Dear MrMan,

You are now eight. A fact momentous enough to warrant a post. Eight is just such a legitimate age to me – I can remember not only specific instances from that time in my life, but the thoughts and emotions that went along with them. I’ve really enjoyed watching and helping you grow thus far, but I suspect it’s about to get real. I’m already getting glimpses of that. That the good is going to be so much better – we’re having more deep and meaningful conversations involving more of the grey and less of the black and white. But it’s also going to be so much more challenging – figuring out how to respond when the questions aren’t easy, working through challenges when you aren’t as docile, feeling like the stakes are higher as your character is shaped by more subtle experiences. In some ways I feel so ill-equipped and not ready. At the same time, I wonder if this is when my parenting skills are going to shine. Luckily you’ve prepared me enough that I’ll probably fall at least somewhere between those extremes.

I’m so proud of who you are. You’re kind and thoughtful, sensitive to the feelings of others. Last night, as I asked you about the best part of your day, you answered, “The presents!” (Duh.) I pressed, “What about the phone calls?” In the few hours between coming home from school and going to bed, mixed in with your requested dinner – mac and cheese (with butternut squash), kale chips, salad (lagniappe), and strawberry shortcake – and present opening, were at least seven phone calls from family members who love you. You chatted with each, not just answering their questions – because you’re old enough to do that. (Craziness.) When I asked about the phone calls, not really expecting they’d be a favorite, but just wondering, you answered, “They were kind of annoying.” Which I totally get. And I love that you revealed that to me, because it let me know that your conversational skills were an even greater sign of your maturity than I realized. It wasn’t necessarily how you wanted to spend your time, but you were perfectly pleasant and even enthusiastic in speaking with each caller.

You’re not only emotionally intelligent, you’re academically intelligent. You’ve got this school thing down. You know what you’re supposed to do and get it done. You’re not phased by tests, you do your homework as soon as possible each day. When I ask about your day, I get a lot of, “Nothing interesting. Same as yesterday.” But I also, eventually, get details that let me know you’re paying attention and learning. You have amazing teachers, for which I’m so thankful, helping you with critical thinking skills that will serve you well. Writing workshop, the scientific method, the beginnings of algebra… I’m fairly certain I wasn’t learning these things in second grade, but you’re totally winning it all. If I could only get you to not rely so heavily on the Venn diagram when conveying your thoughts… but I feel lucky to have such a gripe. You’ve recently discovered the magic of reading for pleasure. I love this!

Your art skills continue to shine, both at school and at home. This weekend, we wanted you to go toa basketball clinic. You claimed you didn’t want to go, but I had a feeling that your fears were speaking up, rather than your desires, and told you that you needed to do it. That morning, a paper airplane flew into my room. When I unfolded it, I saw you had drawn a basketball, crossed it out, and written, “You can’t make me go.” Fifteen minutes later, a wad of paper bounced in. It was colored like a basketball, with a red X taped to it. And a while after that, a three-dimensional paper basketball pierced by an arrow appeared. I almost relented in response to your creativity. But I held firm, telling you that you needed to go for 15 minutes and if you still wanted to leave, you could. Big surprise: two hours later, you came home raving about how awesome it was. I like to think this was a good lesson for me and for you.

It’s hard to believe that eight years ago, you were tiny enough for me to hold in one arm or that you could sleep on my torso. Now, I can’t even pick you up. And it’s getting harder to tell our clothes apart in the laundry. In some ways, this is heartbreaking. But, as I’ve told you, time and again, you’ll always be my baby.

Love, Mee


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