Thursday, October 27, 2016

To my first on his 12th

Dear John,

Every year, my letter gets later and later because every year I have to consider more carefully to discern what is the best way to say happy birthday to someone who has very likely changed my life more than any other person on the planet. It is now October 27th, a full 5 weeks after your 12th birthday, and I’ve waited long enough, so, I guess I’ll keep it simple and just say, “Happy 12th birthday!” (I’ll leave off my new pet name for you in an effort to save your reputation.)

POOKY BEAR! (sorry.)

During and after my pregnancy with you, everybody around us said, “This is baby is special” or “It’s a boy, and he’s lucky; I feel it!” We thought perhaps people said this to all people starting families, but usually it wasn’t just passing chatter. These people knew that you were special and/or lucky, and they had specific reasons:
  • your name had special meaning
  • your birth date was lucky
  • it was fortunate that a bird had pooped on my head during my pregnancy because that’s considered extra special good luck in Africa
  • You would bring us out of our joblessness (and truly, your dad found a job in the delivery room of the hospital where you were born), etc. etc.

And even now you do seem to have some “lucky duck” super power. You have many times been randomly placed on sports teams that are highly successful, you got into the Spanish immersion school in Nashville even though we didn’t live in that neighborhood, and of course there is the “Parking Fairy” situation, wherein every time I’m with you, we get a parking spot that could rival even the motorcycles or differently abled.

But really John, you are the amazing parking spot we landed 12 years ago. We have moved numerous times since then, and you have had some moments of not seeming so amazing (haven’t we all?), but you still make us feel pretty lucky. Nevermind that you are in the throes of some weird 6th grade/ tween desire to seem idiotic and angry … I still think you’re clever, and I know that you’re happy even though you often seem full of angst. Some of that is age-related, but some of that is, unfortunately, inherited from me -- like our proclivity for agonizing over decision making and worrying too much about what other people think. But those are few and far between. Most of the time we have to tell you repeatedly to stop whistling or singing because you happily bop around the house clueless to other forms of human life, just in your own world -- and that world seems relatively peaceful and content. When it’s not, and you are disturbed, you are starting to recognize it more and be conscious of the disturbance. And that’s how I know that you are growing up. Because little kids are less aware … they just act in order to get their needs met (appropriately or not). But I am starting to see forethought before you act and analysis afterward, and that is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying.

Here are a few of the things that you find particularly disturbing at this stage of your life, and I think you’ll see that these truly run the gamut from childhood fears to grownup stressors:
  • Anything your brother says
  • Anything your brother does
  • Any way your brother looks at you
  • Any noise your brother makes (I won’t go on, I think you can see the pattern)
  • Mondays
  • Obligations
  • My calling you pet names POOKY BEAR
  • Puke
  • The idea that people puke
  • The idea that there are germs out there that cause people to puke
  • The fact that you have to live in a house with people who might be carrying germs that cause people to puke.
  • Band
  • Getting locked out of the house (sorry, bud!)
  • The closet door and what’s behind it
  • Ventriloquists’ dummies  
  • Your very own collection of Nutcrackers, which has now been removed from your room
  • Clowns, not surprisingly
  • The following questions:
    • “Do you have homework?”
    • “How was school?”
    • “Did you brush your teeth?”
    • “Have you washed your hands?”

And here are some things you LOVE, which tow the line between childhood and adolescence:
  • Video games
  • Reading the same books repeatedly:
    • Wimpy Kid
    • Big Nate
    • Sisters
    • Far Side comic compilations
    • Guinness Books (yes plural) of World Records
  • Anything Nike
  • Expensive socks
  • The idea of owning more electronics
  • Drones
  • Nerf guns
  • Your GoPro camera
  • Sleepovers
  • When your brother sleeps in
  • When your brother has a playdate
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Ham and salami sandwiches with jalapenos, purple onion, lettuce, tomato, and honey mustard
  • The idea of a pet dog, cat, bird, ferret, rat, or pot-bellied pig
  • Nanny’s pies
  • Packages from Macy
  • Breakfast at Panera (you always order a breakfast quiche/souffle and a scone)

So overall, I think that you are, as always, both exactly where you should be and, in our opinion at least, WAY beyond. We love you even when you have those drama fits, we are proud of you even when you whine about how running sprints at soccer is RUINING your life, we are happy for you even when we yell across the house for you to PLEASE PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF PETER PAUL AND MARY STOP WHISTLING MEGHAN TRAINOR SONGS ON REPEAT. We wouldn’t trade your lucky duckness for anything, and I can’t wait to see what it brings you next.

With all my love,

p.s. I am amazed by your vocabulary. Just in the last week, I’ve heard you use: gullible, assemble, modify, sensitivity, and lag!

Friday, January 15, 2016

To My 2nd on his 6th (or, at least within two months of it)

Dear Sam,

Happy 6th, My Little! We are as proud as you are for surpassing the age of "babies." Yay you!

 Now, go back to your old self; you know, the one that was a baby and rode on my back and yanked at my hair and woke me up all night and stole my heart. Past tense. :-(

Actually, you still have my heart, I let you ride on my back when we're hiking, and even though you're not a hair-yanking baby anymore, I don't mind that you wake me up in the night (about once a month week). Moreover, you still have my heart, and I will not EVER ask for it back (*note future tense).

Not even if the emails from the principal continue. My favorite from-the-principal email subject lines have been, "a kissing incident" and simply, "behavior."

(I know that verb tenses are the last thing on your mind, but notice them anyway: regrets in the past; hopes/promises for now and always).

Sam, right now you are a study in contrast: Our most cuddly kid but also our most volatile. You struggle with impulse control, especially in high-emotion situations. Luckily, I am relatively understanding, and your dad has lots of experience managing high-needs kids and adults at work and at home

So, I want to make the rest of this positive and about YOU (which is hard for me, Love: I like to spin things with hyperbole and negativity by default). However, for you, I'm making an exception ...

The 6 year old Sam I know is confident, analytical, and curious. I think the confidence part is overriding the others at this point, but we know that it will eventually serve you well, and thus we make attempts to revere it. You love to play games -- chess with "Dadda," John, our kidsitter, Grampy; GO FISH and  OLD MAID with all of us, MEMORY with Macy, JENGA with Nanny and Grampy --  your scope of work is dizzying, truly!  The only advice I'll give you about improving this aspect of your free time is that you should probably consider alternatives to "You're cheating!" when competitors seem to be getting the best of you.

Your analysis of everything (complete with exemplary hand gestures) is something that I would be remiss to overlook, so I definitely want you to know that you are constantly considering every angle of every situation. This keeps us on our toes. Most obviously this character trait is presented in your eating habits, so that mostly demands our attention. I know that avoiding "the turkey with the crust" and the soy sauce with the red top is of utmost importance, and I don't take those jobs lightly. Luckily, your dad doesn't either ... especially since he's the grocery shopper. (I'm still working to figure out my superpower).

Finally, Sam, your curiosity is one of my favorite features of you. You want to know what everything means -- from vocabulary to major concepts like death. Recently, I was reading a parenting book called Why Can't You Catch Me Being Good and the author told about how each of her two sons, when they were five, asked her to marry him. I teared up because neither of my two sons had done that. I sat for a long time thinking about that and feeling sorry for myself because whatever I had done thus far in both of your lives had not made you consider me in that manner. And then the next day -- the VERY next day -- we were snuggling after playing a vicious game of air hockey (without the air), and you asked me the same. I nearly melted into the couch cushion. And so, like the writer of the book, I told you that I was already married to your dad and that unfortunately, you'd have to find another girl. You looked so sad and stared up at me with those squinched up eyebrows and said, "But WHY? Why can't you marry me too. I love you too! Not just dad loves you!" 

I know, sweet. I know it even when you scream that you hate me. Because that's how it works with us. We love each other no matter what -- another of your favorite sayings. (The hate thing still stings though, so maybe work on that a little?)

Dadda and I are so proud of how hard you work to be the kid that you want to be. The one who controls himself, uses words not hands, and apologizes, or better yet, doesn't have to. You have us wrapped around your little finger so much so that even when you bring that goshawful rancid blanket ("Sucky") into our bed at 2 a.m., we just scooch over and make way. Even when you then sleep like a Starfish on cocaine, we don't kick you out. The space in our bed and in our hearts has already been made for you, and even though you are not a baby, you'll always be our baby.

With all my love,

p.s.  Y.M.B.C.F.A. (don't tell!)