Happy birthday my darling boy!
You are now a whole hand old. This thrills you, but has caught me gasping for air. Being five seems like I can no longer hold onto any vestige that you are a baby. On the eve of your birthday you assured me that you will still be silly and cute when you are five. What a relief! But your baby body is gone, you are lean with abs and everything. Your face changed too. Right at the end of summer Daddy and I noticed angles cutting through the soft pillows of fat you had since you were born.
A little boy is now shining through.
The best thing that happened to you this year is KINDERGARTEN! You’ve only been there for two and a half weeks, but it has made you happier beyond belief. In the age of redshirting it took some guts on my part to nudge you in, 19 days after the traditional cutoff, but I’m glad I did. You are so ready, so eager to learn. You waited so long for this chance to zoom ahead, and baby, you are flying! I know school will be a place where you will always find success, much like it was for me. It’s a place for you to carve out your identity and build ramps to your future. You love Mrs. Peacock, all of your friends, especially Zak, and most of all you love homework.
You get out of school an hour before Max, so I take you to the library to do your homework everyday after school. You take such care with your work. All of your coloring assignments are detailed way beyond expectation. Much of your homework involves cutting and gluing, which you also enjoy quite a bit. It amazes me how careful you are with your scissors, always going for the precise snip, rather than an easy chop. Last Friday when I picked you up from school, you told me you had no homework.
Friday, fun day, I said.
You looked down. No, Friday, bad day, you said to your shoes.
Why is that?
Because I like homework.
You were disappointed even though instead of going to the library for homework, we were going to the coffee shop for a cookie. My, you are my son!
But that’s just the last two weeks, let me recap a bit more of your year. Of course, you spent most of it in PreK 4, which you enjoyed even though it didn’t challenge you enough. It was great to hear that you are a natural leader, but that you also are kind and include everyone’s ideas. You are beloved by your classmates. These are your first real friends. You even had a girlfriend for about 6 months, a very pretty girl named Penny who was famous for her headbands. Alas, she moved away this summer. Deep sigh.
I was surprised when your teacher told me you don’t sing much in circle time, because at home you constantly put on shows. Nana got you a microphone for Christmas, and boy do you use it! I especially enjoy your made up songs, which often rhyme. Max likes to join in and before you know it, we have a boy band in our living room. Half the time it is a naked boy band and the other half you are wearing some costume you’ve fashioned from the dress-up box or kitchen cabinets. Lord, do I have pictures! You did manage to make me proud as a Shepard in the Nativity Play, a Slap Happy Seal in the Preschool Circus, and Bert from Mary Poppins at the end of the year show.
Your athletic abilities are starting to shine this year. First it was basketball, which you practiced dribbling on the sly. Then, of course, your first bike, followed by soccer, running, baseball, and finally tennis. That is your current passion and you are really good. Daddy pitches the ball to you, and you whack it back. You rarely miss. You don’t know this yet, but we got you your very own tennis racket for your birthday. I hope you like it. It is very hard for you to be in Max’s shadow in terms of sports. He is naturally athletic and a year older, so he is the moving target you can’t catch. It’s already given you grit, but it also frustrates you and breaks your heart.
Speaking of broken hearts, you broke mine earlier this year, when you finally voiced your fear to Max:
You think you’re gooder than me, you said.
It was such a beautiful moment. Heart-wrenching, for sure, but also a moment that made me swell with pride and hope for you. You had been frustrated for months and expressing yourself through sulks and outbursts. Finally speaking the words in your heart liberated you. I assuaged your fears of inadequacy as best I could, but I also saw a subtle change in your demeaner after that. You were calmer and a bit more mature. Truth is powerful, my love. The fact is, Max is not better than you, and I think you know that deep down, because were speaking about what Max thought of you, not what you were.
What are you? Who are you?
Well, my dear, you are a storyteller. This year you have made up fantastic stories with character development, thickening plots, surprise endings, and lots of suspense. I’ve been bowled over by your astute vocabulary choices and the well-timed structure to your stories. You love words and often rhyme for fun. You can deliver a punchline like nobody’s business.
You love games, especially winning. You like to challenge yourself with 100-piece puzzles and often will spend an entire afternoon puzzling away. You and Max invented a game this summer based on World Cup Soccer. It’s called World Cup Fruit Soccer, and you use the small fruit manipulatives we got to practice counting in elaborate tournaments. Poor orange always has to be the ball. I often root for Pineapple when they play Grapes, and you usually rig the game for me.
You have also become a good artist and builder. You love to paint rainbows, and had a blast with our Jackson Pollack and oil pastel art days this summer. You make the most elaborate castles and mansions out of wooden blocks. You’ve also ventured into Legos. Usually you make semi trucks, but my favorite thing you ever built was The Car You Can Drive Whatever Way You Want, with multiple floors and steering wheels in all directions!
You have the most beautiful eyes, two chocolate orbs that are so bright they look like two suns with your lashes the sunbeams radiating out. Your eyes speak volumes and the two of us often communicate without sound. You ask questions, seek help, admit mistakes, and learn boundaries silently with our eyes locked on one another. Max and Daddy don’t have a clue about that.
For your birthday we have hired a magician, because you love magic: the element of surprise, the showmanship, the creation of wonder. The things you love about magic are the things I love about you. You have brought magic to our lives for five years and counting! I made a poster of you dressed like a magician for the party, and let you choose your stage name. You are: Jack the Fantastic!
I couldn’t agree more.
All my love, all my life,
Airplanes crashed into buildings in a city I have never been to and in another city close to where I was born.
I didn’t know how to tell you about this, or when, but you came home from preschool and informed me, Planes crashed into buildings in New York and people died. I called director of the school right away. Surely terrorism isn’t appropriate curriculum at such a tender age. Let’s stick to ABCs and 123s.
She agreed, but was helpless.
Time doesn’t move backwards. The first traces of this story had already, indelibly, run tracks in your mind.
You are growing and now you must learn a terrible lesson.
For you, September 11th is Patriot Day. A holiday from school uniforms, when you sport your Fourth of July tee shirt, blue jeans, and sneakers. This year your shirt is emblazed with an American flag made out of baseball bats and balls. A fire truck will visit your school and you will present the heroes with red, white, and blue paintings you created.
For me, September 11th is September 11th.
It took a long time to come up with a name and a story for that day. When you first mentioned Patriot Day, I didn’t know what you were talking about. Until I saw the date. Still, I am your mother, which means I am also your first storyteller. I will participate in the lesson.
What does patriot mean? I ask you on the way to school.
You don’t know.
It means someone who loves their country.
Our country. Our world. What lessons lie ahead? The stories of yesterday, are they worst than the stories of today?
You catch snippets of the news before we can flip a channel or usher you out to play. I know that you will take these eavesdropped clippings and construct a story. We all do. That’s what it means to be human. The most essential part of our unique brain is that we make up stories. We can’t help it. We strive to comprehend.
Before you were born…
airplanes crashed into buildings.
But the important thing for you to know, the really, truly, most important thing for you to know is this:
The moment you were born, that very moment,
love crashed into this world.
I know; I was there. It thundered like the roar of a lion, the stampede of elephants, the shattering of glass, and the melting of metal. And on your breath, baby boy, I smelled it, I tasted it in your very first kiss:
You brought hope.
And that is where this story begins.
The other night at dinner, Max decided to throw down out of the blue. He spoke in an even, authoritative tone.
Max: Superman will never be cool!
Dramatic hush falls over the table.
Jack: Superman will never not be cool!
Max: I dislike Spiderman! What does dislike mean?
We laughed and I grabbed a paper and pen to jot it down, which thrilled the boys.
Max: Superman is naked! (Jack giggles.) Now write that down.
Max: Why not?
Mama: Because it’s 4 year old funny, not 39 year old funny.
Jack: OK! OK! Write this down: All the Superheroes are naked! (Cracks up.)
Max: That’s unappropriate!
Mama: (laughing) OK, that’s good. I’ll write it.
Today is the First Day of School!
Yesterday my neighbor brought over three humungous mangos from his late-blooming tree. I thanked him and wished him a happy day off, and he wished me the same. The thing is, when my family is on holiday, I am working my hardest. Someone has to create the magic and do all those pesky behind-the-scenes tasks like meal preparation. Today is my real day off, the first of many, which I will spend working. Isn’t it funny how work can sometimes feel like time off, when family time can feel like being on duty?
Here are some shots of my kiddos from the annual Day Before the First Day Photo Shoot. I find it easier to take pictures when we have time and emotions are calm. On the real first day if a child was a reluctant participant, I’d have to let it go so he could have a happy start of school. It was such a rush to pack lunches, summer projects, and school supplies this morning; I don’t think I could’ve managed a decent photo as well.
My how they’ve grown!