Nate's fourth birthday was a few days ago, and his big party is tomorrow at Pump It Up. I'm getting so much joy out of watching his excitement build. Even more than that, though, I'm floored to realize that he has absolutely no association between this upcoming birthday party and getting presents. None.
This is the first party I haven't insisted on "no gifts." We have a small house, he has plenty of toys, and I hate writing thank-you notes: a perfect set of reasons to save our guests the trouble in the past. But I figured he'd probably realize he was getting ripped-off at the ripe old age of 4, and didn't wave off the gifts this year.
A few days ago Sophia asked him what he wanted for his birthday and Nate was totally befuddled. She asked him a few more ways, and the confusion never lifted. Getting exasperated, she said something along the lines of "You know, what do you want to GET FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY?!?!" to which he responded "cake?" We ran into them again today and she said she'd just come back from buying his present and watching the dawning of the joy on his face was amazing. He honestly didn't know she would be bringing a present. Or that the other 6 families worth of kids will also be bringing presents. And Grandma and Grandpa. (Not us. The party is his present. And the Lite Brite he got on his actual birthday.)
I watch him a lot these days, the joy and the innocence and the desire to please and the little tantrums and the nakedness of his emotions. He doesn't know to cover himself up. He doesn't know to care how he looks. He runs to me "Mommy!" when I pick him up at school, and he's "rocking out" to music with me, and he's totally into being a superhero running around the room with a dishtowel cape, and he's running out of the bathroom naked in front of his friends, and I am so so so aware that this part of his life is so close to ending. I know it's coming. I know there's nothing I can do to stop it. He's Adam in the Garden of Eden right now, and he's months or weeks or days or seconds away from realizing he's naked. And then he'll cover himself up, forever.
So I watch him a lot. I'm reveling in his exuberance, his joy, his innocence. I'm storing it up for later. And when he's older and jaded and properly covered up, I'll show him the pictures and videos of the days when he was truly carefree. And then we'll revel together.