Wow – what a year it’s been.
I’m so proud of the guy you’ve become, even as I miss the days when I could call you my baby without hearing an indignant retort.
You’re funny and insightful, mature and confident, strong and brave. I love that you’re such a sweet big brother to Tallulah, and I’m so glad you so easily accepted her into your life. I know it’s tough to have to share everything with a new baby, but you’ve handled it mostly with grace and you’ve been a huge help to me during her first year.
You can add and subtract, you can write your name and all the letters and numbers, and you ask us often how to spell words you want to put together in books and notes for friends and family, almost always complete with illustrations. (Many of those, by the way, are safely tucked into a folder in my filing cabinet, creations to be treasured forever and ever.) You’re on the verge of learning to read, and what a world that will open up for you.
I remember taking you to your transitional kindergarten preschool class at the beginning of the year and watching your lip quiver as you tried hard not to cry when I walked away. I felt horrible leaving you there when you so badly wanted to walk away with me, but I hoped this thing that was so hard for both of us was the best thing for you – and I think you would agree everything turned out great.
Some of the teachers at your school urged me to let you out in the drop-off line to avoid the painful farewells but I insisted on taking you directly to your class every day instead simply because you asked me to. I knew you had to decide when you wanted to go it alone and I saw no benefit – and potential harm – in forcing you to do it before you were ready.
Your whole life you have done big new things when you were ready and not a minute before. Take mobility, for example. You didn’t really feel compelled to walk when you were small, but at around 16 months, after pretty much skipping that whole crawling nonsense altogether, you just did it. There had been no real practice runs and there was little hesitation. There were hardly even any stumbles – you just decided to take a few steps, and then a few more and then a few more … And the pacifier that was your constant companion at 6 months became passé at 9 months. I distinctly remember giving it to you as you sat on the floor of our living room and watching as you plucked it from your mouth, gave it a long hard look and then cast it aside, never to ask for it – or even accept it – again.
Anyway, by a couple of weeks into the school year you had made some best pals and you hated to miss class for any reason.
Do you remember the day your dad and I surprised you when you woke up with the news that we were going to the Memphis Zoo, thinking you’d be excited about playing hooky for such a fun outing? You cried and we had to take you to school, delaying our departure until we could pick you up when school was out.
Tallulah and I walked you to your class every day – in rain, shine and the occasional icy parking lot – until sometime in March when you announced out of the blue that you didn’t mind if we just walked you to the front door. I told you goodbye and you gave me a high five and I stood and watched as you climbed the stairs to your room. My heart sagged a little, because I knew you had grown up a little more in that instant, but oh, I felt so proud of you, too, for doing things in your own time, on your own terms.
Every day after that, you wanted to walk in on your own. Sometimes you were so excited to be there that you forgot even to tell me ‘bye. I forgive you though. I’m just glad you were so happy in your surroundings, that you’ve made such good friends, that you like your teachers and that you’re so comfortable in your own skin.
We had a parent-teacher conference in the spring and your teacher raved about you. She said that although you were the youngest in your class, she often forgot that. She enjoyed your sense of humor, she said, and you are wise beyond your years — you “get” things the other kids usually don’t.
Even so, you couldn’t wait to turn 5 so you could be as old as the other kids in your class. The day you turned 5 you wanted to know how long it would be before you turn 6. I can’t seem to convince you that it’s not right to rush these things.
I was asked to “interview” you for a memory book of your class at the end of school year, and your answer about what you want to be when you grow up has garnered a few snickers. You said you wanted to be a “regular person and just live at home.” You later amended your answer to include writing comic books, but that you want to work from home – like I do – so we could be together.
Sure, I could have changed your answer or I could have prompted you to say something else, but I relayed your answer just as you gave it. Because really, I’m OK with that. There are, after all, many worse things that could happen.
You’re 5 and you don’t know all that much yet about the world out there and your place in it. Besides, I know that one day you’ll decide you’re ready to go out and explore it without me. And that, too, as much as it pains me to say, is OK.
I remember my own parents standing in the driveway, watching as I drove away for a college several hours away, and my heart aches as I think about how that must have felt, how that will feel, when you go. But I know you have to. And I hope you’ll know that you can always come home. I hope beyond hope that you’ll come often and stay long.
I’m sorry this letter is so sappy. I bet you hate that. But you’re my firstborn, always my baby, and there are just some things that I want you to know and remember about our early years together.
May your life be filled to the brim with love and laughter. I love you, Beans!