Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Dear Larkin,

Tomorrow is your first day of “big kid” school, and you are so completely nonplussed about the milestone. I, however have been wringing my hands and worrying for weeks. Are you ready? Will you be happy? Will you make friends? How much trouble will you get into for your non-stop talking? You’d think I’d be ready for this. You’ve been in daycare since you were two; it’s not like you’re being pulled from the bosom of home and tossed out into the world for the first time. But there is just so much I want you to know:

Try. I know it’s scary to learn something new, to try something unfamiliar. But don’t let the fear of failure hold you back. Embrace your mistakes and learn from them. Try, try, try. Before you know it, everything that seemed impossible will have become second nature.

Look for those who are different than you. Whether that means they don’t look like you, or are dressed in a way you aren’t used to, or they laugh at different jokes, or maybe they never seem to laugh at anything at all. Don’t be afraid of different.  Different is surface. Chances are, you’ll find common ground in no time.

Never ignore tears. You have the most gentle and tender heart I know, and that is a GIFT. Your job is not to fix feelings. But if you see someone sad or scared or lonely, reach out to them; offer a hug or a helping hand. Better yet, just invite them to play with you and your friends. Make sure the teacher knows someone is hurting.  You never know what big feelings can be healed just by someone else noticing they exist.

Be a leader. The masses are rarely going in the direction you should follow. Stand up for who you are, embrace your differences, be proud of what matters to you. And don’t worry if it takes you 25 more years to learn this lesson – I’m still practicing myself. You’re already light years ahead of me, in your ‘soldier’ backpack with the retro “The Flash” patch you picked out for me to iron on, and your vintage metal lunchboxes. Enjoy the things that make you different, whether it’s the fandoms you join or the morals and religion you choose to follow. You do you, honey.

Remember that one true friend is more important than an entire flock of fair weather followers. Treasure your friendships, be good to your friends. You never know which people are destined to be in your life forever, and there are no friends like the one who know every single embarrassing story you’ve ever survived.

You won’t love every subject and every lesson you study. But find your passion and follow it. Read everything that catches your eye. Ask questions, ask for help. Raise your hand as often as possible; give the answer whenever you know it. Let someone know when you don’t understand. There is never any shame in that. Don’t try to coast by on being smart, son. Smart people don’t always succeed – only hard workers.

Know that you are loved. Always. No matter what your daily report looks like, or what grades you get on your report card. YOU. ARE. LOVED. I will spend all day worrying about you and praying for you. Your family has your back – we are all hoping and praying that you will do well, that you’ll love learning as much 13 years from today as you do right now.

I can’t wait to hear all about your first day, weasel.

To the moon and back,

Mommy

******

Dear Lord,

I’m going to need your help getting through today. Let the gods of waterproof mascara be on my side, please. Let me have faith in Larkin, that he’ll be polite and respectful, that he’ll do his best, that he won’t get hopelessly lost going to the bathroom down the hall.

Give him something to love about school. Let him find something that makes surviving the “hard” subjects worth it. I’m just going to ask: let him love learning. Give him the same love of books that you gave John and I, if you will.

Give him the courage and confidence to always stand his ground and believe in himself. Protect him from bullies, and insulate him from their inevitable taunts. And if he ever becomes a bully himself, Lord, give him someone to whup it out of him, because if they don’t – I WILL.

May he always talk to me from the backseat of the car or in the quiet of his bedtime routine like he does now.  May his heart always be an open book to me, and may my words always be tender in return.

Guide him with your holy spirit and his parent’s sense of humor, if you can figure out how to mesh those.

Let him know that he is loved. Let home always be his soft, safe place. May his worries be small, his fears be slight, and his joys limitless.

Larkin is a gift, he’s a blessing. And he’s the coolest kid I know. Thank you, God, for trusting us with him.

But… seriously. Don’t let him get lost going to the bathroom, okay?

Daycare Graduation, 2015

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Dear Teacher,

This kid. THIS KID. He will drive you nuts this year. I'll apologize ahead for that. He will talk to you until you plead for him to stop. He'll go to time out for talking during circle time, during nap time, during story time; while he's on the potty and when he's supposed to be eating lunch. He will talk so much that he may single-handedly be the cause of you going home, pouring a giant glass of wine, and begging your partner/roomate/children for silence, for just "NO MORE WORDS." Listen to him when you can, though. He'll surprise you with the depth of his intelligence, the tenderness of his heart, and how bloody much he knows about animals. When you can't take anymore, just tell him you need some time. Please try not to tell him he talks too much. Tell him you're "all out of words". He'll understand. 

He is hyper and wild and full of energy - all boy. He never sits still, and I promise his attention span is eight minutes TOPS. And that's just for the things he's truly interested in. He's learning though, I promise. You'll think he didn't hear a word, but then he'll come home to us and repeat and analyze every single thing you told him. He's wiggling, but he's listening. It's hard to remember that he's only 4 when he uses words like 'prerogative' or discusses philosophical and religious concepts that fly over the head of most adults. But he is. He's just a four year old boy, and I beg you - don't make learning a chore for him. Not yet.

He smiles when he's nervous. No, really: I need you to pay attention to this one. He smiles when he's nervous, when he's scared, when he knows he's in a world of trouble. It looks like he's smirking. It looks like he's mocking you when he's being chastised - I promise, he's not. It's a tic, honestly. He can't help it. You'll want to kill him - I do every single time he does it. Lord, that one little tic is going to get him in so much trouble for his entire life. Just remember - it's a face of nerves, not of smart assery - although you'll see that face from him as well, but it's unmistakable. Feel free to kill him for that one! 

He's not a "special untouchable, flawless little snow flake", but he is a pretty special little kid. You'll never meet a kid with such a big heart or capacity for love and affection. He thrives on protecting and reassuring those who are scared or sad. He has big feelings, and frequently has days where they overwhelm him at the drop of a hat. He's smart and clever and witty, but he gives up easily, and needs encouragement to try new things. 

He's my little boy, and he's my world. I know he isn't perfect, and I want to work on his problems with you. But he has so many amazing qualities, and he can be such an asset and enjoyable part of your day - if you can just have some patience and maybe a good, solid pair of earplugs.

Much (MUCH) Respect,

Larkin's Mom

PS: If you hear him shouting out military catch phrases, taking his role as good guy in 'cops and robbers' a little too seriously, singing Bob Marley mixed with classic church hymns, or referencing Shakespeare - just... roll with it. He's growing up in a strange little household. That's a whole 'nother letter, though.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

I didn't expect to be a mother. It was just never in my plans. I was told in my adolescence that it was impossible, so I never set my mind on a baby in my arms.

My son is a gift of impossibility.

Larkin was born into a less than ideal environment. When his father and I divorced, Larkin and I struck out on our own. I never planned to be a single mother.

Our life has shown me that God's plans are higher plans than my own.

I could list a million ways that I berate myself for not being a better mother. I work, sometimes long hours. My sense of humor and snark has left its brand on my parenting style in the way that would cause a sancti-mommy to swoon. I make more sandwiches for dinner than I am willing to admit. I occasionally beg and plead for a babysitter with more desperation than is strictly socially acceptable.

I sometimes move bedtime up earlier just to preserve my sanity (this may or may not be accompanied with an exaggerated story about why the sun isn't in bed yet) and I frequently skip pages at story time (curse you and your 40 page long tongue twisters, Dr Seuss!). I'm not good at incorporating him into cooking dinner. I raise my voice too often, have too little patience, expect too much. I'm frequently out-hugged before he is out of hugs.

And yet there is much I'm proud of. The fact that I survived his first six months. The extended time I nursed him. The two years I spent at home with him. The way that he can hang his own laundry and clean his own bathroom. How polite he is. The hours I've spent reading to him, the nights in his colicky infancy that I wrapped him to my chest and walked the room quoting Shakespeare because my voice calmed him.

Even better are his qualities that I can take no credit for. Larkin is brilliant, witty, and fun. At four, he has a vocabulary and emotional IQ that exceeds many adults I know. Larkin is tender towards his friends when they are hurting and frets for babies who are crying in stores. He is all boy, rough and tumble and always out for adventure. He is clever and loves to learn. He says the sweetest prayers, not memorized but spontaneously and from the heart. When he sees a traffic accident, he immediately says a prayer for those injured and for the first responders.

He loves me deeply and purely, ignoring all the times and ways I've let him down, and still reaches for me with a whole and happy heart - and sometimes I realize... maybe I'm not doing such a bad job after all.

I live a life of undeserved grace and blessing.

The man I love is walking the land-mine territory of step parenting with grace and growth. John has taught me an encyclopedia about boys and their world. He has given my son the gifts of confidence, roughhousing, and an honorable male role model. He holds my hand in the trenches, listens to me rant and worry and babble, and he makes me laugh through the stress. I may have to kill him if Larkin holds up to his dream to be a "soldier and police officer, just like John" (my mother's heart trembles just at the thought of it), but I'm blessed to raise my son with him.

Together, we stand in the shadows of giants. The parents who raised us and taught us well now dote on Larkin. I learn daily from the friends who have walked before us, or the ones who walk much, much rockier roads than I can imagine.
I didn't expect to be a mother. I never planned to fall in love with a little boy who holds my heart and simultaneously makes me want to pull my hair out. But lord, how blessed am I that I have?
Dear Larkin,

If there is one thing I never expected about parenthood, it was the fact that I would share my life with a marvel. I look at you, child, and I can't even comprehend everything you are becoming. You have long shed any last trace of baby. You're built long and lean, with boundless energy and a mop of crazy hair that I can't seem to keep short enough to prevent it from standing straight up. Your eyes have gone from bright blue to grey, intense and expressive.

You are complex and complicated. Your teacher told me last week, "I've never met a kid that is SO COMPLETELY all boy, but also so sweet and sensitive. He will make an amazing husband some day!" You are equally likely to cuddle a baby doll in play as you are to break a stick into a gun shape and march around "BANG!"-ing until you get scolded. You are annoyingly literal yet also wildly imaginative. You love running through the outdoors, off-roading, and hiking - but a mosquito on the loose can unhinge you. A mama's child who loves to keep close and cuddle, yet also fiercely independent and adventurous in turn. Don't think this is a complaint. It makes parenting exhausting some days - I never know what will comfort or inspire you. But I see my own contradictions in you, and I feel proud that you are blazing your own path. Hold true to yourself, son. Don't temper any aspect of yourself to please others or make their lives easier.

You are a rock star at daycare. You love your teachers and classmates and I'm rendered speechless hearing you sing songs in Spanish and watching your tiny hands writing out letters in crayons and spelling your name. It seems impossible that the tiny baby I birthed just a few years ago has become the brightest child I've ever met.

You've handled huge transitions in the past few years. One family fell apart, another developed. You've welcomed a new "sister" - the sweetest German Shepard any boy could ask for. "But she's my best friend!" you hollered as you two were separated at nap time, "and I'm her boy!" John came into our lives, and after some jealousy, you've embraced him as your ninja master, "your" John.

When I sing you the lullaby I've sang since you were in my tummy, I smile when I get to the line - "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans". Who knew when I first hummed the John Lennon tune to you, long before I'd even laid eyes on you, how accurate the phrase would be in our crazy little lives?

Our life has not gone as I expected these past years since I last wrote you a letter here. But I hope that you reflect on these early years of your life, and see how the hand of God moves through our lives in beautiful, unexpected ways, to work everything according to His plan.

I love you.

To the moon and back,

Mommy

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dear Larkin,

I don’t know what the weather was like on the day you were born. I was laboring in a room without windows, and I had been there since late the night before. I assume the sun shined, I imagine birds sang. Given that it was September in Houston, I know that it was hot – the kind of heat that you can’t tolerate one second longer, if only because it’s been so hot for so very, very long.

I remember the drive to the hospital. I recall uncertainty; a reluctance to be excited, to anticipate your arrival, because I was unsure if this was just another false alarm. I remember the drive down Hwy 59, silent nervousness punctuated only by Daddy’s occasional chatter, as he fluctuated between insistence that this wasn’t it… and excitement that maybe it was. I zoned out, letting my eyes relax and the oncoming headlights cross into double vision as the street lights flew past the window. I watched absently at the familiar billboards and street signs, and wondered if today would be the day that everything would change. My hand rubbed across my belly as you rolled and tossed inside, poking out a foot, pushing your head, saying a physical hello.

We arrived at the hospital, where Daddy jumped out of the car, leaving all our bags inside. He returned to retrieve them, and then darted towards the lobby, leaving the car keys on the roof of the car. He swore he wasn’t nervous, but his actions betrayed him. My eyes dilated in the glare of the hospital lighting as I started my slow waddle to Labor and Delivery.

Once there, it was confirmed that your arrival was eminent.

There are no rainbows and unicorns in your birth story. But, oh! There were fireworks. My labor was a long, hard road of uncertainty punctuated by fear. But your arrival was an explosion of love and joy and amazement. The sight of you when the doctor held you over that sheet – I have no words. You were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. You made everything okay. Everything. Past, present, future. Everything was made perfect, because it was the path that led to you.

365 days. 8,765 hours. 525,600 minutes.

I don’t know whether to say I can’t believe it’s been a whole year, or to say I can’t believe it’s only been a year.

I keep glancing sentimentally at the clock. A year ago right now, I think, my water had just broken. A year ago right now, we were talking to the doctor. A year ago right now, the nurse was taking measurements and vitals or the epidural was being administered.

A year ago, I didn’t even know who I was waiting for.

And that is the part that astounds me. I HADN’T MET YOU. I’ve only known you for a single year. You, who has become so crucial to my happiness... I only met you one year ago, today. And I still don’t know you, not fully. I don’t know who you are going to become, who you are going to be.

No one does.

Sometimes I wonder at your tiny hands, as I kiss the sweet dimples in your knuckles, and chew on your long chubby fingers to make you giggle. I imagine what those hands will build, what they’ll hold. Will they mold pottery or hold a paint brush; will they wrap around a sports ball or pound away at a keyboard? Will those squishy fingertips grow hard and callused from strumming a guitar or holding a hammer or gripping a surgeon’s scalpel? I wonder how old will you be before they reach out to brush a date’s hand in some movie theater, or get you in trouble passing a note in History class.

And those delicious Play-Doh feet! I dream of where they will guide you, what paths you will walk. Will you chase bad guys or walk the halls of some hallowed Ivy League building? Will you scale mountains in some exotic land or walk the deck of a great ship over a rolling ocean? I kiss the tiny shoeless feet that will one day lead someone you love across a dance floor, and down a wedding aisle, and through a delivery room for the birth of your own miracle.

Maybe you’ll love to read. Maybe our family will take literary-inspired trips together, go see hills like white elephants in Spain, skip stones in Walden Pond, watch Othello at the Globe, trade quips at a round table at the Algonquin. Maybe you’ll love sci fi and silly movies, and we’ll all frequent conventions and dress up and be nerdy together. Maybe you and Daddy will get lost in computer talk and video games, and I’ll have to roll my eyes until you start speaking a language I can understand again.

Maybe you’ll be a big brother; maybe it’ll just be the three of us.

But now you call for me, and I rush to you. Because the future is a beautiful dream full of hope and promise, but the present is the real gift. A soft, sweet babe, still needing his mommy. Still just my little boy, my tiny miracle. Whatever the future hold, little one, I can’t wait to meet you there. And I can’t wait to absorb every moment of the present.

I love you, child.

To the moon... and back,

Mommy

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dear Larkin,

Yesterday, you turned ten months old. It’s so hard to believe that we’re working on planning your first birthday party. I’m constantly wondering how on Earth you’ve grown up so fast. You are a dervish, a whirlwind, a tiny, handsome tornado, leaving fun and exhaustion and destruction in your wake.


And really, you are so handsome. You just keep getting cuter and cuter all the time. Your hair has grown so long in the back and on the sides (although you’re still rocking the receding hairline up top!) and looks so grown up when I can tame it down. Your eyes change colors all the time, just like mine, although they mostly go just from blue to grey. You’re tall and lean and you have the most amazing smile I’ve ever seen. I know you would say that I’m biased, but it’s true. Total strangers stop me all the time to remark on what a gorgeous baby you are. You love to hear these compliments, and never fail to greet one with a big grin. 



Not that you’re ALWAYS happy, of course. In fact, you’ve turned into quite the little drama king. You have started defaulting to your “it’s the end of the world” cry for everything. So basically, I never know if you are crying because your diaper is wet or if a wild boar has snuck in and is chewing your leg off.




As you can tell from the above clip, you’ve started saying “mama”. It typically only comes out while you’re crying or whining, but you’ve said it while happy once or twice. I love it. I love it I love it I love it. I eat it up! And it’s about time too, since you’ve been saying “dada” quite expertly for awhile now. In fact, you’ve been making some great verbal leaps. Besides starting to talk, you also have started understanding us very well. If I ask you where daddy is, you look around in his usual places. When we were going home today from an afternoon out, I told you we were going to see Gaunie and Nana. Your eyes lit up and you asked, “Dada?” “Yes,” I said. “Dada will be there too.” You started clapping happily.

This new understanding has led us to your new favorite game:

video
You could do this for hours!

You’ve also started finger foods this month. Once you allowed me to give you table food, it’s like a light bulb went off – “Oh THIS is what you guys have been trying to convince me is so awesome!” Suddenly, you love food! Just last night, you gobbled up a meal of rice and spinach, some Greek yogurt with mango, two Mum Mum crackers with apple butter, and a fourth of my chicken breast. Then you immediately nursed for a long time! I was super impressed. You love meat, especially chicken and fish, and I still haven’t found much of anything you won’t eat.

You learned to wave this month, and you do so by putting your thumb and forefinger together, then waving from the wrist. It’s adorable, especially when you do it all through the grocery store from your perch in the cart – you look like a beauty queen on a parade float! You also do it in restaurants, waving frantically to everyone who passes, just waiting on a response.

You got to meet your other great grandmother a few weeks ago (Grandpa’s mom). You are such a lucky boy to have THREE great grandmothers who adore you.



This month, I got my first lesson today in the school of "If it's too quiet, they're probably doing something they shouldn't" when I went to throw a load of laundry in, and came back to find you had opened the jar of coconut oil (that I had closed tightly so you could play with it) and was finger painting the wood floor with it. You really are just into EVERYTHING! You’re also very mischievous. I’ve been working hard to lose weight. One day, I went to weigh myself on Gaunie’s large doctor's office-type scale. I set you down on the floor while I climbed on. I pushed the numbers to the area I expected them to stop - but they kept going. Eight, nine pounds past what I weighed last week, and they still did not balance. I started to tear up, and then looked down to check on you – only to find you sitting on the back of the scale. Not cool, little man!

We’ve had an amazing month together. It’s been full of summer time joys, like swimming and hiding out in the cool library. We keep our days full of fun – play dates and story times and visiting with friends. You’ve enjoyed splashing in the pool with your aunt and uncle and cousins, and love that we converted G&G’s game room into a giant play room for you to crawl around and spread your toys around.

This is how you get around with your toys - like a cute little puppy dog!
 

We call this "getting the spirit". You do it frequently.
Apparently, Marvin the Martian is DELICIOUS
This is pretty much the extent of the cuddles I get. Just a quick love, before you pop back up, ready to play more.
I love you so very much, little one. Its late now, and you’re cuddled up in bed, just waiting for me to join you. I think I will right now. 

Mischief managed!


I love you so very much, sweet boy. You are my shining star.

To the moon… and back,

Mommy

PS - Just a few more photos, because you're so cute!