Dear Solo,

Oh darling. You're four.

(Insert "How can it be?" paragraph here.)

(Wait. There's more. "How can it be? How CAN it be?" Okay. All through now.)

Remember when you looked like this?

Solo May 24

Or this?

Solo in July

And then there's the photo that was heard around the world. We couldn't know at the time how indicative this would be of your relationship with your oldest brother.

 Taking care of business

Let's move on.This is the thing, Solo: Four year old boys are the very best. And you are the very best of the best of the four-year-olds in my life! You-- winningly, lovingly, opinionatingly you.

In a sleeping bag.

In this family of kids, you are still the youngest (for a little while longer). The others are growing increasingly aware, emotional, and wise, but you are still cheerfully impervious to subtlety. I love this! In a morning I may have two heart to heart talks with your oldest brother and sister, and then I will turn around and be required to adjust your ninja mask. Or as you say, your "minja fing." Or you will sing me a little song. Or I will steal a kiss and you will inform me once again that you "don't like kisses!"

When we moved to India and I was pregnant with you, one of the first things that hit me hard was that my children were going to have a different upbringing than me. I mean, that's a given for anyone, but things to me that were really normal, really stable underpinnings of my life as a child were totally gone. Like having seasons. Autumn, Winter and Spring were seasons that had simply disappeared from our lives. Our seasons turned into humid and hot, humid and wet, dry and hot, and sort of cool. I grieved it- it was a strange thing to mourn. What similar thing could I share with my children.

Happy Solo stuck in a hole

I totally forgot that we would all be making these new memories together. And then, with you, my India-born boy, well-- you have been a good teacher. I had you, a new baby, with nothing that I was used to. Clothes, bathing, foods, carriers, everything was different. And you thrived! And Asia is home to you. Asia with your North-American parents.

You are so fun, so totally carefree. Since we've moved into this house I think there have been only a handful of days that you haven't been in costume. First thing in the morning you tramp down the stairs with something in your hand that you want me to help you with. A cape, a ninja mask (made of a T-shirt with the arms tied behind your head and the neckhole as you eyehole) your whole Superman outfit which you inform everyone is a Superhero outfit, not a Superman outfit, because you are Solo.

Solo the Minja.

At first you were very doubtful that there was a baby in my belly, but you've come to thoroughly approve. Have the baby now! you say. It's ready! I think it would be best for all if I wait a little, though. I'll let you know when it's time.

You can strum a guitar like your soul depends on it. And you like to tell your brothers how to strum their guitars too. "That's not a muffle," you say. "This is a muffle!" And then Leafy falls to pieces because he doesn't want to be taught by someone two years younger than him. In many ways I'm still trying to figure you out- what your strengths are- what motivates you. Here are two things I've noticed. 1. You are incredibly social. 2. You LOVE to teach. You love to teach so much that it doesn't even matter to you if you have any knowledge of the subject you're teaching.

You do love to watch and observe and when I make pancakes, you rush to gather every ingredient that I'll need. Every one. You don't know the names of things like baking soda or powder, but you know that they go inside. You are bright and curious, full of care, full of love. You are always telling stories or giving me descriptions of things that go beyond the usual. "It's like a snake," you tell me about a corrugated piece of cardboard. "Like a snake going up and down in the dirt, or mountains, like spiky, up and down." Oh, I love it. I can't wait to hear more.

Solo is unimpressed.

With your siblings it's been a momentous year for you, with all its ups and downs. You have fallen more in love with your siblings, and you have had quite the battles. It's tough being three- you want them to understand you and get incredibly frustrated if they don't. But now that you're four, I bet everything will start to come together more. You and Leafy already are better and better friends. When I go in at night to make sure you're okay before I go to sleep, I see you two curled up like a heart, on your sides, heads and knees together. The amazing thing is that Leafy gets annoyed with you for exactly the same things your Kid A and YaYa get annoyed with him for: If you talk too much, or if your imaginary guy is invincible, or, or. or. It's tough, working all those things out; when to hit someone over the head with a lego sculpture (my answer-never), when to choose the peaceful way (always). I'm glad you have siblings to practise on.

In the coming year I think we'll see more music out of you, more art, more comprehension when we're reading together. I'm sure you'll be coming up with a ton of games for us, I'm sure you'll keep making our days amazing and unpredictable. I love you son,