Dear Ethan and Maya,
Recently you’ve started to get really tricky about picking your favorite item to sleep with. Ethan, we’ve been keeping a running list of things you have asked to sleep with, and in the last year you have shared your bed with a rock, a leaf, your drawings, caps, a mug, a hockey puck, and a 12-inch tall R2D2 plastic cup. Every time when that item falls off your bed, even at midnight when you should be sound asleep and no way you are able to hear anything at all, you will jump out of your bed crying for that item to come back to your pillow. There is always some weird object next to your head in bed. And every morning you will bring it over to our room, mostly use it to get us out of our bed. WAKE UP MOMMY! R2D2 is crawling inside your pajamas. We figure that since you haven’t formed an obsessive attachment to one specific thing, like a toy train or car, this may be your version of normal childhood behavior. It’s less an attachment to things than it is an attachment to SLEEPING WITH THINGS in general.
Thank you, Ethan, for introducing this habit to your sister. And Maya, you’ve taken this to a whole new level. For the past week, you have requested to sleep with your new shoes, a stack of paper cards, a bottle of shampoo and a soccer ball. You will practically carry around everything you think funny, and ask to sleep with it. And I am trying to break this habit because I can see a future when you are going to be thinking about bringing some dude back to your room and ultimately chooses not to because you’ve gotten a toaster on your pillow.
Like a lot of parents, I am serious about deconstructing traditional gender roles when it comes to my kids. I try to avoid stressing too much about princess is for girls or car is for boys. Maya, you wore a lot of boyish hand-me-downs from your brother for the first year of your life. You spent a lot of time playing trains and trucks with him at home. And I’ve never introduced you to Disney princesses. When your aunt asked me what to get you for your last birthday, I suggested a set of cleaning tools, just to get your training started. Except she ended up buying you a set of dressing table with make-up accessories. Since then you’ve become hooked with anything girly or pink or simply pretty. When we go shopping clothes with you, you disapprove anything that we think practical but not fancy. Last time you refused to let me try a pair of sneakers on you, and you struck your dangling legs over a shopping cart so fiercely that I eventually gave up. Then a pair of yellow patent leather ballet pumps caught your attention, and you swung your body and screamed in full gear. I want ELLLLLLLOW! I want ELLLLLLLOW! I bought them for you eventually. Because if I hadn’t buy them, I might have been strayed in the store being questioned by millions of patrons. What’s wrong with you? All she wants is just a little ELLLLLLLLLOW!!!!!
You love dresses despite the fact that I have never gone out of my way to put them into your wardrobe. Every morning you have to choose what you want to wear, the color of your hair bands and your socks. It was freezing and pouring outside the other day. I was busy in the garage getting your brother to school. Your father was dressing you inside the house. Suddenly I heard you brawled hysterically when your father asked you to put on your rainboots. I didn’t follow up how the whole situation ended until later in the afternoon when you came back from your grandparents. From head to toe, you had a wool toque, a snow jacket, a pair of fleece pants, a pair of oversized socks wrapped and wrinkled into your brand-new shinny ELLLLLLLOW pumps! I looked at your father wanting to have an explanation. He sighed, “I guess she has a better fashion sense.”
Ethan, you’ve been spending a lot of time playing Lego. I am not surprised about your new passion. When your father was a kid, he’s crazy about Lego too. As all geeks are. What really surprised me was how good you are. You have already collected more than 10 boxes of Lego in different themes – police station, zoo, Cars, Star Wars……Some of them are for children aged 7 to 12. Your father bought them on sale for you to play when you are at least seven years old. For some reason, you found them. And you CONQUERED them.
At first, you became frustrated really easily as you were trying to learn to read the instructions and figure out the sequence of putting each piece together. And we tried to convince you to put it away until you turn seven years old. Of course you wouldn’t listen. One time when you were unable to find the right piece, you yelled, “Shit! HUUUHHH! SHIT! SHIT”
I turned to you and scolded, “Ethan, we do not say that word!”
“Okay, YOU don’t say that word!” You stared at me blankly.
“Well, when I say that word it’s because I have a VERY good reason. “ Except I had a hard time coming up with an example of a very good reason.
You’ve become really independent lately. When you are in the mood, you go pick the Lego set that you want to play with, pour all the pieces into another bigger box to make sure they are all in place. Then you sit down, flip through the instructions booklet, look for the right piece, and assemble from start to finish to create your masterpiece. All on your own. Quietly. Patiently.
However this kind of peace won’t last long normally because here is the thing: YOUR SISTER. She’s the thing that has the ability to instigate a war and deconstruct the world. When you want to have a moment alone drawing or writing, she wants to be in your room, to touch your color pens, to draw with you. She wants to be a part of it. But you, you want nothing more than for her to go away, to be banished to a remote island, to be locked in the garage, to MOMMY! MAYA TOUCHED MY DRAWING AGAINNNNNNNNNNNNN, to MAYA DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO DRAW STAR WARS!
When we are in the playroom, I do my very best to have you engaged into different activities. When one is building blocks, I do puzzles with the other. Except it’s extremely hard to distract you from interrupting your brother, Maya. The moment I turn around to use the bathroom, you capitalize the opening to get to your brother and then MOMMYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! MAYA BROKE MY SPACESHIP! And you will be running to me with an ungodly crying face because your brother won’t let you touch the blocks that he leaves on the floor UNUSED and claims that he will use them later, maybe next month.
Sometimes I don’t look forward to those days when I have to spend the whole day with you both for obvious reasons, but I know you act that way around us because we are your parents. It’s natural to lose your shit in front of us. This is the exact dynamic that I’ve always hoped you will have with me forever – the mere sight of my face will make you crumble into a sobbing pile of mush because you need to let go, and I will be the only one you can share with the privacy of that emotion. Sometimes you have really bad days and you need to cry about it, and I’m glad that you love us enough to do it in front of us. I know that sounds strange, but that’s what love is, being able to confide in someone that everything isn’t okay, and trusting that they will listen.
And Maya, I understand. Big brother is always cool. I wish I had one too.