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

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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

Where’s my baby girl?

Elliott Mae,

I saw an article the other day aimed at father’s wanting to raise their daughters to be strong young women. And since I am one of those fathers, I decided to read the article. Right off the bat, I was cracking up as the author insisted dads should let their daughters wear what they want, and not try to make them always dress up in dresses and other girly outfits. For the first few years of your life, you did wear a lot of your brother’s hand-me-downs, but as soon as you were old enough to protest, protest you did. You asserted your strong female voice to tell us you did not want to wear T-shirts anymore, “Princesses don’t wear T-shirts!” From that day on, you only wanted to wear dresses, and under no circumstances did you want your hair pulled back into a pony tail.

While your brother spent what felt like a full year in pajamas, you’ve taken to picking out a dress every morning after you wake up and you get a bit grumpy if you don’t change pretty quickly. Dresses every day, constantly pushing your hair out of your face as you run around the house. In fact, the first morning I’ve seen you wearing a t-shirt in over three months was on the day of your third birthday party, but you did change many times into several different dresses before the party started.

Because your Grammie and Grandpie were going to be gone on your birthday, we had your party a few days early. This threw you for a bit of a loop. The day after your birthday party, and the day before your birthday, I asked, “Can you believe you’re going to be three tomorrow?” To which you responded, “I already had my birthday.” I told you about the travel and the early party, to which you questioned, “So I get two birthdays?” The morning of your special day I wished you a Happy Birthday, to which you casually responded, “Oh yeah, it’s my second birthday.”

For you Birthday all you really wanted was a pink cake with strawberries, so that’s what your Mom made you. You were very fixated on the cake, but once it arrived you only ate the frosting. You constantly beg for desserts, but rarely eat them. When we get ice cream you take tiny licks, letting most of it melt all over your hands and typically throw it away with less than a quarter eaten.

Of course, I can’t believe you’re already three, or how much you’ve changed. The gap in your teeth is gone, but the adorable inflection in your voice remains. Although lately, it’s turned into the quintessential toddler wine, “But Ma-maaaa, Dad-deeee.” You still give amazing hugs, tightly wrapping your arms around my neck while lifting and squeezing your legs up around my ribcage. You’re really tall for your age, nearly as tall as a lot of the kid’s in Arlo’s Pre-K class, who are nearly two years older than you. Maybe because of this added height, you’re a bit clumsy. Your legs are still constantly covered in scraps and bruises, sometimes from the wrestling your brothers and other boys in the neighborhood (did I mention how tough you are?), other times the result of you tripping over your own feet as you attempt to jet around the house.

You’re still unbelievably sweet, most of the time. You crawl into bed with us in the morning, wiggle up close and say in your little growl, “Snuggle!” You have a tremendous giggle and each night when I put you to bed you still ask for “beard scratches.” This term used to mean you wanted to scratch my chin, but now it’s evolved into when my beard tickles you when I give you zerberts and kisses on your neck.

You’ve got a really funny smirk you deliver when you’re trying to be sneaky, which also means you have no poker face. You love your Grandparents so much, and really look forward to your days with them, and then your afternoons with your brother. You are unbelievably sweet with Arlo and nothing makes you happier than when he wants to play with you. Just the other night you excitedly told you Mom, “Arlo is playing with me and being so nice!” When you were opening presents on your birthday you asked, “All of these are for me?” You immediately started sharing your new toys with your brother. You love playing with him and often all we hear is growling, laughter, running, laughter, a crash, more laughter which quickly turns to tears, then almost instantly back to laughter, more running, a crash… For the most part, you can’t get enough of him. 

We can’t get enough of you. You’re quite the Sweat Pea, as your Mama calls you. I can’t believe my baby girl is no longer a baby, but I love watching you grow up into such a funny and sweet little girl.

Happy Birthday!

Love,

Dad

Sept. 13, 2017

1,828 Trips Around The Sun

Arlo James,

In just under 8 hours you’ll have been on this planet for five years. I can’t honestly explain what your birth has meant to me, how it changed me for the better, or how unbelievably much I love you, but I hope years from now as you read these letters, that sentiment will come across to you clearly. 

You’re an unbelievably sweet boy. So much so that when I tell you, “Arlo Jame, you’re my favorite boy on the planet,” you’ll often scold me and tell me it’s not nice to have favorites, I should like everyone equally. Of course, you fail to realize this sometimes with your sister, but more often than not you love her deeply and stick up for her if needed. 

This summer I was driving home from picking up a pizza and when I  pulled into the driveway I saw the neighbor boys running around with another boy I’d never seen. But then at second glance, I realized the long-legged skinny boy was you.

The visual image of you that I hold in my head no longer matches the little man standing in front of me. You’ve stretched out, in the process losing your belly and turning into a tall and well-spoken boy. Today you’re turning five, and you’re everything you’d expect from a five-year-old boy. 

You’re funny in your actions, mannerisms, and the things you say. One day out of nowhere you asked me, “Hey Dad, how’s business.” I laughed and said, “Fine, how’s business for you?” You swung your arm around like you were giving it the old college try and responded through hysterical chuckles, “Business is veeerrryyy serious.” You’ll also narrate our Lego battles, telling me who should say what, and then what their response should be. You already have the gift of a Hollywood-action-movie writer, constantly instructing me to spit out catch-phrases and cheesy one-liners. 

You’re sweet, playing with your sister and leading her on countless adventures and stories you’ve made up for the two of you. And if she gets a new toy, or finds one you haven’t seen in awhile, you’re always quick to work up a story line she’s interested in, while making sure to write yourself a major part in the plot.

You’re also a boy, so you’re often struggling to keep your hands to yourself, or struggling to listen to instruction, but mainly you’re struggling to listen to instructions about keeping your hands to yourself. 

You have an incredible imagination and we can hear you in bed at night or on the couch playing through some scenario you’ve cooked up in which you’re batman, or a ninja, or some combination of superheroes you’ve invented. You make all sorts of crazy sound affects and your Mom and I often try to sit as close as we can to listen in to the action, chuckling at your airplane noises and explosions. Often times you catch us and then give us roles in your play. Typically I’m instructed to hold guys and repeat lines as you feed them to me, and then you blow up the guy I’m holding. I grab another guy and repeat.  

This week you’ll also be starting pre-k for the second time. You’ve always been right of the cusp of whether or not you’d start kindergarten at five, but last spring we decided to hold you back since you were nearly a year younger than everyone else in your class and seemed like you’d benefit from another year with multiple teachers. I’m happy since it means you’ll live at home for one more year of your life, but you’ll have to check in with me in 12 years to see if I’m still happy about it then. 🙂 You, on the other hand, weren’t very excited about our decision, not wanted to be left behind by your friends..  But then you discovered a group of girls from your summer camp were going to be in your class, and suddenly all was right with the world. 

You’re a clever boy, wise beyond your years. I can’t wait to see what this year holds for you. And the year after that, and the year after that… I know I’m not supposed to say it, but you truly are, and always will be my favorite boy on the planet. 

I love so much, Arlo James,

Dad

8-28-17 

Change sucks…

Elliott Mae,

We got busy with life and you grew up right before our eyes. In our defense, you were constantly hiding behind a pacie, but those days are gone. That’s right, you finally gave up your pacie, and your Mom and I agreed it’s totally bitter sweet. It’s great you no longer need one, but the fact that you no longer need one means you’re getting so big!

You’ve had a funny relationship with your pacie. From the time you could talk you were always concerned with their whereabouts, even if you didn’t need one right at that moment. Often you’d be strolling around the house with one in your mouth and another one or two in your hands along with your blankets. I joked with your Mom last night that I didn’t know what you were going to talk about anymore since you’re usually talking about your pacie, the location of your other pacies, or the various dream pacies your brother has promised to buy for you. There’s the green one, the yellow one, the rainbow one…

From the get go you always had a green baby pacie that you called your lellow pacie. Once the green ones went away, we had some blue ones, but one, in particular, became the clear favorite because it was the squishiest. This pacie became known as “the squishy pacie.” While it was the one one you would use, you still needed your other pacies around to hold, even in bed. The other night you saw a picture of your old green pacie and you literally broke down into tears about not having it anymore and how sad it made you. You told us, “It made me so sad,” with your lower lip stuck out as far as you could possibly make it go. 

Considering how much you seemed to love your pacies, the plan to get rid of them was quite rushed. We’d started warning you they were going away, but one Sunday morning your Mom just decided we should do it and get it over with, so we did.

She told you there were only so many pacies in the world, and that it was time to give up your pacies to a new baby. Your Mom’s cousin in Michigan had just had a baby, so we told you we were sending the pacies to the tiny new baby. You love babies, so you agreed. 

Your Mom sent out a text message to all the Grandparents to let them know: Heads up grandparents- Elliott gave all her pacifiers to her cousin baby Madelyn Claire. (Mom you will have to get rid of yours before she sees it) Sorry we did it on a Sunday 🙂 good luck to all! It should hopefully only be a week of hell 🙂

I was out running errands when I got the message and told your Mom that we should make sure we get a picture of the baby with a blue pacie as soon as possible. You’re Mom responded with a picture of a baby she found on the Internet with a blue pacie, the note said, “I thought of that. Any baby pic, she doesn’t know the difference.” And she was right, that night you giggled at the picture of the baby who you thought was Madelyn Claire sucking on your pacie, but was realistically the result of a Google search for a baby with a blue pacifier.

You went to sleep with minimal fussing and only changed your mind about sending away your pacies a few times. This morning you woke up happy and had a big smile on your face. I told you how proud I was of you and you smiled an even bigger, brighter smile. It was a beautiful smile, not obstructed from view by a pacifier.

I love you so much,

Dad

8-14-17

Great Expectations 

Arlo and Elliott,

When I found a positive pregnancy test in my Christmas stocking more than five years ago, I knew I was going to be a dad, but that’s about it. Before you have kids, you have no clue what to expect. People think they know, but nothing can prepare you for the crazy world of being a parent. 

If you ever have kids, the best advice I can give you is to not have unrealistic expectations for your first handful of years as a parent. When you were each born, this took me some time to digest. I would plan camping trips, or hikes, or to take you to the movies, but I would forget to plan around naps, how you both despise long car rides, and that although you love to watch movies, movie theaters freak you both out. Parenting is a non-stop exercise in setting realistic expectations. 

Each holiday season I get excited to go pick out a Christmas tree and decorate it as a family, but I totally forget about the reality of this event. I forget that there is arguing over whose ornaments are whose, and who gets to put which ones on the tree. I forgot that only the lower third of the tree gets decorated due to your height restrictions and that you redecorate that space every morning. I also forget that I have to routinely remind you both that the watermelon Christmas ornament—which is made out of some weird fiberglass-ish styrofoam-like material—is in fact not a real piece of watermelon. To date, I think you’ve both tried to eat it on several occasions.

This year I walked into the living room and found you, Arlo, sitting by the tree, spitting something into your hand. You claimed it was nothing, but after noticing what looked like small strips of brown plastic in your hand, and then noticing the plastic gingerbread man ornament was laying nearby, I decided to investigate. Once I picked it up, it was immediately obvious it had recently been in someone’s mouth, not just from the slobber, but also the new bite marks from where you’d obviously tried to eat it.  

This year we introduced a new tradition, The Elf on the Shelf, and just like most other aspects of parenting, it didn’t quite go the way we expected. The Elf comes with a book that explains each day the Elf watches your actions, then springs to life each night to go to the North Pole to report to Santa Claus. We named the Elf, Gus. 

“Really?” Arlo asked in an incredibly serious tone. “Mom, he comes to life each night?”

“Yes,” your Mom responded, trying not to laugh at how serious you’d become. 

You hoped off the couch and approached Gus as he sat on top of the fireplace.

“Really? He can really come to life?” Then talking to Gus, you called out, “Can you come to life now? PLEASE!? Really, can you really come to life now?!”

Each morning you’re supposed to wake up and go find where the Elf had stowed itself away for the day. Elliott, you’re currently an early riser, but Arlo, you tend to sleep in an hour or so longer. But with the addition of Gus, you were both waking up at 5 or 5:30, calling out first thing in the morning, “Where’s GUS?!” Then you would both run down the stairs to find him. And if that wasn’t enough, we’d hoped we could blackmail you into good behavior with the threat that Gus would tell Santa the dirt he’d collected on you, but that didn’t work either.

“GUS, close your eyes, Gus!” you would yell, Arlo, prompting Elliott to call out the same, as you both ran in circles chasing the dog with your shopping cart and baby stroller. “Don’t tell us on us, Gus, we want presents!” 

Somehow you lured Gus to your side, and just like that, he was nothing more than a 5am wake-up call. 

I took a week off around the holidays to spend time with you, but that time got off to a rocky start when  Arlo got the stomach bug and then I spent the early hours of Christmas morning hunched over the toilet.

Christmas was still a lot of fun, but here’s some advice for when you have kids, have plenty of batteries and super glue on hand for Christmas morning. In fact, this is great advice for anytime you have young kids. If you can whip out a battery and bring something to life or back from the dead, or quickly superglue something back together, you’ll undoubtedly save yourself from listening to plenty of groans.

Speaking of groans, you both went through an unseasonably-whiney stage lately, as we encountered a very unseasonably cold winter, forcing us all to spend a lot of time together indoors. It got to the point where we put up, “Good Mood Party” signs when you come down the stairs. If you’re grumpy, we make you go back upstairs until you’re in a good mood. 

Arlo, for awhile it got the point where I was starting to give myself time-outs instead of you, just to get a moment of calm. But, you’re getting a lot better as we’re learning what does and does not work in the grand scheme of threats, compromise, and working together for the collective sanity of our family. Since we’ve realized time outs don’t work that well, things have gotten much better, but sometimes it’s as simple as reminding ourselves to try and stay calmer than a 4-year-old and use our big-kid words to tell you how we feel. Surprisingly, this works incredibly well (for now at least). 

Arlo, you’re such a sweet boy. Lately, it’s been so much fun to listen to you tell us all about your school. You explain all of the things you’ve learned about planets and animals and sing us songs. You also recently asked me if you could have a girl over for a playdate, and then asked me if you could marry her. We talked about how that was her choice, and you asked about proposals and showed me how people typically get down on one knee to do it. Sometimes I have no clue where you pick all of this up.

While there are always ups and downs, you currently love playing with your sister. You’ll be the Mom, and she’s the baby, and wheel her around the house in a baby stroller and play a game that appears to be nothing more than the two of you running errands to the grocery store, but it’s hilarious to hear you both impersonate me and your Mother. Your other favorite game is to play Princesses, where it’s Elliott’s coronation day, and Arlo, you appear to be her personal assistant who is in charge of getting her down for her naps and walking the dog. I’m not sure how any of those things are related, but you both seem to love it. One of my favorite things you’ve started to do in the morning is to have us all put our hands into a circle, and then we all say our dreams. 

Elliott, you’ve been on quite a roll lately, too. You’ve been doing an amazing job with potty training, and haven’t had an accident in weeks (knock on wood). Thankfully, we are to a phase where we no longer have to remind you, because although you were a quick study, God help anyone who asked you if you have to go pee before you were ready to go. You would unleash a crazy scream, pout, and throw yourself down on the ground… It was quite the show, but luckily this has passed and now the only time we see this behavior is on random nights when it’s my turn to put you to bed. You love your Mama, and you absolutely prefer her tuck-in skills to mine.  

You also freak out at night when it’s bedtime and we’re ready to put on your diaper. You scream and cry and tell me how itchy diapers are, and sometimes you’ll tell me, “You’re stupid and dumb, Dada!” But once the diaper is on and you have your pacie, you call a truce and crawl over to lay on me for story time. You often reach out and absent-mindedly scratch my beard while I read, then you push your cheek against mine and say, “I sorry Dada, you’re not stupid.” 

Other times, in the middle of reading, you’ll quickly stand up and jump into the air, landing on my chest with both knees. Then you let out a villainous chuckle and grunt, “Again!” You’re a monster, but the sweetest kind. 

With this cold weather, we got a big snow storm, which if very uncommon for Portland. On the first morning, we bundled you both up and took you out to play. Arlo, you couldn’t get enough of it and you played in the snow for hours. Elliott, you don’t like the cold at all! 

“No, they make me freezing,” you screamed as I tried to pull on your snow pants to go out to play for the second time in one day. It didn’t dawn on me until a few days later, but then it hit me, you thought your snow pants were making you cold, not the snow. But, you eventually had fun playing outside, minus your snow pants, they did make you cold after all. You both took turns standing between my legs on my snowboard and we built some snow robots and forts. 

So all in all, you both have been really well behaved lately, except when you aren’t… But that, I’ve come to learn, is the only thing I can expect from parenting. No matter what, I love you both so much. 

Love you monsters,

Dad

1-16-17

Raising Humans…

When I first found out I was going to be a father, I started writing letters to the baby, wanting to share with our future child the joy and excitement I was feeling for their impending arrival. I had so many thoughts about parenting I wanted to share and made sure I wrote to our baby once a week. But once you were born, Arlo, spending time with you became a much higher priority. And just as I was getting the hang of my new roll, we added you, Elliott, into the mix.

Writing these letters is still enjoyable, and I often wonder what you’ll think of them. Will you find them corny, or sweet? Probably a bit of both, and rightfully so. Lately, I’ve fallen behind on writing to you, but it hasn’t completely fallen off my radar. I constantly send myself emails and texts of funny things you’ve said, so I don’t forget.

For example, Arlo, you’ve become a big fan of our mailman, and you call out to him every time you see him, “Awe, you’re so cuuuute! I love you.”

Or you’ll introduce yourself as Dan, and me as Arlo, and then you crack up. At one point you introduced your Mom and me as “Dan and Molly.” The people responded, “Nice, you’re Dad and Mom?” Thinking you had actaully said, “Dad and  Mom.” You immediately corrected her, “No, his name is Dan, and they call her Molly Sparkman.”

You have a goal of being able to wink at me without having to cover one of your eyes by the time you turn five. I think you believe it will help with your joke delivery, since I wink at you to let you know when I’m teasing or trying to be funny. You have some hilarious knock, knock jokes, and when you want to tell me a funny story, you’ll ofter start with, “Dad! Oh. My. Gosh! You’ll never believe…” You’re also the only four-year-old I know who uses the word, “Literally” a lot. “Dad, I literally have to go to pee.” At least you literally use the word correctly more than most adults I know.

We recently had your parent-teacher conferences and they raved about story telling capabilities. They said your vocabulary was amazing for your age, you have great eye-contact when talking to people, you were learning to talk with an indoor voice, and you love to sing songs and rhyme a lot. You’re also learning about people’s comfort zones, and when it’s okay to hug people. All great things. 

You’re also very sweet. You came up with the idea on your own to give your Halloween candy to people without a home. You said, “I’m going to go up to their door and knock, and when they open up, I’ll give them my candy. So tell me when you see a tent.” A few days later you called out, “Look, a house for sale, the homeless people can live there!”

Elliott, you’re constantly cracking me up these days. You have this little inflection at the end of  your sentences that makes you sound perpetually inquisitive and happy at the same time. You’re constantly asking me if you can help me, or feed me, or if it’s okay for you to climb or crawl on whatever is you’ve already climbed or crawled on. “Can I do this, Dada? Is this okay?”

The other day you talked to me about my eating habits, “Not too much in your mouth, one at a time, Dada.” Then shoving a pretzel in my mouth, you added, “Here, I licked the salt off this for you.”

Even when you’re grumpy or throwing a fit, you can often be talked out of it. “That’s enough Elliott,” I’ll say. To which you’ll respond, “Okaaaaay.” You’re also unbelievably polite for you age, sharing your toys with Arlo whenever he asks, and always saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ without having to be prompted.

“Elliott, do you need to go to the bathroom?”

“No tank you,” you’ll respond, in a tone that makes it crystal clear you’re trying your absolute hardest not to drop a deuce.

Although most of the time you’re sweet as can be, you did turn two since I last wrote, and have developed a bit of an attitude. Lately, you’ll walk around with a glass of water and just spit mouthfuls of on the floor. When I take the glass away, you say in the most adorably  bratty voice, “That’s my water! I no like you Dada. I no like you!”

You usually apologize later that evening or the next morning. You’ll pat my beard and say, “I sowwy I say, ‘I no like you Dada. I sowwy.’”

You’re also become incredibly active… Your Mom has a hilarious impression of you trying to sit still during story time, which includes jumping on the couch, crawling across the end table, and then repeatedly launching yourself against the reader, all while holding multiple pacies and a cup of milk.

Your pacies are very important to you, especially the “lellow” one, which is green. You literally go to sleep with one pacie in your mouth, and three to four in your hands.

At dinner or in the car, you’ll all of sudden make a random noise, like, “Ccdrrrrkkkkkk.  Hahahahahahahahah.” Then you’ll call out, “Your turn. You do that Dada, do ‘Ccdrrrrkkkkkk.  Hahahahahahahahah.’” And when I do, you loose your tiny little mind, thrash your head back and forth and cracking up.

These letters are little time capsules for our family. At times I’ll read through the older ones I’ve written and smile at the cute things you used to say or do. I’ll laugh about the different stages of bedtime we’ve gone through over the years… the swaddles, the rocking, the crying it out, the stories, the jumping out of cribs, the move to big kid beds, the coming down stairs and crawling on top of me in the middle of the night, the putting you back in bed and falling asleep with you… I want to remember it all.

But in the end, the only thing that matters is what kind of people we raise you to be. Right now you’re both funny, caring, well-spoken kids who speak your minds but are still willing to say you’re sorry (although at times this takes some prompting or the threat of losing a book at bedtime). At this point, what more could a Dad ask for?

Love,

Dad

11-17-16