He has already moved on to thinking about Christmas, but Isaac turned four on Tuesday. Four! How quickly the time passes, and how quickly he continues to change. Reading back on what I wrote about him after his third birthday and then at the mid-point of his fourth year makes me realise just how much has happened in his life in barely 12 months.
So what has changed? Much of his development in recent months has been fairly organic. His writing and drawing ability continue apace, so for instance he can now write common words such as ‘Isaac’, ‘Mummy’ and ‘love’ neatly and without assistance, and he loves to draw his own greeting cards. Similarly, his reading skills continue to improve. Technology and music geek that he is, if I hand him my iPod he will find his own playlists and recognise his favourite tracks from their titles alone. (This, perhaps more than anything else, makes me immensely proud.)
As both Isaac and Toby (who does not turn two until January) have grown over the past year, their fraternal bond has also become more obvious. Both Heather and I find this fascinating to observe, as she is an only child and my brother and I are separated by a much larger gap (six years). It is obvious that Toby really looks up to his brother and wants to imitate everything he does, while it is equally apparent that Zac genuinely cares for and keeps a protective eye over his younger sibling.
It is a role he seems to accept with great equanimity and good humour, although on occasion the pressure of being the responsible older brother does seem to take its toll. Every now and then he breaks down and wails “I don’t want to be a big boy any more”. It’s heart-breaking to see him like that, and it’s a salutary reminder that, as mature as he seems 99% of the time, that he is still just a young boy at the outset of life’s long journey.
But there is also no escaping the fact that as he gets older he must inevitably come to terms with the real world. As I have written elsewhere, he is already losing some of the innocence that surrounds infants like a protective cocoon. The recent and sudden loss of his love for all things pink is, I strongly suspect, due to peer pressure at pre-school or, at the very least, a result of his own realisation that none of his male mates like pink.
On a more serious level, he has also had to confront the spectre of death with the loss of one of his grandparents. It was perhaps the first time he has had to deal with genuine sorrow, and we had a few nights of tears at bedtime as we discussed the concept of death with him. It has to happen sometime, I suppose, but the protective parent in me keeps wishing it didn’t have to be just yet.
Other than that, well, Zac’s just your typical boy. His love of cars – which started out with identifying various brands and spotting missing hubcaps – has now become an obsession with car parks (both real and play) and all things Top Gear. He is like me in many ways: he is a perfectionist, cannot resist a gadget and has the concentration span of a goldfish with attention deficit disorder. In other respects, he could not be more different: he is outgoing and makes friends easily, he is constantly organising everyone and everything around him, and he is basically a right bossy-boots (I blame Heather).
In truth, it doesn’t really matter how alike we are. He will always be his father’s son, my special boy, and there are times I cannot help looking at him and marvelling at his journey so far and the unseen path ahead of him.
This time next year he will be coming up to the end of his first school term. Who knows what will be different about him by then? I look forward to finding out. Happy birthday, Isaac.