Notice I didn’t write “Charlie.” This is because I’m trying to honor your wish to be called by your official name. A week ago, you announced I could no longer refer to you by your nickname. My name is Charles, you explained, resolutely. Charles.
I described why this was problematic — how your nickname differentiates you from your Dad, how it’s just the best little kid name ever, how your rules don’t apply to me because I was in labor with you for 23 hours, and I can call you whatever I damn well please, Charlie.
But you looked so confident. So sure of who you were and weren’t. I was struck by that cliché all parents encounter when they realize, with wonder, that their baby has somehow become AN INDIVIDUAL.
Today you turn six years old. You’re almost done with kindergarten. You can ride a bike. You can tie your shoes. You only miss the toilet about 40 percent of the time (this gets better, right?). You know how to read and do simple multiplication. Sometimes you make poop jokes, then turn around and ask stunning questions like, “What is on the other side of space?”
You’ve worked really hard this year to be a better student, a better friend, a better brother. We faced some significant challenges during the fall, and you spent a fair share of lunches in the principal’s office, but things are moving in the right direction.
You started karate (all hail the yellow belt!), which we credit for giving our family a framework with which to discuss values like courtesy, integrity, perseverance, and self control. You sometimes grumble when you have to go to class, but you always have a good time. You recently punched through wooden boards!
As you grow, I see more of me in you. Some might accuse me of projecting my own issues, but you’ve clearly shown you’re someone who feels a lot of emotion and anxiety and struggles to control it. A lot of the work we do involves putting words to what you’re feeling and trying to come up with solutions, instead of letting the feelings overtake you.
At times, you mirror your father, too. When I was ransacking the house in search of my phone, you reminded me, with a detectable air of superiority, that if I put it in the same spot every time I came home, then I wouldn’t lose it.
You’re still stubborn as hell, mostly about food. Dad and you had a FOUR-HOUR standoff a few weeks ago when you refused to eat a grape at breakfast. A month before that, it was over one bean. I recently re-read your 18-month post, and you recoiled at vegetables even then, so I’m not expecting this to change any time soon.
Together, we laugh and laugh and laugh. You love to be silly, especially when someone tries to take a photo of you. If I find something you do funny, you try it again and again. You’re always up for a game of chase or wrestling in the living room. When we leave the house in the morning, we yell to the cats, “You GATO have a good day,” then giggle all the way to the car.
Here are some highlights from your fifth year:
- Career goal: Astronaut
- Favorite songs: “Shut Up and Dance” and “X’s and O’s” (without the context, though)
- Favorite joke: “Why did the rocket ship lose its job? Because it got FIRED.”
- Halloween costume: Stupendous Man from Calvin and Hobbes
- Best friends: Allie, Frankie, Liam, and Lucas
- Bad habit: Chewing your nails (just like mom!)
- Favorite hair-do: Flattened in front of your face, no product allowed
- Fun Christmas memory: Sleeping with Dad next to the fireplace so you could catch Santa.
- Favorite toy: Anything Lego
- Favorite video games: Minecraft and Angry Birds: Star Wars
- Favorite movie: None, because you refuse to watch any
- Favorite book: Any of Dad’s old Calvin and Hobbes compilations
- Favorite restaurant: Rubio’s
- Other favorite restaurant: THERE IS NOTHING BUT RUBIO’S
One of the best days of the year — probably one of the best days of my life — was when Dad and I took you to Disneyland for the first time over Christmas. Jack hung out with Grandma B back home, so it was a rare day with just the three of us.
I pretty much cried the entire walk down Main Street, just watching you experience everything. We rode Astro Blasters three times. I was a wreck anticipating how you’d react to the Matterhorn, but you handled it like a champ, even though it scared you. You took home a green lightsaber and asked if we could buy a Yoda stuffed animal for Jack (he sleeps with it every night). We ate ice cream and popcorn and stayed up late.
You were a cool baby, my son, but you’re turning in to a fun kid. I love hearing your observations of the world and working together through challenges. I feel honored to have a guiding hand in the man you will one day become.
Happy Birthday, my Charles. So many more magical days await us.