My dear boy,
You and I just came home from a morning spent at the pumpkin patch with Ashleigh and Savannah. You’re asleep, taking a well-deserved nap. I deserve one too, but have been too remiss in writing you a letter.
Truthfully, I’m zonked. You’re a challenging kid to keep up with. As soon as you hit the pumpkin patch, you took off running. When you reached the fence at the far end, you simply turned 90 degrees and kept on going.
You sprang from pumpkin pile to pumpkin pile, and demanded to sit on every bale of hay. You refused to keep up with Ash and Savy because you wanted to go this way, thank you very much.
You’ve always been quite the independent dude, yet this autonomy has been causing some issues lately:
• Mornings: Sometimes you wake up on the obstinate side of the crib and any attempt to get you out the door, dressed and fed, becomes a battle of wills. You ask for yogurt for breakfast, then refuse to eat it. I give you the choice between two shirts and after you choose one, you throw a tantrum because how can you NOT have known that I wanted the other one?! I try to put on your shoes and you kick me. When reason fails (ha!), you get time outs, things taken away, and car rides to school still wearing your pajamas.
• Carseat: We face the same challenge with the car seat. When reason fails (ha!), I have to physically restrain you to get the straps snapped; you hit, shriek, and try to force yourself out. You’re pretty strong, too. I absolutely hate doing this—it makes me feel like a terrible mom—but it’s a matter of safety, whether the car is moving or not, that you are safely secured. I begged Grandma B for help last week. She suggested using reason (ha!), making it a game out of it (“Can you climb in the seat before the timer goes off?”), and even witholding conversation in the car ride when your behavior is especially egregious (“Charlie, I can’t talk to you right now. We are now running late because you struggled and I have to pay extra attention to the road.”) We’ll see what works.
•Running Away: One of my parental beliefs is the importance of exploration. I don’t want to keep you cooped up in a stroller, especially since we don’t have a backyard. I want you to touch the flowers, to crouch down and look at bugs, to dig in the dirt and climb on fire hydrants, to move your body. I want you to feel comfortable navigating the world on your own. But this is impossible with a kid who thinks it’s funny to run away from mom and dad and doesn’t choose to comprehend the severity of “STOP.” You’re fast, and I’m almost always wearing heels. You ran into a parking lot a few weeks ago when I couldn’t get to you fast enough. You immediately got a time out; I sat next to you and your Dad crying from fear, anger, and frustration.
But alongside this independent streak are other incredible parts of your personality. You can light up the room with your laughter, and you’re such a funny, goofy, clever boy. I asked you to take a bite of food at the dinner table and you politely, yet firmly responded with, “No thank you. I’m busy.” Your new favorite saying is, “Look at me, mommy!” You’ve begun to enjoy singing (!!!) and love to make up words to “Twinkle, Twinkle.” After retelling a story, you ask, ‘Member dat? in the sweetest voice. I caught you finger-painting with Grandma Z’s meatballs — all over your chest.
Grandma B tried an experiment with you and Charlotte at school a few weeks ago. You were acting crazy energetic, per usual; Charlotte was being her reserved self. Grandma B asked Charlotte to let loose a bit and challenged you to likewise remain still and quiet for a moment. Neither of you had any concept of what to do.
Sometimes you are so dang sweet and loving that my heart feels like bursting. You’ve begun to say “I wuv you, mommy,” and the other day you told me—unprompted—that I looked pretty. When you use the iPad next to me, you rest your left hand on my arm as you work with the right. When I lay on the floor next to your crib, you stick your arm out of the slat so that we can hold hands. I love that you live in a world where someone holds you and sings you a lullaby every night before bed.
You’re verbalizing things you’ve learned about the world. You can say your full name and the city in which we live. You can name the president, although that’s probably because we’ve been watching so many debates lately. You can tell me who is a boy and who is a girl. “Pee in the front, poop in the back” is an important discovery you often like to share.
Since it’s been a while, I’ll end this letter with a poop story (apologies to teenager Charlie). Following the finger-painting meatball incident, I put you immediately in the bath. I was sitting on the toilet reading a book while you splashed around. I saw you crouch down and begin exploring the “pee in the front” area, but went back to reading because I never want you to feel like that’s wrong.
Half a minute later I heard, “Here you go, mommy,” and looked up to see you extending your hand with a big, fat turd. I squealed, then tried to cover up my reaction, hoping to spare you therapy for weird poop issues as an adult. I grabbed the offender with toilet paper and threw it in the bowl, only to turn around to find you pulling ANOTHER GIANT TURD out of your butt. AAAAAAAAaaaaaaa!
That was quite the adventure, and it taught me a good lesson about parenting: I have no idea what you have in store for me next.
And regardless of whatever challenges those may be, it’s important that you and I just keep laughing.