A letter to my son on his 7th birthday

Every year I write a letter to my kids on their birthday. I hope to one day give each kid a book of these letters – as way of apology and explanation. 

Dear Luke,

You turn seven today. SEVEN! This seems impossible, nearly as impossible as reconciling that the boy in front of me is the same as the baby I took home from the hospital. You are a million things that I never could have imagined on that day seven years ago when I tried, and failed, to button you into the too-small outfit that I thought to take you home in.

My baby is 7

The most astonishing thing about parenthood is the fact that my children are actual people- people who are different from me and have their own minds. You, my boy, are a person I’m so happy to know; a person unlike any other I’ve ever known; a person who is nothing like I ever expected.

I might have imagined tall towers of blocks. But they’re not you. You are the impetus, the intensity, and the energy it takes to build them. I might have imagined scraped knees and wet sneakers. But they’re not you. You are the racket, the commotion, and the spirit that it takes to fall a thousand and one times, get back up, and run into the wet with your shoes on. (Who am I kidding? You never wear your shoes. You are the boy who is barefoot no matter what.)

My words fall short of painting a full picture of all that you are. You are the chaotic blur between my organized thought and vocabulary.

You are the blur

This special thing you are- it is a plum I hold in my hands. Tender, impossibly sweet, and a complete mess. My job is to usher this plum through childhood unbruised. If you can retain all of your plumminess into adulthood, you will truly be one of the world’s most special people.

Your exceptionally strong will and unwavering moral code will serve you well in life. You stand up to any perceived injustice, especially if done against you or your little sister. I love this about you and I hope that sense of right stays with you and speaks louder than your peers do as you continue down the sometimes perilous course of childhood. The people you care about along the way will be lucky to have you in their corner.

Your innate feeling of protection over your sister is incredible. You will protect her from me, even when I’m coming down on her for something terrible she did to you. Please continue to do this. All evidence points to you being a pretty big guy as you grow up, and, right or wrong, I’d like you to intimidate the heck out of all boys who look at your sister.

Speaking of big guys, I can’t pick you up anymore. At all. This means that I’m left with only verbal options and facial expressions when I want to convince you to do something you might not want to do. The transition from me being able to physically “encourage” you, to you needing to listen to me based on your opinion of my authority has been bumpy at times. What might be defiance in a seven-year-old is something altogether different in a man. My job is to somehow curb the contrariness without crushing the chutzpah. That’s a tricky one- one of the many tricky things I’m charged with as your mother.

So much about you is surprising and special to me, but nothing more so than your capacity to love. Your love is huge and boundless. Staggering. As an object of this affection, it can certainly be overwhelming. How can I teach you to keep some of it to yourself without teaching you that so much love is wrong? Who can endure the number of hugs you want to give? Who can reciprocate with as much enthusiasm? I hope that one day you find someone who can. That’s what I want for you most of all.

Love

Oh, enthusiasm! Wow. I never knew that a person could have so much of it. Whether you are enthusiastically joyful or enthusiastically angry, you are most definitely committed and passionate. More so than anyone I have ever met. I love this about you so incredibly much. As a life-long cynic, I have a lot to learn from your unabashed zeal for life.

Jump in

Happy birthday, my astonishing boy. I love you so much and can’t wait to see what the future holds. So bring it, seven, bring it on!

Love,

Mom

You can see more birthday letters to my kids here.

Birthday Letter for Sally on Her Fourth

On each of my kids’ birthdays I compose a letter. My plan is to one day hand over a book of heartfelt letters, proving to an ornery teenager that I do, in fact, know and love him/her, and that my goals as a mother go beyond ruining his/her social life.

Today my daughter turns four. My BABY!

Dear Sally,

Every year as I sit down to write your birthday letter I come across the same problem: my feelings about you don’t fit into words, or the only words that apply are really cheesy. The phrase “you light up my life” has been used and is now ruined, but it’s the closest thing I can think of that fits. You do light up my life. And you are my sunshine. Aside from that, for some reason, everything else I can think to say are either about eating you or things you’d say to a puppy. It’s all just squeezes, smushybabytalk, and weird cannibalism.

It’s not your smallness and cuteness. Well it is, but not just that. Your smallness and cuteness are so precious to me and it’s bittersweet to see you grow. For now you still fit into my arms, my lap. For now you still want to fit into my arms and lap. But for how much longer?

But you are so much more than cute, and I need you to know that.

As you approach your fourth birthday, you are suddenly aware of your power as an adorable girl, and you manipulate people with a pigtail swish, a false giggle, a hug. I don’t know how to get you to cut this crap out, considering how completely effective it is, so all I can do is point out how much more than cute you are. It would help if strangers didn’t constantly fawn over your cuteness. I asked you recently if you knew that you are so much more than cute, and that those other things are much more important. You replied, “Yeah, I know. Being pretty is really important too.” Palm hits forehead. Let’s hope that you really are absorbing my messages in addition to the million comments about your adorableness that you receive daily.

While your adorableness is impressive, so is so much else. This summer you learned how to ride a bike with no training wheels and how to swim! You can ride over ramps and curbs, pedal up a hill to fly down the other side, and then go swim in the deep end! (Pretty sure this made you the coolest 3-year-old ever all summer.) I’m so proud of you! Both of these accomplishments are the result of your determination and tireless hard work. You wanted it, so you went and did it. You persevered even when it was hard or you were scared. You’d steel your nerves by counting yourself down to a head-dunk. You kept up on long family bike rides on your little balance bike without complaint. You climbed right back on the saddle after flying over your handlebars – a result of an ill-conceived attempt at biking with your eyes closed. Through all of your practice and progress you never complained about it being hard and you never even threatened to give up. THIS is more important than cute.

No training wheels!

Your sense of humor is amazing. It’s weird but it’s constant. You love to laugh and if nothing funny is happening, you make your own funny. “It’s backwards Sally!” you announce moments before you back yourself into a room. You tell jokes that make you laugh so hard in the telling that no one can understand you and you seldom make it to the punch line. And you don’t care. You laugh and laugh and laugh with abandon. Your laughter is contagious and you use it to lighten moods and break tension. THIS is more important than cute.

You play. Your imagination gives you hours of fodder for entertaining yourself. Often these hours happen in your room after bedtime. You put all of your dolls, stuffed animals, and random inanimate objects to bed all over your floor. You read them stories, sing them songs, and then go around and rub each of their backs. Your evening ritual is elaborate, but shows so much tenderness, thoughtfulness, and care. THIS is more important than cute.

And it makes your room a minefield.

Dolly Bedtime

You love us so much it’s incredible. The way you look up to your brother, the way you miss him, try to comfort him, play with him – the best! The sweet happiness you show when you see me or your dad, whether it’s first thing in the morning, at school pick up, or if we just walked out of and then back into the room – heart melting. Your affection for friends, grandparents, cousins – boundless. You might just give the best hugs on Earth. All of this is also more important than cute.

So please remember, my sweet girl, you are so much more than cute. You just also happen to be impossibly cute. I’m so happy to see you grow up, even as I’m sad to see your baby-self vanish, even as I fear your adolescence. I love you so much, smushybabysweetiepie!

You light up my life, Sally, and I want to eat you. Happy birthday!

Love,

Mom

You can see more birthday letters to my kids here.

Summer Vacation – a magical misery tour

Summer vacation used to be a time of butterflies and fireflies; lazy days and sticky strawberry faces; swimming, swinging, summer camps and summer loves. That was all when I was a kid.

Now it’s a time devised by demons. A time of fighting and whining; long days and sticky hands on my walls; boredom, mess making, public tantrums, itchy mosquito bites that are apparently the worst thing any human has ever endured, sunscreen in eyes, begging and constant unfairness.

My kids wake up early and whiny. They’re hot. They are bothered by yesterday’s skinned knees and bug bites. They fight over EVERY FUCKING THING. They’re bored. So bored.

I’m bored too. Staying home all day with these little monsters is totally boring. But the alternative is taking them places. And they’re monsters. They’re monsters at the splash park. They’re monsters at the library. They’re monsters strawberry picking. They’re monsters at the movies, the river, the playground, the pool. But mostly they are monsters at the supermarket, a place I need to visit with some frequency since they are also voracious piglets.

What crazy devil devised summer vacation anyway? Do children really need a two and a half month break? What about us, the parents? Why are we subject to this evil scheme? What wrongs have we committed in some past or present life requiring us to endure endless hours of suffering as penance?

Go ahead and remind me that I should cherish these days. Go on. Tell me to my face. 

Go ahead and remind me that summer vacation is a time for memory making and family togetherness.

Go ahead and remind me that all too soon my children will be grown. Or worse, teenagers! Remind me that they’ll change from not leaving me alone for a minute to not wanting anything at all to do with me. Tell me how much I’ll miss these days, how much I’ll pine for all their attention and affection.

What’s really great about hearing all of those things is that it makes me feel bad. What’s really awesome about feeling bad is that I’m already miserable because of this godforsaken summer vacation. Now I have the ultimate Mom’s Emotional Cocktail:

Mom's Emotional Cocktail

Best served often