Tag Archives: Birthday letter

Now You Are Six

27 Jan

Dear Theo,

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.

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Action shot on public transit

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The face you made when your teacher told you to spell your name with blocks

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Like how are you actually this cool though?

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Checking out the landscape at Carslbad Caverns National Park

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Working the phones at the Kennedy Campaign HQ

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Chilling out on the dunes at White Sands National Monument

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SO MUCH SPACE DELIGHT

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Stepping out of the fridge at Meow Wolf’s transcendantly weird House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe

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We found the best swing in the world and it’s right outside a BBQ place in New Orleans called The Joint

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Hanging out at the US Space & Rocket Centre in Huntsville, Alabama

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The only three things you wanted to see in NYC were the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and the Ghostbusters fire station

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NO BUT HOW ARE YOU ACTUALLY THIS COOL

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Meeting astronauts, as we do

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Now You Are Three

19 Jan

Dear Theo,

Yesterday was your birthday. Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the day you stopped being this strange creature that inhabited my body and started being your very own small, wrinkly, independently-breathing person.

In three short years you have gone from this:

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To this:

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You are the funniest. You are outgoing and charming and engaging, and honestly I don’t know where you get any of those qualities from, because both your father and I are strictly introverts. When you see another kid who looks to be about your age, you’ll walk up to them in a way that would make John Cleese proud, wave your hands around and start shouting gibberish. This is your approach to making new friends, and weirdly it seems to work for you. You take an enormous delight in the sublimely ridiculous, and I can’t say that I blame you. It’s certainly better than my own approach, which, as a teenager, involved dressing all in black, reading the French existentialist canon, and glaring balefully around me muttering, “life is absurd.” You might agree that life is, indeed, absurd, but so far you view this as to your benefit rather than to your detriment.

You love language, a fact that tickles me right past pink and well into magenta territory. You often come home from school and announce that you have a new favourite book, and at bedtime you beg for just one more story. You can already spell a few words – Theodore, Mama, Dada, Papa, Noah and Canada – and you recognize them and “read” them when you see them. You’re starting to sort of maybe kind of sound out words when you see them, and the thought of you learning to read makes me so excited that my head might explode. You love memorizing things, and can recite entire books by heart. You are developing into a fine book nerd, and nothing could make me prouder.

If you inherited your love of language from me, then you almost certainly inherited your love of science and technology from your father. You’re all about space these days – there are times when all you want to talk about are orbiters and external fuel tanks and solid rocket boosters. You got upset the other day when I told you that we were on a mission in the grocery store – you thought that only astronauts were allowed to go on missions, because they have mission control. You’re into other tech-type stuff too – when your great-grandmother gave you a fleece shirt with a puffy vest for Christmas, you exclaimed, “Oh, a robot suit!” You love building things, whether out of Lego, wooden blocks, or these wonky connecting-straw things they have at the art gallery. You’re never happier than when we let you put together your train tracks all over the house, a crazy railroad running from the living room to the dining room and out to the kitchen. Maybe you’ll take after your grandfather or aunt and become an engineer.

Lately you’re all about defining yourself by your likes and dislikes. You love telling me about all of your favourites: your favourite colour is green, your favourite doll is your Cabbage Patch Kid, Sammy Kyle, your favourite books are Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and The Gruffalo. Your favourite foods are spaghetti and chicken fingers, and your favourite pants are skinny jeans. Your favourite truck is a fire truck. Your favourite car is Lightning McQueen from Cars, even though you’ve never actually seen that movie. Your favourite streetcar is the St. Clair car. Your favourite city is Toronto, and your favourite hockey team is the Toronto Maples Leafs, but also sometimes the Habs. Your favourite astronaut is Chris Hadfield (or, as you call him, Chris The Hadfield). Your favourite painting is Soldier and Girl at Station by Alex Colville. Your favourite musician is John Coltrane, and every time I go to put a record on you ask for Blue Train. You are a fine little hipster-in-training.

You hate sleep. I mean, you really hate sleep. You spend the hours past your bedtime trying to engage me in conversation, promising that you have to tell me something or ask me something, or else you try to delay the inevitable by asking for just one more glass of milk or one more cuddle. We’ve found ourselves having to invent arbitrary bedtime rules (only three stories, only one glass of milk, the baby gate goes up if you come out of your room five times) because otherwise you will never, ever sleep. You sometimes stay up until past ten, which drives me bonkers because that’s the only time alone I get with your father, but you’re never cranky in the morning. In fact, your daycare teachers often remark on how you always seem to be in a good mood. There isn’t much that seems to faze you.

You’re still nursing, a fact that simultaneously surprises me, slightly embarrasses me and makes me strangely proud. I didn’t even think that we’d make it past the first month of breastfeeding, let alone three years. And yet, here we are.

Here we are.

You’re asserting your independence a lot these days, in ways both big and small. Being your mom can be challenging sometimes, most often because I’m not always sure what to do when you’re ignoring me or else being flat-out defiant. I don’t like yelling, and I don’t like giving time-outs – I guess what I really hate is being the bad guy. Especially since your arguments can be so funny and persuasive. But I know that setting boundaries and disciplining you are a form of loving you, so I figure that the best I can do is to try hard not to react emotionally to your behaviour. Instead of punishing you because I am angry or sad (although I recognize that I am totally entitled to those feelings), I try to stay calm, react rationally and not take your behaviour personally. Because it’s not personal; this is what small children are like.

There is so much to admire about you. Your kindness and compassion still amaze me, although they probably shouldn’t by now. You’re so good at reading other peoples’ emotions, and love to comment on what you think other people are feeling. You are quick to offer a hug if you think that someone else is down. One evening, when you overheard me crying in the bedroom, you ran in and asked if I was crying because someone had shouted at me. You tell me all the time that you love me, and you have an ongoing list of the other people that you love: your father, your grandparents, you aunts and uncles, you cousins, Nathan, Audra, Jairus, Nico, Frances, Nico’s Dad (who I’m not even sure you’ve ever met), Eden, Isadora, Michael. Pretty much anyone that you can think of ends up on that list. You have two best friends – Noah and Malcolm – and you often tell me that the three of you are the three musketeers. Baby’s first literary reference! Unknowingly made, but still.

You are a wonder. Your words, your thoughts, your actions amaze me on a daily basis. And when I say this – all of this, everything that I’ve written here – it’s not because I think that you are better or smarter than other kids. I’m sure that you’re exactly average, and if you weren’t that wouldn’t matter one bit. But you’re not average to me – to me, you are a very particular set of characteristics that add up to something incredibly remarkable. I cherish each and every single tiny thing that makes you you, even the stuff that I find frustrating and difficult to handle. Because those are the things that make up who you are, and I love you entirely. Yes, I love all of the things that are easy to love – your charm, your humour, your never-ending desire to know – but I also love the challenging parts, too. I love all of you.

I am so excited to see what this coming year, this year of three, is going to bring. Because, knowing you, it’s only going to be bigger and brighter than what’s come before.

Much love,

Mama