Oh, my sweet son.
I’m struggling with how to begin this letter because there’s so much I want to say, and yet so many things that can’t be put into words. This is my last “letter of frequency” to you boys; when Charlie turned five, I stopped writing regular, public posts out of respect for his burgeoning privacy. As I transitioned to only writing about him on each birthday, I still had my tiny guy at home to talk about with abundance.
And now here we are.
These letters were a commitment I made when you and your brother were born. Most every mother with older kiddos tells me how raising children is like an hour glass — fleeting and fragile. You blink and suddenly your children are grownups who rarely call. These letters were an attempt to capture — for me as well as you — the magic of our early years together. They were also a way for me share the experience of parenthood with friends and loved ones, who I could lean on for advice and support.
And while I will continue to write yearly letters (with your permission, of course), I can’t help but feel the sands somewhat slipping away.
Yet, along with this sense of loss is such pride and excitement at how you’re growing. You are at the crossroads of Little Kid and Big Kid, and it’s fascinating to see those two sides interact.
You began Transitional Kindergarten in August, and you’re in a TK-K class with Charlie’s wonderful former kindergarten teacher. While other kids cried to leave their parents on the first day, you sat happily on your appointed square — having made at least two new best friends already — and waved goodbye to Dad and me. A few weeks ago, your teacher took me aside to tell me how great you’re doing in school, and how much fun you seem to be having.
Tomorrow is Halloween, and my streak of “Jack”-themed costumes for you has come to an end (as a five-year-old, you now have opinions about such things). Gone are the days of lumberjacks, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Jack-Jack. This year is all about Batman, and only Batman.
Keeping track of you at the school Halloween carnival was a challenge. Most kids go out on the playground, in the deepening dusk. As it gets darker, parents struggle to follow their little ones, and I imagine from above we all look like scurrying ship tracks. The one saving grace was that your costume has a blinking Bat-Signal.
That night I realized how attracted you are to Big Kids, which makes sense given you have an older brother. At the carnival, you quickly found a few of your third-grade “buddies” and ran with them all night. In fact, I texted Dad at one point to say you all reminded me of a gang of T-Birds. I wasn’t sure if they necessarily wanted you tagging along, but you happily kept up with them.
To that end, you’ve also stopped wanting to read with me — or any adult for that matter — during Morning Read at school. Big Kids come in each morning to help your classmates with reading, and as soon as you see one (usually a Big Boy), your eyes light up. Sometimes Charlie’s class comes in to help, which is fun for me to see. The Big Kids seek you out, too, because they can tell how much you admire them.
You’re an extrovert, at least right now. We went to a lovely restaurant for dinner last Friday (one with a play area for kids where parents can drink craft beer), and your Dad and I watched in awe as you just collected friends, of all ages. When one kiddo had to sit down to eat, you simply sauntered up to his table and started chatting with the family.
You have such a bright light inside of you, my boy. You’re funny, smart, expressive, and sweet. It’s effortless to love you, and it’s no wonder people want to be around you.
While waiting for Charlie to finish his gymnastics class a few weekends ago, I pointed out a young girl twirling in the air on a hoop.
“Isn’t she pretty?” I asked.
You replied: “Mom, there’s only one girl here that I like.”
“Oh yeah? Who?”
Then, you tapped me on the shoulder and gave me the most honeyed smile.
You and your brother still fight. A lot. And in those times — after I’ve sent you to your rooms — I lament that I don’t have children who like each other. Yet, there are sweet times when you make each other laugh, when we can all play Chutes and Ladders without you screaming your faces off, and — like any good sibling pair — when you gang up on Dad and me. Everyone says you’ll be best friends in college and adulthood. Here’s hoping, although I should bill you both for all the dye I’m needing to cover up these gray hairs.
Screaming bloody murder continues to be your MO when things don’t go your way, so we’re still working on that. And at times, you struggle deeply with following our house rules, including not playing with toys on school mornings until you’re completely ready. The other day you shouted, “NO! I AM THE RULES,” when I said you couldn’t have ice cream cake for breakfast. (I’ll have to try that phrase at work.)
These are all par for the course at your age, and Dad and I have been through it once with Charlie, so we know there is another side. What I hope to remember from these days are the tender moments of early childhood. Like after the first day of school when you announced, “Now we can dance!,” after you finished your celebratory fro-yo. There we were, outside of a Golden Spoon, twirling to Roy Orbison’s “You Got It” on the sound system, while Charlie tried to look like he didn’t know us.
Or, in the middle of the night recently, when you crawled into bed next to me. You began to stir at 6 a.m., but I kept my eyes closed hoping you’d stay quiet for a little while longer. After a few moments, you leaned close to my ear, whispered I love you, then snuggled back into the covers against my chest.
My sweet, five-year-old boy. I know that time is fleeting, I know these moments only last an instant, but I want you to know — and I want myself to remember — how grateful I was for them, how I cherished them in the moment.
Happy birthday, my love. Now, please excuse me. I’m going to call my mother.