Dear Ethan and Maya,
Here comes the monthly letter. I’m sure that if you were sitting here right now, Maya, you’d ask me why there is a letter. And I’d say because I write you a letter every month as you grow. And then you’d go, why? And I’d say, because I love you, I want both of us to remember what we have experienced as mother and daughter. And you’d go, but why? And then I’d walk over to the kitchen drawer, grab a knife and shove it through my thigh. Some days there aren’t enough sharp objects in the house to help me cope with the multitude of your whys, maybe because there is no answer that will satisfy you, even when that answer is read to you directly from a science textbook. I’m beginning to feel like you’re not asking because you genuinely care about the answer but because you’re secretly hoping that if you ask it enough times, the answer to why will be “you can have a candy if you will just shut up.”
Now as you’ve started to have a play date every Friday, every morning I have to go through different drawers to look for a sharp object because I have a hard time explaining to you why Mondays are called Mondays and not Fridays, and why aren’t Tuesdays called Fridays? Sometimes I think I may have lost it for a second and told you to go Google it, except opps! YOU CAN’T TYPE. GUESS YOU WILL NEVER KNOW. And then you would be all quiet. And that’s when I said, look, I have told you why six hundred times, and if you ask me why one more time I’m going to remove Frozen from all the devices in this house. Guess who was suddenly satisfied with my answers?
I think you both are pretty good at saying “thanks” and “please”. Occasionally you will need a little reminder like “What’s the magic word?” before you get to have that candy. And sometimes when you have something to show us, you will ask us to say the magic word beforehand like we are actually the ones who ask to see your things. That’s what kids do – mimicking how we act in certain situations or repeating phrases we often use. We normally oblige and say PLEASE before you show us what you have. However there are thousands of thing that you want to show us on a daily basis. Drawings, rocks, scrap papers, candy wrappers, a used napkin, a piece of Cheerio…mostly junks. You both will alternatively come to me with something in your hands behind you and ask me, “What’s the magic word?” And you know after you’ve answered this question over 60 times in the first hour of the morning, on top of the 200 times of answering whys, your mouth is barely able to move. One morning I decided to just shake my head and let my mouth pick up its breath. But Ethan, you were adamant and repeated WHAT’S THE MAGIC WORD? emphatically several times until you’d had enough and screamed PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! And then your face fell off. And I’ve become the awful mom who is being rude but keeps asking my kids to be polite. So I kneed down and look you in the eyes and said, “Could you show me please?” And you picked you face up off the floor, attached it to your head and said, “Yes! See, I was able to tear the leaf into two pieces.”
Ethan, you’ve started to make a lot of friends at school. Every Tuesday you boys will have a play date after school. And that’s when you aren’t tentative about climbing up high anymore, but start to follow your friends and jump and hop and be fearless. What I see is a whole new development called “risking death for the thrill of it”. And next you are going to figure out how to ride your bike down steep driveways. I think I kind of saw it coming. Boys, right?! This will continue throughout your life until one day you decide that life wouldn’t be complete without setting fire. To your father’s beloved lawn. Then you will be grounded.
So you’ve become more active and physical. At the same time you enjoy reading, writing and drawing. You are reading at a level that I wasn’t really quite prepared to deal with. You are able to tell the names of different fruits by only looking at the words. And in fact your writing is quickly catching up too. The other day you drew me a picture and on top it wrote, “Fanny, I love you. You are awesoom.” Yes, you love to write my name because you want me to know that you can spell my name. But DUDE! YOU ALMOST SPELLED AWESOME CORRECTLY! I almost had a heart attack, and was all WHERE DID YOU LEARN HOW TO DO THAT? And you got this goofy look on your face, started to shrug your shoulders and said, “It’s just a word, Mom.”
EXCUSE ME FOR A SECOND. That is not just a word, dude. That right there is brilliance, and I called everyone in the family to brag about it. That is my right as a mother. I couldn’t keep it to myself, and you should have heard me when I called my mom, I was all THE KID CAN ALMOST SPELL AWESOME. And she was all, have you gotten out of the house lately?
Maya, this month the obsessive nature of your nighttime ritual has gotten out of hand. And where you once had to repeat three things to us before you could sleep, you now have to say 10 or 11 things, and that number is only getting higher. I think this is due to a combination of compulsive behavior and your desire to stave off bedtime a minute or two longer. Sometimes I have to go back into your room a few times so that you can ask me another question. Could we have Cheerio for breakfast tomorrow? Do I see Olivia tomorrow? Are you going to take a shower, mama? Are you going to come to my room and wake me up tomorrow? The other night I was getting really impatient, and at one point I swung open your door and before you could say anything I yelled YES YOU CAN TAKE THE RING TO SCHOOL AND SHOW IT TO YOUR FRIENDS TOMORROW. NOW GO TO BED because that was the next question in the script. And you sat there silent on your bed for two seconds before saying, “But I just wanted to say good night and I love you.” Which was your gentle way of saying, hey, you need to calm down and stop being a total prick.
So I walked over to the side of your bed, kneeled down, kissed you on your warm forehead and said, “I love you, too.”
You grabbed my hand, hugged it with both arms. “Mama,” you whispered, your mouth close to my cheek, “can I take the ring to school and show it to my friends tomorrow?”
This month I’ve decided to make our meal time more conversational, instead of spending the whole time ridiculously negotiating over the number of bites you have to eat before leaving the table. At first you were really passive about this idea, like hadn’t I seen what you’d done during the day? Why do we have to talk about it now? And the conversation was more about me asking questions, and you would give me a word or two between every time you were about to leave your chair and grab some toys.
I kept trying and asking silly questions. And you soon warmed to the idea, and now we talk at length about every little detail of your life: who you had lunch with, what games you played during recess, what book you borrowed from school, which friend has a new princess sticker. At this point in the routine of you recounting your day, most of the time you both will become very excited and start to stand up on the chair and swing your arms wide to elaborate just how fun your day was. I guess you could say I started this routine with the hope that we could continue to talk this way throughout your life, or that it at least wouldn’t be foreign to you to share such details with me later on. Maybe this is my way of letting you know as early as I can that this is the type of relationship I want to cultivate with you, and that I will always be interested in the highs and lows, the exciting and the mundane, all of it. You will always be the most interesting people in the world to me.