|Age two? Three?|
I've never been the youngest in the family of many children, so I can't claim to know what it was like growing up the fourth of four.
I know that you had parents who were older and more tired, even though they also were more experienced and relaxed. I know that as the group of Boys got bigger we were more inclined to raise you all as a pack of cubs rather than as individuals, and you probably felt both the disadvantages and advantages of this system.
I also know that in spite of this group-think you were your very own individual, and that sometimes people outside of the family didn't understand that.
"Wow--he sure doesn't talk as much as his brothers, does he?" teachers would marvel at parent conferences.
The lady in the lumberyard where you delivered papers as an eight-year-old still remembers her determination to get you to chat with her, but you were the Calvin Coolidge of the Boys. She failed.
But that doesn't mean you had nothing to say. Some of my very favorite memories of the decades I spent with nest-aged children came from the two years when your brothers were at college. Suddenly you had plenty to say. You had just been waiting your turn to talk, and car trips to visit colleges turned into the most wonderful hours of conversation.
Five years later, I still miss you having you around. I miss hearing you practice the piano late at night, and "Clair de Lune" will forever be your song. I miss coming downstairs in the morning to find you've fallen asleep in the recliner (again) and never made it to bed. I miss your hugs, which are massive and rib-cracking.
And I'm proud of you. I'm proud that you don't brag, even though you could. (Yeah, you surprised people when you were the first valedictorian in the family.) I'm proud that you made it through a tough engineering curriculum at a top school, and you did it in four years. I'm proud of your character and your stick-to-it determination and your amazing Guitar Hero chops.
I'm proud to be your mother, and I love you.
Happy birthday, Four. You are an exemplary youngest child.