Now, let’s get into cupcake mode.

Yes, Mark, the mix smells good and yes, you can lick the spoon.

Yes, Mark, the mix smells good and yes, you can lick the spoon.

Sprinkling rainbow sprinkles, by far the toughest task a man ever had to do.

Sprinkling rainbow sprinkles, by far the toughest task a man ever had to do.

Sprinkling rainbow sprinkles, by far the toughest task a man ever had to do.

Sprinkling rainbow sprinkles, by far the toughest task a man ever had to do.

Sprinkling rainbow sprinkles, by far the toughest task a man ever had to do.

Sprinkling rainbow sprinkles, by far the toughest task a man ever had to do.

Mark, guarding the oven

Mark, guarding the oven

The "thou shalt not pass" move

The “thou shalt not pass” move

Checking...

Checking…

Done! I'm Mark's favourite person until I send him to bed.

Done! I’m Mark’s favourite person until I send him to bed.

The cake! The candles!

The cake! The candles!

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

14 Comments

  1. Joyeux anniversaire Mark! It’ amazing the amount of growing (both physically and mentally) they do in those first four years! He is so cute and sounds like an amazing little guy 🙂
    I am an OK baker, but I’m terrible if I have to make anything “normal” like cupcakes or chocolate cakes. I make good sugar free apple muffins though lol
    PS: good luck with the piano

    • 😆 for the piano

      You seem to be a pretty good cook and baker, I remember the treats you featured a while ago. I never got into baking for some reason… it’s a less vital skill than cooking meals, but a valuable one!

  2. Yeaaaah bonne fête Mark, joyeux anniversaire et happy birthday 😉 i agree with him, four is quite the age of a big boy/girl for me too. Billie is 3 and a half and I see the difference, the ability of analyzing and so on.

    J’adore cuisiner pour ma part, ca me prend de nombreux essais pour arriver à quelque chose de correct mais j’adore vraiment ca et je crois l’avoir transmis aux filles. Billie est comme Mark, elle “goûte” toujours et plusieurs fois 🙂

    • Oui, j’ai vu vos expériences culinaires plusieurs fois, et je crois qu’elles m’ont poussées à tenter le coup avec Mark! C’est souvent par manque de temps, malheureusement… parce qu’un enfant dans la cuisine = le double du temps de préparation + nettoyage!

  3. I loooove this: “I like to think that I’m not a different person, I just installed an extension pack.” What a fantastic way to say it.

    Happy birthday to Mark! Hope he had a fantastic day full of lots of cake. And happy golden years to you – I think the years between 4/5 and maybe 12 are the best, when your kid is independent enough that you can take a breath, take a step back, and get to know them and yourself a little better. It’s lots of fun and not much angst or diapers. All good!

    • OMG, thank you so much for the good news re. the years ahead! I trust your experience 🙂

      Mark did have cake. In fact, we are still eating cake. Not the same one, mind you, but multiple cakes were bought/made…

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