The BlogSprogs at Four

Today, our beautiful, funny, warm-hearted baby boy turned four years old.

Third of the O'Connor Clarkes, second of the BlogSprogs, but first today in our hearts and thoughts.

Happy Birthday Ruairi. We love you so, so much.

One day soon, you'll be old enough to read this yourself, my Ruairi. I'm conscious of that as I write these words, and it adds something to the thoughts that drive my fingers across the keyboard.

There was a time, sweet Ruairi, when we thought - for one awful, soul-chilling moment - that you wouldn't ever make it this far. Seems terribly strange to be writing that now, almost four years later, but you had a rocky start, poor fella. Whacked by an e.coli infection in your blood when you were only six weeks old, then chicken pox - almost an insult on top of the injury - when you were still in your third month of life.

You've grown so much in four years. Everywhere you go, you leave a lasting impression on people. Grandma is just one of the many people to have commented that you've "been here before" - you have that presence about you, that sense of being perfectly in tune with the world, and completely in charge of it at the same time. You'll do great things in your time, Ruairi O'Connor Clarke. Great things.

This has been a huge year for you. You started in big school in September, in JK - so proud and happy as you marched off with your class into your first day. You're swimming by yourself now, riding your bike, writing your own name, counting to 11 - such a big boy.

Just a few short days ago, conscious of the fact that you were growing up, you told me that you wouldn't be going to sleep with your "ba-ba" any more - the bottle of warm milk you've depended on, more for comfort than sustenance, for most of this last four years. We've tried to pry it from you so often before now; tried to persuade you to give it up. And then, after all this time, you just suddenly decided it was time to stop. That was a very Ruairi moment. You know your own mind, little man.

Tonight's birthday dinner was another good example - documented here for your future self to remember. You chose a pork roast with stuffing, mashed potatoes, bundles of asparagus and green beans wrapped with bacon, and gravy. What a wonderful, grown up meal to pick for your birthday supper! You're an extraordinary kid, Ruairi.

(Your birthday breakfast choice, in case you've forgotten, was Chocolate Lucky Charms. Precisely the kind of thing a little boy ought to pick, and we were happy to indulge you just this once. You didn't like them. Who can blame you? Like being punched in the face with a pound of wet sugar. Uck. The box is destined to sit in the cupboard for the next few months until we finally decide it's time to chuck handfuls out for the birds and squirrels.)

I should probably explain some of the earlier links here, Ruairi - for you, and for other people reading this. When you were still growing in Mommy's tummy, I found out that two of my friends - one in England and one in Florida - were also going to be daddies around the same time as you were due to be born. Between the three of us we set up BlogSprogs - the first team blogging effort created by three expectant fathers. We were quite a hit back then - you, Cameron Turner, and Sawyer Matrullo were famous long before you were even born. It was a very 2002 thing to do.

Which reminds me: your rotten Dad managed to miss Cameron's birthday this year. Happy, happy birthday baby girl, and love to your Mum and Dad. Hope you're enjoying your trip to Paris.

So. On my way home to cook your birthday feast tonight, Ruairi, I got to thinking about this recent "Five Things" meme that's been doing the rounds in the blogosphere of late. My mind was going through one of those list-making sessions it sometimes does - running the to-do lists, the "must remember to blog that" lists - and I started wondering about an altogether different list. I was wondering what four things (not five, for obvious reasons) I'd want for you - if I could ever distill it down to just four things. What four things would I want for all of my children, if I could give them anything in the world.

This is not really one of those blogging meme things - it's not something you'd "tag" other people with. It's just a few of the points that seemed important to me as my thoughts cascaded through the flow of fatherly feeling on my walk home.

Four things I want for my children:

1. Health.
Almost goes without saying. I've watched over you, Ruairi, as you lay, fretful and feverish. I've walked the floor with Charlie in my arms, miserable with colic; hugged Lily close as her persistent ear infections racked her tiny body - all the time praying to God to give me the pain, to take it away from you. Be healthy. Grow strong, my babies.

2. Happiness.
We try so hard to give you this. Always. But it's ultimately something you can only give yourselves. Whatever you do, whoever you grow up to be - if you find that you're not happy in some way, change it. Mommy and I will help. That's what we're here for.

3. Balance.
Can you be happy without this? Probably not. Perhaps it's the same thing, or closely linked at least. To live a balanced life seems to me to be the finest thing one can strive towards. I'm still not sure quite how you do that, but you guys are helping me get there. I hope I can help you too.

4. Wealth.
Does that seem wrong? Too materialistic; too crass? Listen: your Mom and I have been poor. We've been (comparatively) rich. Poor sucks. If you can, be rich - and then give all you can to those who aren't.

Let these four things come to you, Ruairi, Lily, and Charlie - and remember to phone home to your Mum at least once a week. You'll do OK.

Happy Birthday, baby boy. See you in the morning.