Thursday, February 14, 2013


Hey, G, my Big Bad Wolf Robot Dinosaur Dragon Scary Monster Big Boy,

So you turned three yesterday. Yes, I know! I did! you would say. You're internalizing what people say to you about yourself now. I'm very big! I'm very strong. I'm a nice boy. I'm your friend.

And like so much else about your experiences (sorry, little dude), you're my third kid to be a three-year-old. I know about this internalizing observation and externalizing language. I got this one. But you're the first one to tell me that you're my friend, and goodness if it isn't just the most endearing phrase. You're giving of yourself, even though most friends don't tackle their friends quite as much as you like.

You, son, are very physical, and very loud. (VERY VERY VERYVERYVERY LOUD.) But you like your surroundings to be pretty quiet. You didn't want to go out to a restaurant. You didn't want a party. You just wanted to be home.  I want to go home with my girls! That's what you always say. Your sisters, your girls. What a trio you are.

They are your second and third mama. Sometimes I don't read to you at night because you invite one of your girls to read in your bed instead. I'm displaced -- and although I miss reading with you, on those nights my heart swells dangerously full listening to your voices from the hallway. It's what we always wanted, your daddy and I: kids who would love each other so completely that they'd become a self-sufficient, closed society. I don't mind being displaced if it means you're picking your girls. Next maybe you three can team up to wash the dishes?

You talk so much. You're incredibly silly. You hold my shoulders for balance and wiggle your head all around, tongue in and out, voice warbling, aaaaAAAAuuuuUUUUaaaaAAAAuuI'MSILLY! and you jump into my lap. You lift your feet every time and tuck them under, just like cannonballing into a pool, trusting my lap, my love, my arms. And if my reflexes aren't quick enough - and they often are not - your knees will crash against the bones of my lower legs and I will gasp in pain and you will laugh, each time, your face buried in my neck and so hearing my sound without seeing my face, you think it's a gasp of excitement. It might as well be. I hope you always jump so wholeheartedly, though I wouldn't mind if you learn to look where you leap.

Your worst spell this year was the salmonella mess, and although you've never quite recovered your remarkable round curves, I think you took the opportunity of that weight loss to jump in inches. It was right around then that we began to see how BIG you are, especially compared with many of your peers. You're a sturdy little man, that's for sure.

And your best spell this year? That would be all of the rest of it. You exploded your language. You sing nonstop. You love cutting paper with scissors for no purpose other than cutting, and shirts with pockets because pockets in pants aren't as cool as pockets in shirts. And if you can get your hands on a nickel or dime to keep in your pockets? I GOT MONIES! Nothing, I think, makes you happier than some monies. Your sisters each gave you a regular birthday present but you almost didn't care about those when they also each gave you a penny. I GOTS SOME MONIES AND I KEEP THEM IN MY POCKET, you roared with delight, self-satisfyingly patting your chest to hear your shirt jingle. My loud little tycoon.

Your favorite color is purple. Your favorite food to make but not necessarily eat is a cheese omelette. Your real favorite food is an everything bagel with cream cheese, and when your girls start scraping your sesame seeds and onion bits, what they call the bagel's yummies, you roar at them every time: GIRLS! HEY GIRLS DON'T TAKE MY NUMMIES! So loud has never been so cute, little boy. I'm pretty sure that's your tagline.

And when you're tired, my sweet boy, your signature move: you still hold my earlobe. You'll hold an ear between your fingers and if you fall asleep that way? Oh, your encompassing love. You hold one ear with one hand, throw an arm across my neck, and hold my other ear, too. Your love is so often a full-body experience.

And now you're three. You're moving up into the preschool room, the land of big kids, the room where you can spend your days with L. I cancelled our diaper subscription after seven continuous years. It's pull-ups and robot underpants for you, mister. Robot underpants on a Robot Boy? Cute, indeed. Especially when it's robot underpants and a shirt with a pocket. Very Risky Business, you know? And that could be your other tagline.

And that's your story, mister G. You're vibrant. You're tender. You're reckless and obstinate and in love with your family. You're our dreams come true.

Happy birthday, mister man. I love you to forever.


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Part of the club

This whole school year, E has been participating in the school's Club. The Club is a mashup of cheerleading and dance team and color guard, maybe with a bit of marching band thrown in for fun. It's silly and it's energetic and it's school spirit and it comes with its own uniform. And if your hair is long enough, that uniform comes with a pom-pom ponytail holder. So you know this is serious business.

E has been attending weekly Club meetings and practices since the fall, coming home and bopping around, covered in poster paint, making friends across grades and school wings, thrilled with her Club. Yesterday was to be a big day. Today was the official big day. It was the first Club performance of the year, and at the upper school no less. The Club was going to perform mid-court at the high school girls' varsity basketball game, the last game of the season, to a packed, energized bleachers. But yesterday was the unofficial big day: it was the day that the Club members received their uniforms.

Well. We got it on her and my sweet girl began to have a panic attack. It's polyester and fitted. It was hot. It was itchy. It was too tight around her neck. She pulled at her throat. She cried. She couldn't speak. My girl who's always had sensory sensitivities and a long list of clothing rules was desolate. She couldn't fathom wearing the uniform. She couldn't fathom how she'd be allowed to participate.

Mama didn't learn to sew for nothing, and we made some stealth modifications for survival purposes. Once my sweet girl was calm, she said it was still hot, too tight, but maybe possibly there was a slim chance she could wear the uniform to school today and therefore perform tonight. She didn't want to wear it, but she really, really did want to dance.

She needed an ESPN lightboard. She was diagramming her dance for me.

We struggled a little this morning. She was anxious about the garments, the performance, her own excitement. It's hard to champion polyester, but I did my best. And at the end of the day when we got to the upper school, she was pulling and tugging and jumping with excitement, a mixed ball of nerves, nerve endings, and anticipation.

The evening was so much fun. She didn't sit with me, but rather with all her blue-and-gold friends. They cheered from the sidelines and jumped up and down and yelled and booed and sang. I watched her on the sidelines, a round face and braid in a swarm of happy little girls and boys. This Club has been a real club, fostering friendships and jokes and silly little games. And the performance was fantastic but that hardly even matters.

We got home just in time to celebrate her brother's birthday (more on that tomorrow) but just as soon as she'd given her brother the present she'd gotten him she told me she had something important to ask me.

Can you wash my uniform tonight so I can wear it again tomorrow?

I looked at her in shock. I couldn't even speak.

What? It's so comfortable!

I turned to the lovely husband and pulled him in front of her. I made her repeat her words to him. I needed a witness. He just laughed, of course.

Tomorrow's a Club meeting! And now that we all have our uniforms we can wear them on Club days! Please? Can I? I love it so much! And she hugged her uniform. She hugged herself.

She's a girl who thrives on experience. The big Club performance was always going to be scary until it wasn't, and there was nothing we could say to her to change that. But tonight was magical for her. She wandered the halls of the upper school. She danced with her friends and played hand-clapping games and invented cheers and made pom-pom wigs. She has a secret language of shared moments with her friends and I had the privilege tonight of observing it a bit from a distance. Tonight was the night where everything she hoped the Club could be through all these weeks of meetings came to fruition. Tonight was so transformative that she hugged polyester tonight and asked for more.

That's the power of shared experience, of friends who know you and love you for who you are, who help you hide the zipper ends of the back of your mock turtleneck because they know there's no way you'll ever agree to have that thing choke you all day. That's the power of being part of the Club.

I started the washing machine.

This post was brought to you by my ever-growing pride in my eldest's ever-growing confidence; polyester; and book club night. This month we read Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman. After being kicked out of her widow support group for being too young, Becky creates her own support group with an unusual twist. Join From Left to Write on February 14 as we discuss Saturday Night Widows. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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