One more…

Dear Monsters,

Parenting can be challenging. Currently, I feel I’m stuck in a vicious cycle of always trying to get you to stop, or start, doing something.

Stop fussing. Stop playing with the light switch during dinner. Stop chasing Dexter around in circles. Stop jumping on the furniture. Stop playing with the chord on the blinds. Stop picking on your sister. Stop overacting to everything your brother says.

Start eating your dinner. Start getting ready when I ask you. Start brushing your teeth. Start being aware of your surroundings. Start chewing with your mouth shut. Start listening to what we’re saying.

I feel like a mob boss, always threatening or bribing to get you to fall in line, with one exception—shows.

When you’re watching something, for the most part, you are angels. Elliott, there are times where even when you’re watching something you can’t sit still. You’ll bounce your knees up and down while pushing off with your arms, trying to do a headstand, over, and over, and over again…

There’s always the initial negotiations about what you’ll watch. Arlo, you always have a suggestion, and Elliott, you’ll basically go along with anything in order to wrap up the decision-making process and start watching something as soon as possible. You typically don’t lobby for movies, instead pushing for shows, which inevitably end with calls of, “One more? One more, PLEASE!?”

Watching shows can be such a great break for all of us. Your Mom and I get time to do work emails, or clean, or do one of the other chores that constantly need to be done, while you guys get to tune out for a while. It’s basically the only time we can convince you to get some downtime, where you aren’t running around like crazy.

Often, when you need a break from each other, I’ll suggest you play quietly by yourselves for a bit. You’ll start off on opposite ends of the room, each muttering off catchphrases and endless lines of dialogue. “Take that,” I’ll hear Arlo mutter, as he bashes his dinosaurs into each other. And then I’ll hear Elliott hosting a dinner party where her dolls are very impressed with someone’s new outfit, “That looks soooo bea-u-tiful.” Three minutes later you’re negotiating over which dresses Elliott’s dolls should wear to ride Arlo’s dragons. Arlo, you typically have very strong opinions about such things. Eventually, there is a disagreement over which doll should wear which outfit, and chaos ensues.

Elliott, you’ll arch your back and bend your mouth up towards the ceiling, looking like a wolf howling at the moon, and sob, “ARLO SAYS MY GIRL CAN’T RIDE HIS DRAGON WHEN SHE’S WEARING THIS DRESS!” Then you’ll cry, and cry, and cry. Arlo, you’ll try to deny you are a fashion dictator, but will eventually cave and admit that you demanded Polly Pocket change into more formal wear before riding Toothless the dragon.

This is why I need shows. On the weekends, after far too many battles, I’ll suggest we watch a show together. Arlo, you typically start out in the sky chair, and Elliott, you sit in the corner of the couch, bouncing. But before long, one of you will come over and cuddle up next to me. Not long after, the other one of you will join us, and I’ll have both of you, one under each arm, quietly snuggling with your heads on my chest. And then, just as we settle in, the show will end. “One more,” I’ll say. 

Love,

Dad

4-9-19

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Roommates…

Up until I was 18-years-old, I had only lived with my parents and two sisters. Then one day I moved out of our family home, and into a college dorm room with three complete strangers. Prior to this move, I knew nothing about them, other than their names and where they were from. We had plenty in common, but at the same time, we were all very different. That said, we all managed to get along for the year.

The following year I moved into a new dorm room with one of the roommates from the year previous year and three new people I had never met. One spent almost all of his free time watching and talking about professional wrestling, while the other was constantly exploring new ways of altering his mind via various over-the-counter substances or plants. It was quite a year, one that left me realizing I should never move in with people unless I knew them first. So from then on, I tried my best to stick to this rule.

When your mom and I first started dating I was living by myself for the first time in my life, and while I enjoyed it, it was short lived. I would soon move in with your Mom and Aunt Kara, and then eventually it was just your me and your Mom. We really liked living by ourselves and decided we’d never have any more roommates.

But nearly two years later, we let someone we’d never met move in with us— Arlo James. Just over two years later, we added a second roommate— Elliott Mae.

Living with you is both extremely fun and incredibly infuriating, often at the same time. Let’s take meals for example…

Getting you both to eat dinner has become such a chore that we created an entire list of rules for dinner time. We set a timer, you have to sit on your knees or butt, and you can’t aggravate your sibling just for the fun of it (Arlo, this rule almost exclusively pertains to you). That is just part of the list. Still, night after night you fuss about what’s served, how you’re not hungry, how you don’t like this food anymore (even though it was your favorite last week)… The list goes on and on. Elliott, you can’t finish dinner within the time limit to save your life, unless it’s pizza. You talk to Arlo non-stop, dance wildly to anything resembling a beat, and toss your body around like a salad.

There are stretches of time where you guys are great roommates, where you play by yourselves, or together for long stretches of time, but those times typically come to a noisy end. Inevitably someone will look at, or think about looking at someone wrong, and the other will throw a fit or fuss, and the party will be over. Or, you’ll get along great and form your own clique within the house, only communicating with each other, blocking us out, and any of our requests to clean up after your last adventure.

You’re both super quirky. I mean, I’ve had some quirky roommates over the years, but you kids take the cake…

Arlo, anytime you get something new, you have to bring it up to bed with you, but you won’t sleep with it, you’ll insist we take the stuffy or toy down and set it in the middle of the dining room table. Then you’ll call down several times to make sure it’s properly placed. Sometimes you’ll even come down to inspect You’ve also had several stages with your blanket. For a while, you had to hold on exactly on a corner, and then you would rub the corner absent-mindedly with your thumb. Then you had the period where you’d store your blanket down your shirt or the stage where it had to be perfectly straight along your body on the bed. Then there was the hair gel phase, where your hair had to be absolutely perfect.

Elliott, for a while, you had to have all of your pacies. You’d have one in your mouth and then would be snuggling a handful of others. Then when you were shorter we had to keep the bathroom cabinet open because you were too short to open it and you needed constant access to go in and look at all your headbands and hair ties. Not try them on, just look at them and know that they were safe.

You both pose before photos. Arlo, your’s is a, “Look, I swear I’m always this sweet,” smile, while Elliott’s is straight out of a fashion model’s playbook, “strike a pose.”

Arlo, you prefer nights, while Elliott, you’re an early riser, although I feel this is starting to change a bit. Arlo, you’ll call down over and over to ask random questions and when you’re not calling down we hear you sounding out some sort of battle, crazy sound effects and all. You told me one night, “I’ve got to get to bed, I’ve got to get this dream started.” Another night this winter I told you that having a fan on for the additional noise was a waste of energy. We’ve had conversations about Global Warming and energy usage, and how some people say Global Warming will lead to the extinction of the polar bears. This must have been where your mind went, because you responded, “Which would you rather have, the polar bears dying, or me yelling down about my fan being on?” Doesn’t matter what we do, I can hear you staying up late, making all kinds of noises, then in the morning, I’m literally having to pull your covers off you to get you going.

Elliott, you typically fall asleep easily, only to wake up bright and early each morning. You’ll come down early and say, “I’m tired of sleeping.” Or routinely you’ll come down in the winter and crawl into bed with me, but when I offer you covers you’ll say, “No, my legs were covered up all night, they’re tired of that!”

You’re both very loud roommates. Arlo, I feel like your decibel level is perfect for a situation where you’re trapped at the bottom of a well and you fear no one is around for miles, but you typically use this tone when we’re all seated at the same table. Elliott, you’re not much better, and our dinner conversation usually consists of you two asking repeatedly if it’s your turn to talk.

Cleanliness is often a big problem with roommates and you two are no exception. You always forget to clean the sinks after you brush your teeth (which can be a big undertaking, depending on the flavor of toothpaste). Arlo, you used to convince Elliott to come to the bathroom with you so you wouldn’t have to be alone. This was never an issue for Elliott, nor was going to the bathroom by yourself, until Arlo convinced you there were monsters behind the shower curtain. Now you require an escort at all times. Arlo, often times, when you’re pooping, your mind starts creating lists and you ask, “What are your three favorite things,” or, “Who are your top four favorite boys on the planet,” or, “What are your ten favorite dinosaurs? Mine are…”

And then, of course, we get to the temperament of the people you live with. It’s nice to live with easy-going people, people who can roll with the punches and adapt to changes. But when you’re 6 and 4-years-old, that’s a tough ask. Change is often greeted with moans and groans, or fits and temper tantrums. Elliott, while you’re traditionally the most easiest going member of the family, you’ve recently hit a wall. Not the walls that you are so often running directly into as you chase Dexter around, or the ones you crash into and bounce off of while you’re dancing to Lady Gaga… This is a metaphorical wall…

We’re not sure what happened, but you used to ask for bedtime or time outs when you needed some quiet time, but now you’ll just go to full-on meltdown over nothing. This is followed by hours of sobs and tearful apologies, and sobs, and then we’ll hit dinner time and it starts all over with the sobs about not wanting to eat. You’ve always been pretty sensitive. If you get a count for something, you’ll go in the corner and pout. Arlo, you had a similar stage, but you seem to be coming out the other end, although sometimes you antagonize your sister rather than help pull her out of those moods, but hey, what are big brothers for?

You’re both very sweet. Elliott, when we have people over you ask them if you can take their coats or get them anything to drink, you’re quite the hostess.

Thankfully our house is big enough for you guys to spread out and get some space from one another when you need it, but most of the time you prefer to play together, creating imaginary worlds out of the couch cushions, or under the dining room table. You’re such imaginative and sweet children, your Mom and I love you both so much, but I have to say, you can be terrible roommates.

Love,

Dad

4-6-19

Pretend I write every week…

Hello my little munchkins,

It’s been a while since I last wrote, and there is a direct correlation between the lack of letters and the increase in the time it takes to parent you two. So much has changed since I last wrote. Arlo, you started Kindergarten. Elliott, you started Pre-K. You’ve both grown so much. You both love school a lot, but while one of you is on a mission to master water-color paints, the other is on a quest to capture the hearts and minds of everyone in his class.

At a recent parent-teacher conference, Elliott, your teacher raved about your paintings and how attentive you were to everything going on in the classroom. Arlo, your teacher said you had become a model student, always raising your hand and not interrupting, qualities you obviously exhaust at school. Your teacher spoke about how all the kids in class listen to you, something we heard last year in Pre-K, “He can get the entire class to act out a game he’s making up on the spot. He’s giving people roles and lines, and they’re all following his lead. It’s quite impressive he can lead an entire classroom.” Your Kindergarten teacher expressed a similar thought, “It’s really great he’s such a good role model for good behavior, because he could lead a revolt if he wanted to, and the whole class would follow.”

Your imagination is incredible, Arlo, and Elliott, you add color to his creations every step of the way. If I had a penny for every time I heard, “Pretend that you’re…” or “Pretend that I’m…” I would be a multi-millionaire.

The two of you will play together without stopping, without a break in the conversation, for hours. You’ll put on plays (where people have an odd tendency to get stabbed at the conclusion), you’ll create forts and storefronts, or zoos filled with stuffed animals, or where one of you is the animal and the other the keeper. You’ll have singing competitions with dolls, and dinosaurs, or do dino experiments together. You host tea parties, art galleries, you go shopping as a family or spend time parenting and mimicking all of your parents’ threats… The list of scenarios you create together is endless. At times, Elliott, you will be playing in one corner of a room with your dolls, and Arlo, you’re playing with dinosaurs in a different corner. Gradually you come together in the middle of the room and your two worlds collide seamlessly as princess and dragons and dinosaurs play together happily ever after.

You’re both dreamers, your minds always racing with visions of the future, scenarios or skits. You’ll randomly just break out of a deep trance to announce one of your daydreams, which are often telling of your distinct personalities.

One day, Elliott, you announced, “When I have kids, I”m going to wear high heels.” Arlo, you’ll routinely ask for quiet in the car so you can dream, then you’ll go into a spacey-trance and daydream to your heart’s content. There are often a lot of sound effects that accompany your daydreams, especially at night. Recently you told me, “Goodnight Dad,” and then you were quick to get me out of your room, a rarity. “I really have to get this dream started,” and as I walked down the stairs a battle broke out in your mind, as the sounds of sword and laser fights poured from your lips.

It’s funny to hear the ways your minds work. Arlo, often when you’re sitting on the toilet you’ll get quiet for a moment, then you’ll call out, “What are your three favorite things?” Or, “What are your top three favorite animals?” If I complete my lists too quickly, you’ll move the goal post, “No, no! Top five favorite animals? Mine are snow tiger, cheetah…”

Recently from the back seat, while gazing out at the city, Elliot, you said, “I can’t believe they built all these houses. The apes got smarter and smarter, and they built all of this.” This statement was obviously tied into a conversation you’d had with your mother about evolution, a conversation you’d been deep in thought about for a while, imagining apes with hammers and driving dump trucks.

We just wrapped up Christmas, and while I expected the normal chaos of the last few years, I was surprised that you were both super sweet, thanking us repeatedly for gifts, helping each other set up and play with new toys, sharing without fuss. There were no gimmies, or disappointed pouts. Arlo, you had a list of what you wanted and you walked Santa through it at the mall in great detail. Elliott, you were quite clear you didn’t want anything for Christmas, stating you didn’t really know what you were into, so you didn’t need anything. When people asked what you wanted, you replied, “nothing,” or influenced by Mariah Carey, you’d respond, “All I want for Christmas, is you-ooouu-oouuuu. I just want my family” So you were shocked and gratefully to find that you did indeed have presents waiting for you under the tree, even after you asked for nothing. Even in your worlds, you can’t make this stuff up.

While your imaginations are fantastic, breaking you away from your imaginary worlds to get ready for school or bedtime can often be difficult. There are fits and timeouts, and sometime’s, you’ll wrap up without a fuss. While I’ve done my fair share of daydreaming, I could’ve never imagined what being a parent was truly going to be like. You’re so sweet, and wonderful, and maddening, and adorable. Every day is something different with you two, and I wouldn’t imagine it any other way.

Love,

Dad

12-27-18

Fairies and bunnies and leprechauns, oh my…

Hello my little monsters,

If you should ever decide to become a parent, you’ll be faced with a never-ending list of choices for how to raise your children. What school should they go to? How do you discipline them when they’re not listening to you? And of course, what do you tell them about mythological creatures who supposedly enter your home in the middle of the night to leave them candy or other goods?  The latter is a question we’ve been dealing with a lot lately.

A few weeks ago, Arlo, you discovered one of your teeth was loose. You spent a good deal of time wiggling it back and forth and questioning all of the older kids in the neighborhood about how many teeth they’d lost. At one point you asked about the tooth fairy.

“What happens when I lose my tooth?” you asked.

“That’s a great question. I imagine the tooth fairy comes in while you’re sleeping and leaves you some amount of money while trying not to wake you up,” I responded, looking to your Mom for feedback on my description.

A few days later it was St. Patty’s Day, and Arlo, you decided to see if the neighbors were home to play. You’d only been gone a few minutes when you burst back through the front door.

“Aren’t they home?” I asked.

“They are, but a leprechaun snuck into their house and left Quinn a flute and some candy! I need to look around!”

“No leprechaun came by our house, sorry buddy.”

“How do you know? Quinn said it was hidden. I have to search the house!”

Somehow I was able to convince you rather quickly that a search of our home wouldn’t turn up anything other than some misplaced toys, so you returned to your playdate.

A few weeks later some people knocked on the door dressed in their finest church clothes and said, “We wanted to invite you to the memorial this Sunday.” Before I had a chance to ask who it was for, a young boy handed me a flyer and his mother, reading my clueless expression, added, “It’s for Jesus Christ.”

When I closed the door you both asked, “What was that about.”

I responded, “Remember when we said some people believe in God? Well, some people believe he had a son, and Easter is a celebration for him.” I knowingly left out the part about him being crucified and then rising from the dead because I would frankly have no clue how to answer your legitimate questions about this event.

“Oh,” you both shrugged, and then you ran away to continue building a fort.

The night before Easter Arlo asked, “Does a bunny really drop off our Easter baskets, or is it just a guy in a bunny costume?”

“It’s a bunny,” I answered, but my mind immediately became focussed on how creepy it would be if it were a man in a suit. Your Mom and I both agreed we wouldn’t do anything to keep up this charade. If you ask the truth, it’s yours.

For Easter, we had most of the family over, and Elliott, for the first time you became obsessed with chocolate in the form of Kit-Kats. You uncharacteristically ate a lot of sweets and then completely crashed, but just like the man for whom the holiday is for, you rose again and found your second wind just before bedtime. 

During the festivities, Arlo, you lost your first tooth or rather had it expertly torn out by Andy. At bedtime, there was a quick panic that the tooth fairy wouldn’t find your white tooth on your white sheets, so I grabbed a pen and a pad of paper. In my mind, I would write, “Here’s the tooth,” with an arrow, and leave both on your bedside table, but you had another idea.

“Oh good, we’re going to leave a note? Okay,” You said. “Write…”

“Tooth Fairy,
What do you do with the tooths? Do you dress them up like little dolls? My name is Arlo, I am 5 years old. This is my first tooth that I lost. Happy Easter. What is your name Tooth Fairy? Did you have a good Easter? How old are you Tooth Fairy? I’ll see you when my other tooth falls out. Bye Tooth Fairy.

Love,
Arlo”

P.S.- I play dollhouse and dress up with Elliott. Do you have kids? How old are they?”

I had no clue how to respond to why a Tooth Fairy collects teeth, but luckily your Mom told me to Google it. We stuck with the age-old, yet disgusting tale that the Tooth Fairy collects teeth to give to babies, who need them to eat food… Shockingly, for a little man with a thousand questions, you had your Mom read you the Tooth Fairies’ response, and that was it. You told people you got a dollar and a note, but asked no further questions about the 137-year-old Tooth Fairy with two helpful kids who left you some cash in exchange for a tooth she planned to recycle.

Life is filled with mysteries, some more exciting and interesting than others, but none more entertaining than parenthood.

I love you both so much.

Love,
Dad

4-10-18

Fear Factor

Hello, my little Monsters, 

As a kid, I had a healthy amount of fear. Some of it stemmed from watching scary movies. Some of it stemmed from childhood anxiety and the uncertainty of life as a kid. And some of stemmed from a fear of getting in trouble. 

I wasn’t scared of my Dad, but when my sisters and I acted up and pushed it too far, his raised voice, typically spoken through clenched teeth (a trait I somehow inherited and have passed down to you, Arlo), would instill the fear of God into us. When this happened we fell into line. We listened. We did as we were told.

I, for some reason, do not seem to possess the ability to put the fear of God into you. Perhaps it’s because you don’t believe in God…

On a recent drive home, Elliott, you asked your Mom several times to tell you a story about what happened to the dinosaurs. You thought Mom did such a great job, that just after she finished, you would ask her for the story again. Each time your Mom offered a little more detail until she eventually reached a part in the story where after a large meteor killed most of the dinosaurs on Earth, the remaining organisms eventually evolved into other species. Over time we got monkeys, then after even more time, monkeys evolved into humans. 

Being that your Mother is nothing, if not thorough, she decided at this time to tell you about religion. 

“Not all people think we evolved from monkeys.” She added.  “Some people think we came from someone who lives in the sky named God.”

This started a series questions from you, Arlo.

“Why do they believe that?”

Your Mom tried to be very neutral in her answers, explaining religion and beliefs, where I was a little more cut and dry.

“Because they believe what they read in this really old book called the Bible,” I said. 

“What do you guys believe?”

“We believe in evolution,” your Mom responded. 

“Why?”

“Because we believe in science and facts,” I responded.

“You’re being a bit one-sided,” your Mom said to me.


“No, I’m not, I’m being completely transparent. There are no facts to support the Bible’s claim that the world is only 6,000-years-old, but there are facts to support it’s actually much older…”

Your Mom then explained how people believe in many different Gods, to which you asked, “Are God’s real?”

“Some people believe they are,” Replied your Mom, while I responded, “No.”

“Wait, wait… Is Wonder Woman real?”

“No,” responded your Mom.

“Then Gods aren’t real! Because in the Wonder Woman book the Gods give Diana her powers, and if Wonder Woman isn’t real, then neither are the Gods.”

So it’s settled. 

Without the fear of God, you both tend to be less fearful, and thus it’s more difficult to get you to listen to me…

A few weeks ago you were both in the bathtub, playing together and being super sweet to each other (which is somewhat of a rarity lately), so I decided to let you soak while I cleaned the kitchen. A short time later I heard hysterical laughing, followed by a shriek of, “My toy fell in the toilet!” I walked into the bathroom to find the floor and all the rugs incredibly soaked, Elliott’s toy in the toilet, and wash rags stuck high above in the shower curtain. 

I was not happy. I yanked you both out of the tub and began explaining how you both knew better than to splash like this, and how disrespectful it was. I was talking loud, I had clenched teeth, and you were both silent with a look on your face that said you knew you’d screwed up, you’d taken it too far. Then, Elliott, you let out a huge fart… 

A smile slowly crept across your face and you turned your head to see if Arlo had noticed. He had. He cracked a big smile and when you made eye contact, you both burst into laughter. I followed suit. I’d lost the battle. 

Arlo, you’ve recently started having a different type of fear. Each morning you get fearful your hair isn’t just right before school. Your Mom said you told her that’s why you’ve started wearing the hood on your sweatshirts. But for the past few weeks, you’ve had me wage a war against your cowlicks with a healthy amount of water and a brush. Once I get it all slicked down, making you like a character from The Outsiders, you look in the mirror, smile, and say, “Oh yeah, just the way I like it.”

Elliott, you have a different fear lately. You’re fearful of not listening and being fussy. Last week you were tired, it was a “no-nap day”, which are typically tough days for you, and you were melting down. You wouldn’t listen, so you got a timeout. On the way up to the timeout you broke down into tears and cried, “I’m so sorry! I was good for Grammy today, but I’m fussy for you! I want to be easy for you too!”

There have been some tough times lately, but I still love you both, and thankfully your Mom and I are occasionally able to find humor in these unfunny times. We recently sat outside your room, Arlo, laughing hysterically as you threw a fit and tried your best to get us to come into your room during a timeout. 

“Guys? Guys? Are you there? What was that? Are you laughing? Why are you laughing? Mom? Mom? MOOOOMMMM? I found your phone. Your phone is in here! Your phone is in here and it has something on it!” We couldn’t stop laughing. “I’m dying!” you called out in desperation. It didn’t work, you severed your timeout in isolation and then laughed about it later. Now, this has become one of your Greatest Hits and since you know it made us laugh, you play it often.  

Unfortunately, I fear these fussy and disorderly times are not going to end anytime soon… God(s) help us all. 

I love you tons and tons, 

Dad

3-9-18

Just the tip of the iceberg…

Arlo James,

One night while I was going to the bathroom, you pulled up next to me at the toilet. Looking over you asked, “Dad, why do people have different types of penises? You and some of the kids at my school have one type, and mines like… longer at the tip and looks different.”

As we crawled into your bed for the night, I told you about circumcision and how some kids have the skin around the tips of their penis removed at birth. 

“People do that right after babies are born? Like right after?” You asked, completely shocked. 

“Not right away, but probably within the first day, they cut the skin off.”

You jumped up and wrapped both arms around my neck. “Thank you so much for not doing that to me daddy!”

You squeezed me so tightly and it felt like your first true moment of gratitude. 

You had more questions about the procedure and why people choose to do it or not. I told you a lot of people do it simply because it was done to them, but doctors don’t think it’s truly necessary anymore, so I didn’t want to do it to you. 

“Because you didn’t want to hurt me?” 

“Yeah, I didn’t want to cause you any pain if I didn’t have to.”

Another hug and sincere thank you. 

I wish it was going to be that easy to protect you from all of life’s unnecessary pain, but I simply won’t be able to. You’ll love and experience heartbreak. You’ll lose people you care about. You’ll grow up and learn more about racism, sexism, global warming, and a number of other extremely hard to swallow realities. But for now, your life is simple, and it was simply sweet to hear how grateful you were to be granted a little extra skin in the game so early on in life.

Love you so much,

Dad

1-17-18

Changing Characters

My little Monsters,

Every October 31 we dress up as our favorite movie, book, and superhero personalities, but these character’s origin stories are nowhere near as interesting as the episodes that play out with the two of you on a daily basis. 

This year we all decided we would be variations of outfits featured in the Lego Batman Movie. Arlo, you decided right away that you would be scuba batman. So one weekend I spray painted a two-liter bottle silver, put bat symbols on it, and attached ropes for a breathing tube and shoulder harnesses. You decorated your clothes with blue construction paper and a very healthy amount of Scotch tape to replicate a Batman you’d seen in one of your books. A few weeks before Halloween and your costume was finished. 

You spent the rest of the day wearing the outfit before deciding it wasn’t very good. You got sad and worried your taping skills would make your costume look “stupid.” So we turned to the internet for more costume ideas. You saw a picture of Electro Batman and decided that was who you wanted to be. So the next weekend we set out to work on making your costume. Once everything was all designed and cutout, simply awaiting glue, you decided you wanted to be Metallo. The Metallo costume was planned out in just enough time for you to change your mind again… We eventually bought a Black Panther costume. 

Elliott, you were sold on Fairy Batman and were very excited to wear a pink tutu, fairy wings, and spray-painted pink Batman mask. 

The morning following trick-or-treating, you both wanted a sweet treat after breakfast. I said you could have a piece, but only one. I meant, one that morning. You both interpreted it to mean only one piece and no more, ever, but shockingly you were both okay with it. Elliott, you’re still not too big into sweets, so you ate some M&Ms and called it good, not even finishing the bag. Arlo, you unloaded your basket and carefully inspected each piece, demanding detailed explanations of each candy and what it tasted like and my historical experience of eating it. 

You eventually decided on Skittles and separated them into small color-ordinated piles. 

“These are delicious,” you ranted. “I made the right choice.” 

Around this time, with all the spooky houses in the neighborhood, death must have been on your minds, because on a trip home, Arlo, you asked out of the blue, “Mom and Dad, when you die, do you want to be put in the ground or burned up?”

“Burned up,” your Mom replied. 

“Me too,” I added.

“Elliott, what about you? Do you want to be set on fire, or put in the dirt by yourself?”
“Set on fire,” Elliott calmly replied. 

So now we know where everyone stands on this topic. 

We carved pumpkins as always this Halloween season. Arlo, you wanted yours to have a Nightwing symbol. Elliott, you wanted yours to feature a banana. One of the pumpkins we carved was actually grown right outside our front door. Returning from pumpkin carving last year, Arlo put a few seeds in the ground to grow a pumpkin and one actually sprouted and grew a to the size of a soccer ball. 

You both still love to play dress up, but we’ve also reached a point where you often turn into characters that seem more like villains. You’ll run around screaming, not listening, shoving each other and swearing it’s all fun and games, only to have both of you erupt into tears the moment someone gets physically or emotionally hurt. 

No superhero story is complete without its tales of how our hero struggles internally with questions of good vs evil, and Arlo, lately your story is no different. You’ve really been pushing it lately and seeing what you can get away with. It’s incredibly frustrating, but then the next day you’re as sweet as can be. The villain turns his back to the dark side, and in the end, saves the day. But then the next day, however, the force is strong and lures you back to the dark side. 

You’ll completely zone out and block out our voice, doing anything but what we’ve asked. We’ve instituted some new rules and one the first day you were starting to get it. That night after struggling to get you to brush your teeth I asked you to put on your pajamas. You started to, but then you stood up and walked away, “I’m going to pick out a book.” You walked over to your books with your pants off and sat down. 

“What did I ask you to do?” I asked. “Stay on task!”

You quickly went back to putting on your pajamas. “What’s this called again?”
“Staying on task,” I replied.

“MOM!” you yelled down from your room. “I’m staying on task!”

You really like learning and using new words and phrases, even if you have no clue what they mean. Recently you heard some older kids yell, “Psych!” For the next few days, you would say, “You’re a psych!” Then there was an awkward few weeks where you kept misusing the word awkward over and over again.

And then there’s been your run in with four-letter words…

“And then the trouble really started when Floyd’s favorite shoe got stuck in the tree,” I read one night.

“Awe, fuck.” You replied, in an extremely empathetic tone.

When I looked at you, the look of focus dripped away from the story and panic set in. You knew you’d said something wrong, but weren’t sure what. “What, what does that mean?” We went over this last year when you said it for the first time, claiming, “A friend at school says it all the time and they don’t get in trouble.” 

When I was your age, I was playing spaceships with Aunt Tricia when she called out, “There’s a meteor coming!” To which I appropriately responded, “Oh shit!” I wasn’t in school at the time, so there are only two people who could’ve taught me that word. When Big Papa, one of the suspects, got home from work that evening, he washed my mouth out with soap. When he asked what I had to say for myself, I responded, “Thank you.” He said he felt terrible after that, so I try to keep that story in mind anytime you swear. 

Sometimes you’ll walk up and say sorry out of the blue. “For what?” I’ll ask.

“I was just about to say fuck,” you’ll respond. 

But it’s not all challenges. You’re incredibly funny, Arlo. We were recently getting into our car when someone pulled up next to us blaring a really gritty hip-hop song. 

“Can we play that song in our car?” You asked. “It sounds good to me and makes me want to dance!”

You both know far too many Big Papa lyrics and Arlo, you’ll often yell, “I’ve got my hand in the air, cause I’m a true player.” Or, “Dad, you’re broke and I’m so paid.”

Elliott, you’re incredibly sweet and love your brother so much that most of the time you will agree with him or share anything with him, even if you don’t want to, just because you want to make him happy.  We’re teaching you that it’s okay to say no. You love building forts and playing pretend with Arlo. You two will play pretend for hours. He’ll create this long and complicated storyline and you’ll be there every step of the way, adding details and suggesting costume changes any chance you get.  

You love to play pretend with your mom too. You’ll tell your Mom, “Act sad!” Your Mom will puff up her lower lip and say, “Aweeee.” You pet her face and say, “Be happy!” You carry on like this for awhile, having her act devastated just so you can brighten her day. 

You’re also incredibly funny, at times without knowing it. You’re still convinced you need to go to the dentist anytime your belly hurts and you have a very funny relationship with toothpaste. You’ll only use one type, and as soon as you’re done you start chugging water and spitting in a manner that resembles a water balloon with a small puncture. Then you turn and ask, “Do my teeth look sparkly?”

Your love for dresses has evolved into a crazy stage where you’ll only wear one of three dresses. Every day you go on a search for one of the dresses and completely meltdown if they’re all in the laundry. Now you even want to wear dresses and skirts to bed.

When your Mom wears a fancy outfit you are very complimentary and ask her detailed questions about where she got it, leading your Mom to joke that you really want a fancier mother. When birthday shopping for your Mom you helped me pick out a pair of earrings.

“I like these because they’re nice, but not too fancy. Mama doesn’t like things that are too fancy.”

Your Mom’s hypothesis held up when I asked if you wanted to help me pick out an outfit one weekend. You riffled through my closet of plaid flannels and picked out one of my few dress shirts. Then a few days later when I was wearing a new sweater, you responded, “You look nice Daddy. I like your outfit.”

You’re brave, but not fearless. You’ll hide in a dark bathroom during a game of hide-and-go-seek, but you’ll still cower at the sight of a Disney villain. 

Every character has a story, and stories evolve over time. I feel lucky to be a part of yours’ every single day, during the good plot twists and the bad, and through everything else that life will throw your way.

I love you both so very much.

Love,

Your Dad

11-30-17