Thursday, November 27, 2014

Dear Bo, Your fifth birthday letter...

Five years old--such a milestone.  The year you will start kindergarten…and your little world will expand to things outside of our family of four and our home…outside of the things we choose for you to experience.  I am so simultaneously excited and apprehensive about that.  I am struck this year, even more than the previous four, by just how good we have it.  By just how simple our life is.  By how much control we have over what you are exposed to, what you hear, what you see, and how this year will be our first experience on losing that little by little.  Struck by how this is the last little window of time when you can be 100% kid---nowhere to be, no responsibilities or obligations, just a little 5 year old boy who can spend his day in his jammies playing legos, swords, watching cartoons, eating goldfish on a whim.  About what a blessing it is to be able to bear witness to these things 4 days a week. 

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to chill.  To calm the heck down.  To worry less about my career.  To worry less about your language and social development and exposure to great preschools.  But then I think about the blessing of being able to afford a great nanny for you and a great speech therapist and the huge blessing of being able to define the terms of my career now so I can maximize my time with you and your sister.  And I think about how bright you are and how much you like to learn, and I wonder if we would be where we are without all of that worry and relentless persistence I’m notorious for.  It’s the age old motherhood question…are my children as they are because of me or in spite of me?  A little bit of both I presume though I’ll never know.  About the only thing I know about motherhood for sure is that it is done out of the fiercest, rawest, most desperate love imaginable.

We are just crazy about you, Bo.  You are so darn lovable.  You are quick to smile and giggle.  You are still so affectionate.  You pass out hugs and kisses and sit in our laps and hold our hands.  I dread that changing the most as you start school.  You are verbal about your love, too.  You say ‘I love you’ and ‘I missed you’ multiple times a day unprompted.  You are so much like your dad that way.

You are particular and a kid who likes to know the routine and stick with it.  You ask everyday what we’re doing and remember which day is for what (church, daddy staying home all day, preschool, etc.).  You have in your mind how something should work/go and when it doesn’t, you get very, very frustrated.  Most of the growling is gone (your previous go to method for expressing frustration), but you still get very upset.  Your little heart races and you are just exasperated.  You like to do things “right” (your idea of it any way), and when things don’t go your way, you’re quick to give up.  Son, I hope we figure that out together.  I see so much of me in you in that way.  I look back on things I really wanted that I gave up on because I didn’t measure up (in my own mind).  If I can work on your heart with one thing this year, it will be to stick with it, and to be easier on yourself when things don’t go exactly as you have in mind.  There are so many life experiences waiting for you to just enjoy; not because you’re the best at them, but because they are inherently enjoyable.  I want those things for you.

Notwithstanding your love of routine and predictability, you have been an absolute champ through two moves this year.  You have slept wonderfully in both houses, have started a new school with ease, have jumped into a new routine, have transitioned to a new Awana program, new Bible classes as we’ve visited different churches.  I could not be more proud and relieved at the way you’ve handled it all.  It reminds me that ultimately, our little family is your world.  And if we can keep that constant and healthy for you, things happening outside of that will have a gentler impact. 

You are a big kid.  I shake my head at the 5 pounder we brought home who took forever to get on the growth chart and stayed in the 10th percentile.  You are solid.  You are built so much like your daddy, right down to your flat feet and especially your hands.  You have so many of his mannerisms and expressions.  You furrow your brow the same way and carry yourself the same way.  You have a head full of hair and a contagious smile.

You are intuitive.  So much so that it worries me a little.  I was an intuitive child, and I’m not sure it boded well for me.  You pick up on our moods and internalize them often.  If I’m frustrated or angry about something that has nothing to do with you kiddos (work or something else), you pick up on it and ask me if I’m happy with you.  Sweet boy, I hope to work on your heart about this too this year.  It’s great to have an intuition about other’s feelings.  You will be a better man with empathy and compassion.  But people will have feelings and say things and act out, sometimes at you, when it really won’t have anything to do with you at all.   I pray I can channel your intuitiveness into a positive thing and help steer you to a place where you don’t internalize too much. 

I had one of the sweetest moments with you recently.  We read The Giving Tree together.  The story goes that a little boy loves to play with a tree by his house, and the tree loves the little boy.  The tree cheerfully gives and gives to the little boy and the little boy takes and takes until the tree thinks it has nothing left to give, as it’s been reduced to a stump from giving so much to the little boy.  Yet in that moment, as the little boy has grown into a tired aged man, all he needs is a low place to sit and rest.  When I finished, I looked up, and your lip was quivering and your eyes were full and the tears started falling.  I was shocked that you would pick up on the sweetness and profoundness of the story.  I asked you what was wrong, and you kept saying that the boy just kept taking and there was nothing left of the tree.  You were so upset about it, and it took awhile to console you, but we had the sweetest talk about it.  It was such a special moment for me because meaningful books and you are two of my favorite things, and in that moment, they intersected.  You have such a soft heart, son.  A soft, beautiful heart.  I love it.  If only I could protect it…

You love to be tickled, to read, to sing songs and be sung to, to play with Brody and your other cousins, to visit the farm, to do anything with Daddy, to play with Kate (you are such a good brother), to sit in my lap and sing/read/watch movies with me, to play pretend anything, to make up stories and games, to play legos (but not build the items in the directions…you prefer to make your own “latest inventions”).  You love to watch Ninja Turtles, Rescue Bots, How to Train Your Dragon, Planes Fire & Rescue (earlier in the year, it was Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig).  You love playing with your sister, but you have a very specific idea of how she should play with you.  You’re hands on.  You like to build train tracks, car tracks, Lincoln Logs, marble runs, and anything Lego related.  You’re not much for writing or coloring. 

You are all little boy now.  That was true at 4, too, but it’s even more so now.  I love it.  You are so fun.  The things you say and want to talk about delight me.  When I think of you, I think of how much you delight me for no other reason than being just who you are, I think about how much joy you bring to my life, and I think about what pure grace you are to me.  Mothering you and your sister is the most significant thing I have ever done and will ever do.  That God would allow me the privilege remains a mystery.  I can’t wait to see what this next year brings.  Whatever it is, we’ll face it together.

I love you. (To the moon…and back.  To infinity…and beyond.)


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dear Kate, Your second birthday letter...

Two?  Already?  I feel like your first two years have flown; they have been full of so much transition.  When I look at you, you represent to me something so huge; it’s hard to even put it into words, but I’m going to try…

I never imagined I would have a daughter.  I was scared to even hope for it.  I’ve never been that good at being a “proper woman” (whatever that means), and I knew that God would not entrust me with a little girl to mold into a “proper woman”.  I was far too deep a thinker even at an early age, always preoccupied with serious things it felt like.  I wasn’t a good “girls’ girl”, but wasn’t really a “guys’ girl” either.  I always felt a little awkward, a little out of place.  I’ve always had ambitions that weren’t very feminine.  I’ve tried to be really good at “girl things”, but my heart hasn’t really been in them.  I couldn’t imagine that I would be anything but a disservice to a little girl.  But the most amazing thing happened…He believed in me and gave me you.  And loving you has somehow made me love me; something I’ve failed to do for far too long.  And loving you has made me love being a woman and has even made me realize I’ve put far too many quotation marks around being a woman.  I’ve realized I love, love dressing you and doing your hair.  I love making your room sweet and feminine.  I love painting your toenails and fingernails and pretending to put makeup on you.  I love playing baby dolls with you and telling you you are beautiful.  I’m looking forward to molding you not into a “proper woman”, but into the woman He created you to be.  And in the process, I’m finally giving myself permission to embrace the woman He created me to be.  You inspire me so.

You are such a beautiful little girl.  You are petite and blonde and have beautiful blue eyes.  We have to work for grins and giggles, but they are delightful when you indulge us.  You are skeptical of people and don’t dole out affection without some time and thought.  You are a little sassy sometimes and a lot feisty most of the time. 

You love your brother but can be harsh with him, too.  You do a mighty mean, “No, sir” if he’s displeased you.  You are not the best sleeper.  You insist on us staying in your rocking chair until you’re asleep in your crib.  You’ve slept with us many times, forcing me to eat my words on that topic. 

You love most anything your brother’s into (trains, planes, swords).  You also love babies (real and play), Bubble Guppies, Frozen, and playing with your pretend kitchen.  You like to climb, hang on things, and you are quite the talker.  You will try to say almost anything and already speak in short sentences.  You like to sing, but it has to be your idea (as is true with most anything where you’re concerned).  I love your sweet voice.  You clasp your hands when we pray, and it overwhelms me with gratitude that you’re mine.

I love you, sweet girl.  I have no idea how to mother a daughter.  I have no idea how to be a “proper woman”.  But I absolutely adore you, and I’ll stay on my knees looking for direction on how to help you be the amazing little lady He created you to be.