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.

Forgive and forget? I wish I could.

So your kid has a meltdown. The kind of meltdown that has everyone screaming. The kind of meltdown where he says all the meanest things he can think of, where he hits and shoves, where you find yourself with a throat raw from yelling. The kind of meltdown that makes you want to throw in the towel. Walk out the door and never ever look back.

And then he has his time alone in his room to calm down and you have your time alone to calm down.

But you don’t calm down.

Luke can bounce back from this kind of thing in a way I just can’t. He comes back wanting to hug, just forget it and move on. But I can’t forget it and move on because my blood is still boiling. I lost it and have not found it again.

Maybe you can’t relate. Maybe you can count to ten and calm down like all those know-it-all experts suggest. But not me. I can count to ten again and again and still feel nothing but rising rage as my child tells me to shut up. It takes me a long time to cool back down from that kind of flagrant, outrageous misbehavior. A much longer time than the offending child.

I ought to demonstrate forgiveness and moving-on-ness. I know this. I probably shouldn’t be so pissed off in the first place. I probably should stay calm and cool and focus on the behavior and not the child doing the behavior. That’s what “they” say, right? But the thing is that I’m a person first. I’m the person I’ve always been. The person who doesn’t want or know how to cope with an irrational, obnoxious person telling me to shut up. But because I had kids I’m supposed to be this new person who doesn’t fuck up or get really mad, whose feelings don’t get hurt, who never wants to throw in the towel and walk out the door and never ever look back.

And then the grief hits- the certain knowledge that my kid needs a mother who is like that new person I didn’t become. He needs some other, better mother who would demonstrate the right things. Some mother who can handle a daily onslaught of shut ups. Some mother who might not incite them in the first place. This mother is failing him. This mother is not doing it right.

Am I the only one floundering this way? Did you all become that new person when your kids arrived? Am I as awful and deficient as I feel? Or are you reading this and relating? If you get mad, can you forgive and forget as quickly as your kids want you to?

The Truth about the Seeds

“Those seeds aren’t magic, you know.”

Every time Luke says this I panic and sternly hush him. Luckily, he’s king of the non sequitur so Sally usually doesn’t know what he’s talking about. But I know. At any mention of magic, Luke says something about knowing The Truth about the Seeds. He’s threatening to ruin an Easter tradition.

Let me explain: years ago on Easter eve I gave my then-toddler Luke a small handful of magic seeds, a.k.a. Nerds, to scatter on the lawn before bed. In the morning, lo and behold, lollipops sprouted from the grass where the seeds had been sewn! The excitement and wonder in his little face at the sight of this sugary crop was pure magic. Pure magic is like parental crack. We must do this again and again and again and again. Thus traditions are born.

From the start Luke was suspicious. He was pretty almost positive that the seeds were candy, but his curiosity about the magic and the weirdness of me instructing him to throw candy on the grass kept him from simply gobbling them up. Each year his suspicion has grown, and the relationship between his wonder and his desire for Nerds is starting to tip towards gobbling.

I don’t know if all kids are like this, but my kids talk about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy all year round as if they’re relatives we see occasionally, like cousins. Awesome magical cousins. As such, over the years Luke has periodically and randomly tested out this theory on me. “Those seeds are candy right? I know they’re candy. They’re candy. Right?” Now that Sally is bigger, Luke seems to have it all figured out and all he wants to do is tell her.

The problem is that I see The Truth about the Seeds as the first step towards a complete loss of magic. It’s one short step to There’s no Bunny Hiding Eggs and then just a wee leap to Ew, You’re Collecting my Teeth, There’s no Santa, and, finally, Can I Borrow the Car?

I’m not ready for them to drive, so I quickly shush and change the subject every time Luke brings up The Truth about the Seeds. But it was just a matter of time. Recently, he was too quick to get the whole thing out. I cringed as I readied myself for a little bit of my daughter’s innocence to wither away forever.

“Those aren’t really magic seeds, Sally. We just sprinkle them on the ground, but they don’t magically grow lollipops.”

“Yes they do!”

“No they don’t. The seeds aren’t magic. They’re just candy. After we go to sleep…”

Here it comes.

“After we go to sleep, the Easter Bunny comes.”

Who the what now?

“He digs holes where we dropped the seeds and he plants the lollipops. So the seeds aren’t magic. Mom and Dad are just tricking us.”

I have never loved him more.

“Oh. That’s what you think happens?” I ask. “No. that’s what I know happens.” Nothing gets by this one.

seeds