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.