(So … 41. Gah. It’s hard to get worked up about 41, I’m starting to realize. Maybe I should have a laser tag party.)
I just read over my letter to you of a year ago and it seems as though very little has changed. Your hair is longer, although you now let us brush it back into a ponytail each day, which is such a relief: I can see your face (and it is gorgeous, your face), unobstructed by curtains of soccer-sweaty hair. You finished the final book in the Harry Potter series this morning, with no nightmares to report. Although we banned — after too many tear-filled trips to Zellers and too much money spent — any more shopping trips for Pokémon cards, your collection of them has grown anyways, as has your encyclopedic knowledge of each Pokémon’s characteristics, which you recite to me in a way that channels Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, doing that Who’s on First routine. Only with health points and weaknesses. You now have front teeth — wide, white adult choppers that took so long to come in I found myself Googling their absence, only to be told, gently, “Wait, wait.”
Which is funny, given how little the Internet actually does gently.
Wait, wait. Gently. Everything will come to pass at the right time. These are variations on the mantras I recite to myself daily, sometimes hourly. On those weekday mornings when you are not dressed and you haven’t yet eaten and you think that we can cram a game of Pokémon and some soccer into the morning while still making it to school in time for outdoor recess, I breathe and remember to exhale and remind myself that you work best when you come to your own conclusions, move according to your own rhythms. And often as not, if I can just keep breathing and refrain from nagging (too much), you somehow magically move through your routines at warp speed, bending time so that there is time to fit in what you need to fit in before hopping on your bike and streaking off to school, stopping at all the intersections just like you’re supposed to.
And then, when I catch up with you, no matter what else may have happened that morning, even if some nagging did occur, and even if that nagging may have met with some less-than-optimally toned remarks made at higher-than-optimal volume, and even if those remarks were met in turn with … well, you get the idea, you always turn to me with a smile and a hug before running off to join your friends on the soccer field before the bell rings.
And in the evening, after you’re finished your gargantuan snack, after those teeth are finally brushed and you have devoured more of the latest book you're devouring, you still open your arms wide for a cuddle, whisper “I love you,” confide the serious and the lighthearted from your day.
Kid, kid: you’re an intense one. You always have been, sticking to your guns about precisely the way in which you’ll do things. In utero, you were stubbornly breech, your right ear positioned just below my heartbeat. I used to freak out your other mother by trying to turn you, cupping your butt in one hand and your head and the other and wrenching you (gently) down into the position we all knew you were supposed to be in. And then, we would watch you, under the skin of my belly, ratcheting your way back into the position that felt best to you, like a clock going backward in time. And it was hard to feel anything but fondness for your stubborn insistence on being close to my heart. I mean, so what if I had to have a C-section? No biggie.
(Fondness for the stubborn insistence of others, even when it makes you bleed: is that one definition of being a parent? Or just a martyr? Well adjusted, or in need of better boundaries? All of the above, perhaps, depending on the day.)
Rowan, you are a soccer superstar. You picked up piano like it was breathing, and each time you walk by the instrument — the same old Heintzman upright grand I learned to play on — you can’t stop yourself from playing a few bars. You are Pokémon whiz, a voracious reader of selected books, the self-styled third-grade dot-to-dot champion. You have fancy footwork. You’re a good sport, and I think you’re a good friend. Although recently your teacher told me that you and one of your besties got into a disagreement — a misunderstanding, really — and that you both cried. “And when she cried,” you told me, your chin wobbling, “I felt like I was responsible for every bad thing that ever happened to her ever.” And I thought, Honey, it’s not like you two have been married for 17 years. But you feel things so deeply, kid, so, so passionately. You’re neutral about very little, and as much as I recognize that trait in myself, one of my birthday wishes for you is to — absolutely — retain that passion but also, well, just lighten up a bit too, sweetheart.
I mean, you’re only eight.
Jesus Christ: you’re eight! Let’s go out for dinner and order onion rings and double dessert!
I love you —