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Posts tagged ‘growing up’

Bossy Bossy Two Socks

Dear Loch,

Years ago I wrote a children’s book called Bossy Bossy Two Socks.  It’s a book about a little girl who, with all best intentions, spends all her time telling people what to do until eventually she discovers she has no one left to play with. It was an autobiography of sorts, a love letter to the lessons an only child must learn. I started thinking about Bossy Bossy Two Socks again recently and wishing I’d had it published. A: because “author” is a pretty good answer to “What do you do?” and B: because I’d have the book to read to you right now. BB2S is a book you should be reading and having it would allow me a way into a discussion about appropriate behavior. I wouldn’t even tell you I wrote it. Frankly, I think it would mean less if I did.

Standing in hosieryYou’re in a mode. A pressing every button, testing every established rule mode. You talk back and act up and push your luck and, if I hadn’t seen it before I’d be nervous about what was happening to you. The thing is, I have seen it before. Every year around your birthday something like this happens. Overnight you seem to morph from the boy I raised to some unknown, attitude coping child I’m unsure of. When you turned three you started ignoring me. You’d stare right at me as I told you not to do something and do it anyway. You pushed hard against my authority. You even tried to swat me once while I was plugging you into the carseat. I was freaking out. What happened to my perfectly behaved boy? Who was this ruffian with his embarrassingly willful behavior? I brought all my anxiety to your wonderfully and amazingly zen teacher Tammy. I didn’t know what to do. What had I done wrong? What made you think this behavior was ok? Teacher Tammy, in her infinite wisdom, told me not to worry, that this was a normal phase. You were growing up, testing your boundaries and seeing, now that you were older, if the rules still applied. You were looking to me for guidance. You wanted to know what being three meant and I should see it as good and normal behavior even if it appeared the complete opposite. Another mother who overheard our conversation told me when her son turned three he started spitting, everywhere, including on her. She was so appalled that – for the one and only time – she’d slapped his hand. She said she felt like “Where did my child go? Who is this kid?” and I totally understood. Teacher Tammy told us both to relax and accept our job was to calmly and firmly remind our children of the rules. To let them know they may be older but the expectations remained the same. She reminded us that even though it was a trying period, it was a short one that would be outgrown provided we stayed firm, and two weeks later just as predicted, the testing stopped and the boy I knew returned to me.

From this....

From this….

When you turned four the behavioral shift arrived in the form of attitude coping. “Mommy, you don’t know.” “Mommy, you got it wrong.” It was eye rolling/teeth gritting/don’t lose it behavior and just when I’d bent down to eye level to “calmly” talk to you more times than I thought I could possibly handle, overnight your sweet disposition came flooding back. Now, you’re five and transitioning again. This time your boundary pushing has arrived resembling what I would call snit fits. If you don’t get what you want, you pout, you badger, you talk my ear off with disappointment and blame and if you’re worked up enough you fall into full fledged, life’s unfair, crying dramatics. I honestly think you’re subconsciously seeing how far you can push me before I lose it. The other day I had to put you in a time out because you became so completely worked up looking at yourself in the mirror. It was as if the more you witnessed your own devastation, the more devastated you became. It would have been hilarious if it hadn’t been so irritating. I understand things can be disappointing and it’s hard when we don’t get our way but life is like that and, if you don’t learn to handle it now, you’ll be more prone to breakdowns later, and there’s nothing worse than a grown man having a hissy.

Back to this.

Back to this.

The other issue five has kindly brought us is bossy, know-it-all behavior. I’m sure it’s partially the product of growing up an only child, though we’ve done our best not to let you run the roost. Your Dad and I make a big effort to encourage you to fall in, to play our game or use your second choice toy. It’s not because we care what placemat we’re using or what Ninjago we get, it’s because we don’t want you going through life expecting everyone to bow to your will. We’ve done you no favors if you think the world revolves around you and reality will be a crushing blow. We’re very sensitive you not grow up with an inflated image of yourself. We don’t want you to fall into a world of righteous entitlement. We want you to feel special. We don’t want you to feel SPECIAL.  It’s important you understand everyone’s ideas have merit and just because you have a captive audience at home doesn’t mean the world will always stop to listen to you. Learning to be flexible, to defer to others, to know when to take the lead and when to give it away are important life skills and ones too often lacking in both children and adults.

Talks about our behavior started early.

Talks about behavior started early…

Up till now, you’ve been great at this kind of behavior. You’ve been a leader without being a dictator and I’ve secretly patted myself on the back for your excellent manners. So now that we’re returning to the post-birthday boundary check, these long established skills have been slipping and we need to reign them in. Recently you were playing at your BFF’s house and from the kitchen I could hear you screaming “No! You don’t do it like that!” “Stop playing until I say it’s time to start!” “NO! Wait for me to say ok!” And, when your friends ignored you and continued playing the way they wanted, you freaked out. “Stop! Stoooop!!!” I came in to find you standing at the side of the room just as livid as can be and I was floored. All your beautiful give and take, “please may I have?”, “that’s ok, I’ll play with it after” had been replaced by an unfamiliar, little tyrant yelling at his exasperated friends. When I asked you why you thought you were in charge you looked at me with irritation and disgust and said, “Because I’m the Director!”. Now, if you’d grown up on sets, or gone to work with your Dad, I might chalk this behavior up to remiss parenting and the need to extricate you from “the business” but you don’t even know what a Director is so the behavior was all you. What you really meant was you were the “Boss” and we needed to address it immediately.

...and has continued every year.

…and has continued every year.

Driving home you explained you were frustrated because no one was playing the game “right” and when you tried to explain the rules no one was listening so you had to scream. I tried to impart parental wisdom by saying that unless a game comes with rules written down on paper, there is no “right” way to play and you have to learn to loosen up on the “rules” because everyone’s ideas were worth the same amount. I tried to explain if you kept telling everyone what to do, yelling that they were wrong and screaming when you didn’t get your way, pretty soon just like Bossy Bossy Two Socks, no one was going to want to play with you. I realize it’s a tough lesson but it’s one you have to understand. At this stage, having friends is infinitely more important than being in charge.

I love his face in this one. Normally it's not caught on camera. Totally classic.

I love his face in this one. Normally it’s not caught on camera. Totally classic.

So, the battle continues. I hope the Post-Five adjustment ends sooner rather than later and I get my easy going boy back. Lochlan, I know you can’t stay the same forever. I know you’ll only continue to grow and change and each phase will test me in different ways. I can only hope I’m always able to rise to the challenge. I think children fail when parents get complacent and tired. Keeping up with the rules is exhausting. There are so many times when it would be easier just to say “eff it, I can’t deal with this” and let you do whatever you want, but high expectations require effort from both sides and we keep at it because we want the best for you. We want you to be the best you can be. We don’t want you to be that kid.

Most of all, we don’t want you to be that adult.

At the end of the day I’ll love you no matter what phase you’re in. Let’s just try and keep it an 80/20 split between my boy and that boy. Deal?

I love you always. Even when you’re a twit.

xo Mom


On the Occasion of your 5th Birthday

Dear Loch

You just turned five. You’re FIVE years old. Half a decade. No longer a baby. A full fledged kid. You don’t toddle or struggle for words. You make yourself and your feelings heard. You are loving and empathetic, kind, funny, popular and cheeky. I am honored to know you and am so proud of who you’re becoming. I adore you with all my heart.

People say it goes so fast. The years fly by and one day your child is grown and you wish you could do it all again. You wish you’d spent more time together, not sweated the small stuff, appreciated every minute. I’ve heard that every time I’m at the end of my rope I should try and transport myself to the future and see my life after Loch’s grown. I should take a look in my rearview mirror and see no carseat, no goldfish, no little face. I should imagine hearing no kid music or little voice talking from the backseat and that should give me the perspective to see all the monotonous activities morphing into lovely memories I’ll surely miss. Though I understand this as a noble exercise that could possibly grant me that extra scrap of patience when I’m steps away from losing it, the truth of the matter is I believe true perspective is only really possible in retrospect. photo 4 copy 2  We can enjoy the company of our children, appreciate the moments of love and affection, revel in our unconditional love for each other, we can kiss their sweet faces and pray over their little sleeping bodies, but we can’t truly appreciate the passage of time until it’s passed. It’s too much to expect of ourselves and just another thing to feel guilty about when we don’t succeed. You can’t see a forest if you’re tied to a tree and the rope only slackens up as our children age and gradually pull away on their own. It’s only with distance that we can see a bigger picture. Yes, childhood goes fast but in many ways it also goes slow. I stayed home with you. I’ve been with you every day of your life.* I was there when you walked and talked and sang and learned and grew. I committed to your well being, your education, your entertainment. I introduced you to everything from manners to live theatre and all the things in between. I’ve been your constant companion, champion, teacher and friend and I’ve loved almost every minute of it.

photo 2 copy 2Being a parent is by far the best thing I’ve ever done. Being your parent is a gift from God I’m grateful for every day. I know I’ll look back on these baby years with longing but I’m also looking forward to the next step. I know there a lot of working parents who feel guilty they’ve missed some milestones but I don’t find myself in that position. I didn’t miss anything in your life. The things I missed were things that belonged to me. As a parent whichever way you choose you’re going to miss out on something. It’s impossible to do it all, be it all. have it all. Something has to give. If you’re at work you’re missing out on your kids. If you’re with your kids you’re missing out on your work. We do the best we can and live with the guilt however it comes.

Hendershott Photography is the best. Working with Adam & Sylvia is such fun!

I’ve been tired lately. Not of you but of me. I’ve been so caught up in the business of being a parent I find I’m less capable of experiencing the joy of being a parent. I watch your Dad play with you and I get down on myself for not being more like him. As you wrestle or play superheroes or legos I feel I should be able to handle more than an hour (or sometimes 15 minutes) of down-on-the-floor-playing but I can’t. I’d rather be out in the world experiencing something with you, or taking you somewhere, or getting some writing done or folding the damn laundry.

photo 1 copy 4I fight to live in the moment when I have so many other things in my mind. On the flip side your Dad’s time with you is more spuratic, more fleeting. He’s able to give himself over to you completely because your time together is finite. Our time together is more extensive and fluid. We’ve experienced so much together. Played for hours at all ages. You’ve grown up in front of my eyes and I’ve decided not to get down on myself for being excited for the next phase. I’ll always treasure our days together but I look forward to having some time belong to me again. Time to find worth in my work and not just your behavior. Time to explore my own happiness and not just live vicariously through yours. You will always be my top priority, my first and most important job, your happiness will always come before mine, but as you grow, so again shall I.

photo 2 copy 3I’ll miss these days. I’ll miss our time together. The concentrated, one-on-one Mommy/Lochie time. I’ll miss your unbridled affection, your devotion to me, your constant desire to be with me. You recently told me you didn’t want to turn 5. When I asked why you said it’s because 5 year olds have to go to kindergarden and you’d rather stay in preschool. You understood it. You liked it. You weren’t ready to move on. I get it. I have moments when I feel exactly the same, both for your life and mine, but I told you no matter what we do we can’t stop time from marching on. We have birthdays, we get older, we transition to the next phase and the best we can do is appreciate each one as it comes.

I have six months until you start kindergarden. Half a year to truly treasure these last days of your first phase before we start celebrating the beginning of the next. Every part of your life is important, every transition exciting, and even though each step will take you further from my side, each one only solidifies you in my heart. I love getting to know you Lochlan. I love the discovery of who you are and who you might be. I am not afraid of you getting older. I will look back on these days as glorious memories. I’m not sad. I’m excited and proud and I only hope I’m around for the many more phases to come.

Happy 5th Birthday Darling boy!!!

xoxox your mommy

Photo credit for all green pictures to the lovely geniuses at Hendershott Photography. We are so lucky they like to use our kid to play around. Yay Adam & Sylvia!

Photo credit for all green pictures to the lovely geniuses at Hendershott Photography. We are so lucky they like to use our kid to play around. Yay Adam & Sylvia!

* Every day except nine. Three, weekend trips with your father and one three night trip to NYC when you were two

Pre K

Dear Loch,

You started pre K this week. It’s your last year of preschool and the last year before you’re in school full time. Last week, your Dad and I went to a parent’s night at the school to meet your teachers and hear what to expect from the coming year. I was looking forward to the meeting. We’d had a wonderful summer between Canada, the cottage, camp and house guests, but I’d run out of things to keep you occupied and you’re ready to get back to your routine. Excited for it all to begin, I sat on the tiny chairs in room 4 while the teachers explained the main thing the parents should be focusing on this year is remaining calm. They went on to say they understood it was a particularly stressful year as we try to decide on what the next step is for all of you. Kinder/Not kinder. Private/Public. Private Acceptance/Rejection. It’s a lot to deal with, and your teachers wanted us to see the school as a stress free zone. If you were sent home to find things that began with the letter R and you came back with something that began with the letter W, don’t worry about it, they’ll make it work. If we forget to bring something in for you, no problem, they’ll figure it out. Your teachers were adamant we really try to enjoy the year, and I sincerely appreciate their concern. Then one of them said something that brought tears to my eyes. She said, “Right now you have a child who’s just out of toddlerhood, but by June of next year, you’ll have a school aged child. You’ll never get these baby years back, so enjoy them while you can because this is it.” I clearly wasn’t the only parent who looked crestfallen because she started to laugh and said, “I wasn’t trying to make you guys cry!”  

What she said really affected me. I no longer felt as thrilled to have you back in school. I didn’t feel as enthusiastic to have our summer over, and I suddenly felt incredibly sentimental about the time we have left together – the time before you morph into a big kid and I lose my darling chicken to his room, and his friends, and his life. I understand it’s all part of growing up – for you and for me – but when your teacher said it out loud, I realized how close all of this is to being over and how very much I’m going to miss it. You are the love of my life Lochlan. We’re the best of pals and in some ways I think I’ve taken this time with just the two of us (and Daddy) for granted. I know I’m not the best at “playing”. I like to build and act and sing and dance but I’m weak when it comes to cars and trains and just getting down on the floor and engaging with them. God help me, I found that part mind numbing, and I’d often busied myself with laundry, dinner and other things that needed attention instead, and now I’m worried I could have done better. I’ve also struggled though your childhood trying to relaunch a career while still being a full time mother and, for the most part, I often feel I’m half assing both rather than mastering either. You’ve been plunked down in front of the television more than you probably should to give me a moment to “get things done” and though I would qualify myself as a very hands on mother, now that your starter years are coming to an end, I wonder if I couldn’t have given just a little more.

Looking back on your first four years however, perhaps I shouldn’t beat myself up. I did the best I could, and as long as I don’t compare myself to other mothers – the ones who don’t use TV as a baby sitter or who can make firetrucks talk to one another for more than five minutes without losing their minds – I can rest assured I’ve done right by you. We’ve had a wonderful time together. We’ve spent endless hours exploring the world. I had the opportunity to go to school with you for two whole years. I taught you the difference between right and wrong and the importance of manners. You’re self sufficient and confident and you talk a lot because I talk a lot. Overall, I believe your personality and enthusiasm were given a real chance to grow in the years we’ve had together, and at the very heart of it all we’ve had a marvelous time. I’m grateful for every year, so I thought it might be nice – at this, the beginning of the end, so to speak – to get a little reminiscent about what those years were like.

Year of the Baby – I’m not going to lie. It was a rough start. You had everything a baby could have to make him miserable – reflux, colic, constant barfing – and miserable you were. If you weren’t eating or sleeping, you were screaming. Screaming. I honestly didn’t know what to do. I was beside myself. I still look at babies with a slight tinge of anxiety. Holding them it’s like a flashback that gives me the shakes. If I could do it all over again, I know I’d enjoy it more because I’d know that everything would eventually pass. I’d be able to appreciate how wonderful it is to have a tiny baby rather than just thinking, “Dear God, I don’t know if I can do this”. Some friends of ours just had a new baby and for the first time since you out grew the screaming, I thought, yeah, I could do this again. For the record, everything after five months was so much better. Once you got on the solid foods you did a 180 on the crying. The baby I hoped was in there was able to emerge. Sadly, that time coinsided with my diagnosis, so I didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy it as much as I would have liked.

One Year Old – You learned to walk at 16 months, but more so, your personality really kicked in, and your personality strongly hinged on communication. You talked from the very beginning and were interested in everything, with a special focus on anything that moved (cars, trucks, trains, etc.) and girls with long hair. I even started to make an effort every day with my hair because it annoyed you so much if I didn’t. If I had the audacity to wear it in a bun or ponytail, you’d look at me sideways and say, “Mommy, no!  Brush, brush!” . This was also the year that you showed yourself to be a real lover of affection, always asking for cuddles and hugs and kisses. I could never refuse you, even when I was supposed to be leaving your room.

Two Years Old – You became a little boy this year. Your personality only continued to bloom and we realized how very lucky we were to have such a funny, empathetic, polite and loving child. You developed a sense of right and wrong and continued your obsession with girls (and by girls I mean women age 19-35 as spending so much time with me, made you believe that mom’s and their ilk were your peer group). You creativity grew leaps and bounds (though not your skills in art – you just had zero interest) and you started instigating imagination games on your own. Although you developed a will of your own, and preferred to do everything yourself, I never felt the two’s were in the least bit terrible. In fact, as far as I was concerned, it just kept getting better. You also started school this year and you took to it like gang busters. Organized, structured activities at a table – eh. Free range social play with peers – couldn’t get enough. 

Three Years Old – Oh man, I loved three. I’ll never be able to look back on three and four without getting weepy. We really became best pals this year. You’re such good company and we had such nice times together. You also started developing friends of your own this year as well as definite opinions of your likes (favorite game: family – always wants to be the “Daddy”) and dislikes (loud noises, watermelon, bed time). Despite all the new found independence you were still tightly connected to your mommy and I loved it. “When I get older I’ll marry a pretty girl?” “I’m sure you will Lochie.” “I think I’ll marry you Mommy.” “You think you’ll marry me?” “Yes.” “Well that would be lovely, but I think you’ll fall in love with someone else and want to marry them.” “No. I think I’ll just marry you.” Sigh.

Four Years Old – Are you kidding me with four?! I literally adore four. Yes, you’ve become far more willful and less malleable, exerting your “expertise” and opinions liberally, but you are a real companion now. You’re fun to hang out with. You make me laugh all the time. Sometimes deliberately. You also developed into a real BOY this year. Gone are the days of dressing in princess dresses and tutus, you’re now into superheros and legos and Star Wars. Despite the increased maturity in some ways you’ve also become more nervous. You’re constantly concerned about where I am, or where I’m going to be. It’s almost as if you understand the impermanance of the world and don’t feel secure unless you can visualize where I am and what I’m doing. We’re able to be quite flexible with your schedule now – though we try and get you to bed around the same time every night – and it’s opened our lives up a lot. It’s this age that I’m going to miss the most. I look at your adorable face in your baby pictures and I feel nostalgic, but it’s hanging out with you now that really makes me realize how fleeting this time is. You’re so enthusiastic, so positive, so happy. You delight in small things and want to be with us all the time. When you’re proud or excited your face just lights up. I do things all the time just to elicite that reaction and the beauty of this age is, I don’t have to do big things to make it happen. You’re not jaded yet. You’re not cool. You just want to be happy and loved and I’m devouring it. Every morning when you pad into my room and climb into bed for our cuddle, I’m aware it’s one less day you’ll be this sweet and adoring. 

Lochie, I love your energy and your idealism. I love your manners and your sense of humor. I love how kind and loving you’ve grown up to be, and for so many reasons, I hope you are able to stay this way for a long time. I pray your grown up self never loses all these wonderful qualities you have as a child.

So, we press forward and await the changes that, inevitably, will come. I know you’ll always love me but I also know you’ll never love me as unconditionally as you do right now. At this moment we’re the center of each other’s universe and soon enough other things will take my place in yours. If I’m lucky, time will eventually give you back to me, but I’ll never have you as completely as I did when you were my baby. I will live on these memories and you will build your future on them.

I wish you great and marvelous things Lochlan. I wish you happiness and love. I wish you success and security. I wish you health and joy, and I only hope that I can give you everything the child you are deserves, and the man you deserve to be, needs.

I love you Loch. Thank you for filling my life with such purpose. No matter where you go, remember this is where you started and you can always come back.

xo Mommy


Dear Loch,

Man, did I have a great childhood. Really. Idyllic. I was, like yourself, an unplanned only child. Meaning we planned to have more but couldn’t, not that you were a surprise. Though I missed the, real or imagined, joys of sibling-hood, I had all the perks that come with being an Only. It is a luxury to be just one. The biggest perk – and what people see as the breeder of bad behavior – is you don’t have to share. I had my parent’s undivided attention. They were always available to me. They drove me to and from. They came to see my games and plays. They were there every step of the way through school. I was the sole focus and it was amazing. There were other perks too: I got to go to great schools; I came out of University/Grad School/Theatre Conservatory debt free (!!); my summer job as a camp councilor was more fun than work; and I  got to travel the world – a lot. Having just one child allowed my parents to expose me to so much more than they could have with more children. It also allowed me the opportunity to really get to know them. Since it was just the 3 of us, I confided in them more than most – let’s be honest, I told them everything – and they handled it beautifully. Rarely judging, mostly listening. It’s a special relationship – the only child and parents – and one I’m very grateful for. It’s the main thing your dad and I fall back on when we feel sad we can’t give you siblings.

Only children are kinda spoiled too. I’d be lying to say that wasn’t also a major perk.

The thing about childhood is that it’s fleeting. And it only seems to be getting shorter as the years go by. The things 10-year-olds know these days blow my mind. I know when you’re little you just want to be grown up but let me tell you, grown up is a lot of work. Be young for as long as you can baby. I’m not advocating the Peter Pan syndrome. It’s not cute to be a man-child. But when you’re a kid, be a kid. When you’re a teenager, don’t wish the years away. I don’t even have to tell you not to rush College, because by then you’ll realize how incredible these years are and you’ll milk every moment.

I’m planning on cruise directing your childhood but if I’m not here in person to do that, here’s what I want for you:

Enjoy the Little Things – Having children is one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself. They allow you to re-experience the newness of life. Right now everything is amazing to you. Even things you’ve done a million times  – like drive a boat – still delight you. I find myself looking at the world through your eyes and getting so much out of it. Even when you’re not with me, I find myself pointing out things I wouldn’t have even noticed before. “Look! A train!” It makes your dad laugh. I realize I see the world now with so much more awe. It’s an unjaded way of being and it’s wonderful. Hang onto that for as long as you can. The world is magnificent. A huge spider in a web. The way a bunch of rocks come together. A stream. A sunset. The moon… Right now it all thrills you and it thrills those of us around you. We are always trying to find new things to show you. To excite you. Even when you’re off making your own plans, keep doing that. Don’t lose the wonder you had as a child.

Relish your Traditions – I can’t decorate the house enough for holidays. You get such joy out of it. The big spiders and webs and pumpkins for Halloween. The tree and all the fixings that come with Christmas. The eggs and bunnies that (tastefully) take over our house at Easter. We even have St. Paddy’s Day decorations. Every season is special and each one comes with it’s own traditions. Embrace that. Enjoy the songs, movies, food and activities that come with each special time. Relish the favorites year after year. I have to watch White Christmas, decorate the tree and listen to Bony M for it to really feel like Christmas. I like a round, fat, tall tree. One year Granny and Granddad bought a little, short, scrawny tree while I was at University and I got home and burst into tears. They’d chosen the wrong tree! AND, they’d done it without me! They were trying to be efficient. But for me, it was like stealing part of my Christmas. I’m embarrassed (and proud) to say we EXCHANGED the tree on December 23rd. I picked the “perfect” tree and got to decorate it with my parents. Extreme, yes, but traditions are important. For your Dad, Christmas is watching It’s a Wonderful Life and new Christmas Eve jammies with Gigi (used to be GK) reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. For you it might be The Polar Express and building an Architectural Digest worthy gingerbread house with your Dad. Whatever it is, fall into the comfort of tradition repetition. It allows you to relive your childhood year after year. As you get older you’ll have to blend traditions. But if your traditions mean enough to you, others will respect and accept them too. My birthday always has cake (specifically lemon) and your Dad’s always had all his cards stuck to his door. Now when our birthdays roll around, he bakes and I get serious about sticking mail to the wall…

Believe – In magic. In possibilities. In yourself. Believe that you can do anything, be anyone. Believe that the world is good and that all people are equal. Being a child – if you’re raised right – comes with optimism. To a child everything is possible and there are no limits. You say you want to be an astronaut and everyone supports you. Heck, you say you want to be a fire truck and that’s good too. If you can dream it, it’s possible. Magic exists everywhere. Magicians fill you with wonder. Your dad is the strongest man alive. Santa comes to your house… I’m a big believer in this one. By the time you read this I’m sure you’ll know the truth, but I want you to know I never saw it as a lie. Allowing you to believe in something wonderful and happy that fills you with joy is a gift. I’ll never forget when Alison Bokle told me Santa wasn’t real. I was in Grade 2. Mrs. Felker’s class. Her brother told her and she told me. My head swam. I told her she was wrong. I told her he’d written me a note. She said my parents had written the note. My brain almost exploded. I turned away from her and walked right off the playground and all the way home. (Nice security 1982!)  When my shocked mother opened the door I wouldn’t let her speak. I said, “Is there, or is there not, a Santa Clause?” The look on her face told me all I needed to know and I was devastated. I didn’t go back to school that day I was too busy crying (deduction had also shattered my belief in the Easter bunny and the Tooth Fairy). But despite how crushed I was, I wouldn’t give up those years of believing for anything. Going to sleep on Christmas Eve. Waking up in the morning knowing he’d been there. That pure pleasure. I wanted that for you Loch. And to be quite honest, I wanted it for me. I wanted to create that illusion for you. To this day I kinda still believe in Santa…even if it’s just in the etherial magic of Christmas, and not an actual man that fits down my chimney. I think I’m a better person for it.

Limit your Judgement – It isn’t till you’re a bit older that you start to notice people’s differences with any judgement. There’s a little boy who lives near us with an undeveloped arm and 2 fingers and a thumb. You’ve noticed but it doesn’t affect how you feel about him. You ask why people are in wheel chairs but don’t think differently of them. I’m not even sure if you’ve become aware of  the difference in skin color yet. It’s such a wonderful time and one that sadly we lose the quickest. You can’t help what society will expose you too but you can remember that there was a time when you looked at others with no preconceived notion. A time where you liked and judged people on how they treated you and not on how they looked or who they were. Choose not like someone because they’re a jerk not because they’re a color.

Try New Things – When you’re young you have to try new things all the time because everything is new. New food. New places. New sports. New schools. Enjoy the ‘try me’ years. Experiment with everything that inspires you. You may not be good at, or like everything, but if you don’t try you won’t know. I did 2 student exchanges in Middle School. The first was a horrible bust where the girl and I were so astoundingly different that all we had in common was our gender. Her family lived on the outskirts of Boston so even though it was a “Boston Exchange” I never saw the city. Other than school I never saw anyone. Her brothers spit on me, her mother forgot to pack me a lunch and it was just generally miserable in her house. Not wanting to blanket judge all exchanges, I wrote it off as a single bad experience and tried an exchange again in Grade 8. Ironically, it was equally, if not more, terrible. Luck had drawn me essentially the same girl but this one spoke no English. I hated every minute of it. But, with hindsight, I’m proud to say I did it. It, unlike bad skin, is one of those experiences that actually made me stronger. Better, for the bad. I wasn’t afraid to take a risk. As we age we get more stuck in our ways and are less likely to branch out. Try things now. And even if they don’t work out (and you have to learn to say “I want to go home” in a foreign language) you’ll have grown. And that kind of growth is great.

Be open with your love – You tell me you love me all the time right now. You love holding my hand and snuggling. Children are gregarious with their love because they do very little self editing. They aren’t worried about how they are being perceived. I’m dreading the time when you no longer want to hug and kiss me. When having me around is a thorn in your side. Try not to get too self aware if you can help it. I went through a distinct “parent embarrassment” period where I wanted to be dropped off a block from the party at all times. You’ll know you’re really grown up when you no longer care about things like that, and getting dropped off at the front door of an event by your parents is awesome. Less walking! No cab fare! Take the same lesson to heart when dealing with girlfriends. Physical affection is a lovely thing to offer those you care for. Don’t be crazy PDA guy – he’s gross – but don’t withhold either. Who cares what others think. If you want to hold her hand, hold it. And if you wanna hold mine…I can think of nothing better.

Be a Joiner, Be a Doer, Be a Leader – You don’t have to join everything just get out there. Open up your mind. Make new friends. A Doer is essentially someone who’s not lazy. Enjoy the energy and freedom of your youth and get involved with people, things and causes you’re interested in. Work takes over so much of your adult years. Do the things you want while you have the time to do them. And you can choose to be a leader or not, just don’t be a follower. Followers give up too much of their power. They put their needs and feelings in someone else’s hands. It’s more responsibility to make your own decisions. More work to stand up for yourself rather than behind another. But if you make that choice you’ll never feel like a spectator in your own life and there is something real to be said for that.

Enjoy your Summers–  I know most of the other things are abstract but I’m going to get kinda specific with this one. Summers are special, holy even, in the world of a child. The days get longer and the nights shorter. You can be outside well past your bedtime. Popcicles and freezies are everywhere. Friends and parents are available more. There’s no school. I can’t even fathom this concept of year round school or starting the year mid August. That’s ridiculous. Summer is what fuels you for the rest of the year.

Lochlan, It is my plan that you spend at least 6 weeks of every summer in Canada. I was blessed enough to grow up summering in Ontario. Being at the cottage. Going to camp. I can’t express how happy those experiences made me or how instrumental they were to who I am. If you grow up and want to spend the summers with your friends in California, at surf camp or whatever, I totally understand. But please try to spend some time in Canada. Maybe 2 weeks at the cottage and a month at camp? It’s my hope that you’ll love it as much as I did and look forward to it all year. The friends and memories I have from my childhood summers are some of my strongest. Your cottage is the last of the great outdoors, and there is something exceptional about spending your summers in the wilderness surrounded by throngs of happy, healthy, young people. I even say that with the full knowledge that you’ll probably cease all contact with me during those days, as people as old as your parents don’t exist when you’re in the world of camp.

Watch the sun set. Dive into a lake on a boiling hot day. Go skinny dipping on a warm night. Drive the boats or wakeboard behind them. Sing songs. Do skits. Party in the evenings when the sun sets but the heat stays. Paddle a canoe. Read a book by the fire. Your dad and I are agreed, just as my parents always were, that no TV will ever be at the cottage. It was there I learned to love reading. It was there that you could really appreciate the night. The sounds, the stars…Life is so connected that it’s a real luxury to go somewhere that, for all intensive purposes, you’re off grid.  We broke down last year and got a DVD projector for the occasional movie, but it’s a treat and not the norm. I hope it remains that way for you. That goes the same for game systems…

Finally, Have Fun and Don’t worry – Ride your bike, read comics, play ridiculous games with your friends, try new things, douse yourself in silly string, stay up all night playing video games, make a rally cry with your team, do crazy dances to make someone laugh, wear costumes…do all those silly, fun, yes, childish things. Because darling, you’re a child and you deserve to be light. Stress free. Try not to worry. Worry is for adults. For parents. What you can do is respect the worry. Know that we worry for real reasons, and because we want you safe and happy. Be responsible. Make smart choices. Call when you get there not because you’re told to, but because you understand why we need you to. But ultimately leave the stress to us. There’s lots of time to be serious. Childhood isn’t one of them.

You said to me the other day, “Kids don’t always get what they want, do they Mommy?” I told you that adults don’t always get what they want either. Life doesn’t work like that. We do the best we can to line up our realities with our dreams, and all too often we have to adjust. As a child, especially a child as blessed as you, that’s a foreign concept. Right now, aside from things like the candy apple you asked for in bed a couple days ago, you have very few disappointments. If it could be like that forever I’m not sure it would make you a better man. Some disappointments are necessary to make us stronger and less vulnerable, to clarify our values and desires. I want you to have as close to a perfect life as possible without ending up clueless. But I also want you to grow into a man that can handle being a grown up without losing the joy he had as a child.

If for nothing else, it’ll make you a great parent.

xo Mom