I’m a whole week and a half late writing your birthday letter this year, but I assume you’ll forgive me because at this point in time you don’t even know these birthday letters exist and by the time you read this I doubt you’ll even notice that the date is slightly off, so basically I’m just ratting on myself.
What can I tell you about yourself at six? Watching you grow is like watching a tight little bud slowly bloom; every time I think I’ve guessed the shape of what it will be, it changes. But it also only ever becomes more itself, the flower it was always going to be. Watching a child develop is to watch someone who is in a constant state of flux and yet is only ever becoming more themselves. You are the same person you were at two or at four, the same person you have always known yourself to be. It’s the rest of us who are racing to catch up as we try to learn about you.
I am always learning new things about you. This year, as we took a wild three week road trip through America, I discovered that you are an excellent traveller. Our ambitious itinerary, which saw us driving southwest to New Mexico, then east to Louisiana, then northeast to Washington DC and finally to New York and then home, meant that we often had days where we drove for ten hours or more. I wasn’t sure how you would handle this, but you were amazing – every day you woke up and climbed into the car, ready for adventure. You were so eager to see and experience new things (although you were significantly less eager to experience new foods, which means that you have now eaten chicken fingers in at LEAST ten different states).
In the past year, you’ve begun to show a real interest in and love of history, which obviously delights me to no end. During our road trip we stopped at several space centres and museums, all of which heavily feature John F Kennedy. We also went to the Sixth Floor Museum at the Texas Book Depository in Dallas (and took a shameless selfie on the grassy knoll). You came home to Canada all starry-eyed about JFK, to the absolute delight of your Boomer grandparents. It’s only slightly weird that you like to watch videos of Kennedy’s funeral procession (to be fair, what you like most about those is Black Jack the horse).
This fall, you and I read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, the story of her husband’s childhood on a farm in upstate New York, and I was astonished at how smitten with it you were. I thought the (somewhat lengthy) descriptions of the daily life on a 19th century farmstead would bore you, but you loved it. Then we took a trip to Toronto’s Black Creek Pioneer Village, which is set in the same decade as Farmer Boy, and you loved it so much that you wanted to go back the next day.
But your biggest historical fascination this year has been Hamilton. We started listening to the soundtrack and you were immediately taken with it; you wanted to hear it over and over, and listening to it has become a bedtime routine. You have so many questions (“why do they wear that … like … cauliflower-looking collar on their shirts?”) and so many hilarious misheard lyrics (“penises, lower your voices – you stay out of trouble and you double your choices). You’ve memorized many of the songs (video evidence below), and we often catch you muttering them under your breath to yourself. You especially love Lafayette because he’s French, like you, and you wish there was a musical about him and the French Revolution.
I love that you love history. I love that we get to share this. I love telling you interesting factoids and watching your eyes light up as you beg me for more information. I love the moments when I don’t have the answer and we get to look it up and learn something new together. I love how we get excited about the same things. In some ways, I feel like this is the part of parenting that I’ve been looking forward to the most, and now that it’s happening it’s even more fun and gratifying than I’d imagined.
What else can I say about who you are now? You’re funny. You have a sharp memory. You’re endlessly curious, and you notice the smallest details. You’re very social, and you make new friends quickly. You’ve got my head for languages and you’re now fully bilingual in English and French. You’ve grown your hair out this year and refuse to get it cut; between that and your preferred uniform of graphic tees, skinny jeans and hiking boots, you’re pretty much the perfect lil hipster baby.
You’re still as stubborn as ever, and it’s a struggle to get you to do something you don’t want to do (a struggle we often lose). You still hate bedtime. You still love building and creating, and your teacher this year is sure you’ll be an architect of some kind. You still love outer space. Actually, one of my favourite stories from the road trip was when we went to the Johnson Space Centre in Houston; you were so excited to see the original mission control, and when you saw a picture of the Apollo 11’s crew in a stairwell you yelled out “LOOK, LOOK, IT’S NEIL ARMSTRONG AND BUZZ ALDRIN AND MICHAEL COLLINS.” When we finally got to the shed where they keep the Saturn V, you were so overwhelmed with emotion that you nearly started crying. You kept running up and down the length of it pointing out things you recognized. The tour guide was so taken with you that she took off her own Apollo 11 mission pin and gave it to you; she said she’d never seen a kid so young who knew so much about space travel.
I’ve put the pin away somewhere safe for you to have when you’re older. I have a feeling you’re going to have it with you when you finally go to Mars, or on whatever other amazing journeys you’re destined to take in life.