Archives For Letters to My Children

Letters to My Children: Edie, Age 8

Leigh —  December 11, 2013 — 2 Comments

Dear Edie,

You are now eight years old, and despite all my protesting, my begging and pleading with you to stop growing so fast, you went and had a birthday anyway.

To celebrate your eighth birthday, we threw your very first slumber party.  It was a smashing success, and I believe there will be a lot more slumber parties in your future.  We invited a handful of your closest friends to spend the night at our house and do girly things like watch movies, stuff their face with junk food, and paint their finger nails.  You loved every minute of it. 

You’d been planning this party for several months.  I was on the fence about whether or not I was going to have time to organize such an event, but one day while sorting through the zillions of drawings you keep lying around, I found your party supply list.  You had listed out all the food you wanted to serve complete with hand-drawn pictures and then colored little squares illustrating the colors of nail polish you wanted to offer your guests.  It was pretty adorable.  You had done all this planning on your own time, and I started to understand that this party was really a big deal to you. So I stepped in and decided to make it happen.

The next day, after the party was over and all the girls had gone home, you came to me in tears.  Real live tears.  When I asked you what was wrong, you welled up and tried to explain through the sniffling, that you were just thinking about all the nice things I do for you, and it made you cry.  It was real gratitude, and I soaked it up like a dry sponge.

As a rule, eight year olds girls aren’t known for being the most gracious of creatures.  In fact, that has been the underlying thread that connects most of our arguments this year.  Edie, I don’t want to lie to you in these letters and make your childhood out to be something that it wasn’t.  Every year is not going to be filled with sunshine and roses.  Some years we are going to spend a lot of our time together disagreeing.  This was one of those years. Continue Reading…

Dear Roark,

Today, as I write this, you are four years old.  And even though I still call you “my baby,” we both know that that’s a stretch.  Truthfully, you’re no longer a baby.  You are now a full-fledged kid.

I can’t believe how much you’ve changed in just a short year.  At some point in the last few months, a switch flipped inside you.  Your father says the switch is called “testosterone.”  I guess he knows more about that subject than I do.

I’m not sure what exactly flipped that switch, but you are now wild and crazy.  It’s like one day your brain told your body that boys are supposed to be loud and rambunctious, that they  should run everywhere and yell for no good reason.  This was a completely new concept to your arms and legs because you’d always kept them under control.  You were quiet and reserved and never jumped on the furniture.  But now, I can no longer say those things about you.

Just this morning while you were supposed to be cleaning up, I caught you fighting imaginary bad guys in your room.  “Look Mommy at how good I can kick!”  you said as you whirled your body around the room, kicking and fighting at the air.  You’re imagination is out of control, and I absolutely love this about you.

To tell you the truth, I was a little worried when I found out I was having a son.   I thought you were going to come out of the womb climbing the furniture and trying to wrestle with your sister, but instead you waited several years before unleashing that energy.  I really appreciate that.  Now that you’re a little older and I’m a little wiser, I’m more prepared for the loud, rowdy stages that come with bringing up a boy.

At four years old, you are incredibly silly.  You spend most of your time at the dinner table trying to make us laugh.  Coincidentally, I spend most of my time at the dinner table telling you to “EAT!”   And if pointless knock-knock jokes ever become a talent, you, my son, will be famous.  You love to tell jokes that go nowhere.

“Knock Knock?”

Whose there?”

“Fisher.”

Fisher who?”

“Fisher-MAN!”

Then you wait for the laughter.  And when knock-knock jokes are no longer a crowd pleaser, you break out the big guns.  The freak finger.

I don’t know if your double-jointed or what, but somehow you can bend the top of your pointer finger at the first joint while keeping the middle joint completely straight.  And it is really freaky looking.  This trait definitely did not come from my genes.  So I can only assume that you inherited it from your father’s side of the family.  After all, that’s where all the freaky stuff comes from…except for those crooked pinkies.  You can blame those on Pop.

Whenever there is a lull in the joke telling or your punch line doesn’t get the reaction that you were hoping for, you start poking yourself in the head with your freak finger, saying “Hard as a rock!”  And even though we’ve all seen this gag a thousand times by now, we always laugh.  Always.  I don’t even know why, but it’s funny.

And while you do make us laugh a good bit of the time, sometimes your mouth gets you into trouble.  Ok…a lot of times.  In the past year, I’ve had to wash your mouth out with soap more times than I can count…and you don’t even know any swear words yet.  Name calling is your Achilles’ heel, and you are learning a hard lesson about how we treat each others.  About once every two weeks, you’ll lose control of your tongue, and I’ll make you stand on a stool at the kitchen sink and hold a bar of soap in you mouth for two minutes.  When the timer goes off, you’re allowed to rinse.  You cry and spit, spit and cry, all the while apologizing for the ugly things you’ve said.

And you are truly remorseful.  In fact, your apologies are so sincere that I often find myself tearing up.  “I’m sorry for saying all the bad things, Mommy.  I’m so sorry for all the bad things.” You’ll say as you throw your arms around me, squeezing me tight.  I love your apologies, Roark.  They show a tender side of you that makes me love you that much more.  I hope you never lose that tenderness and the willingness to admit when you’ve done wrong.

I went to a funeral today for a woman who was 87 years old when she died.  She was a mother to six children and spent the majority of her life being a homemaker.   The church was completely packed.  You know, that’s really unusual for a woman of her age, but she had touched so many people with her life that we all came to pay our respects.  I believe that most of those people were like me and weren’t there because they were close to her necessarily, but because they loved her children.

As I sat there in the pew listening to her sons and daughters honor her in this beautiful ceremony, my thoughts kept coming back to you and your sister.  One day, you will be my legacy, Roark.  You and Edie. The two of you are what I’ll have to show for my life’s work.

As a mother, it’s so easy to get bogged down in the daily rituals of the mundane like making PB&Js or tying laces on little shoes.  Sometimes I forget the bigger picture.  Most nights as I climb into bed, it doesn’t feel like I’ve really accomplished anything significant for that day.  Maybe I washed some clothes, took you roller skating, cooked dinner, but when my head hits the pillow, I often wonder, “Is this it? Is this all I’m supposed to be doing with my days? There has to be something more to it.”

Lately this has really been a struggle for me, but today, I had a moment of clarity.  God reminded me of the bigger picture.  Maybe I only took you roller skating that day, but when you fell down, I held your hand and pulled you up. Sure, I occasionally wash your mouth out with soap, and I teach you to control your tongue.  I cook your dinner every night and give you quality time to laugh with your family around the table. Those things aren’t mundane.  They are precious moments.  They are my life’s work being poured into you to mold you into a man.  A man who loves God, cherishes his family, and respects others.  That will one day be my legacy.

Never again will I say at the end of the day, “There has to be something more,” because quite honestly, I can’t believe how much I have.

Love,

Mommy

Dear Edie,

This month you turned seven years old.  I keep thinking that if I just say it over and over again, that it will feel real to me.  Seven years old.  I have a seven year old daughter.  My little girl is seven.  Nope.  Still doesn’t feel real.

This year to celebrate the anniversary of your birth we took a family trip to Orlando, Florida.  For the past couple of years, your father has had to be out of town over your birthday.  We all hate that it happens that way, but you’ll learn that when you’re a grown-up, your responsibilities don’t disappear just because it’s someone’s birthday.  Just try telling a baby with croup to stop crying at two in the morning because it’s your birthday. Trust me, it doesn’t work. That baby still expects you to hold and rock her until the wheezing stops.  That was the year that I learned the world doesn’t stop for my birthday.  Just one of many lessons that you’ve taught me about my selfish self.

Well, this year instead of being away from you on your birthday, your father figured out a way to be with you and take care of his responsibilities in one fell swoop.  He’s magical that way.  He invited us to go with him to the trade show that normally takes him away in the middle of every November.  I think it’s pretty safe to say that you enjoyed yourself.  We spent the week going from one fun activity to the next and after this trip, if someone asks you if you’ve ever sat on an alligator, you can say, ” Why yes,  I have.”

I made you a shirt to wear on your birthday that said “Birthday Girl” in big letters across your chest.  When I showed it to you, you were excited about the idea of everyone knowing it was your special day, but later that morning when we walked down to the hotel restaurant, I noticed that you spent your breakfast with your arms across your chest, deliberately hiding your shirt.  I didn’t say anything, just watched and thought about how it’s just another example of how you are growing up.

A year ago, you didn’t really concern yourself with what people around you might think or the idea that they might be watching you.   I could put a tissue up to your nose and tell you to blow, and you wouldn’t have given it a second thought.  But now if I told you to do that, you would die a thousand deaths and tell me through gritted teeth that I was embarrassing you.   I’m going to be honest with you.  Your new self-awareness has a lot of positives for me.  While I can no longer get away with licking my thumb and cleaning your lunch off your cheeks, I can threaten to embarrass you.  I’ve yet to pull out the big guns and start dancing in public while singing I Will Always Love You, but I do occasionally reprimand you within earshot of others.  It’s as good a punishment as I’ve found so far, and it’s only fair because there have been countless times that you have embarrassed me in public…like all those times you looked under the stalls at strangers while they were using the bathroom.  This is called payback, and it is sweet.

One of the other things I have realized by watching you grow this year is that we are a lot alike.  I know you’re probably going to start reading these letters at some point in your mid-teens, and that’s going to be the last thing that you’ll want to hear.  But I’m sorry, honey.  I’m afraid it’s true.  While on the outside you look like a little girl version of your father, on the inside you are a seven-year-old version of me.

Sometimes this is a real benefit to you because I understand you in way that no one else does.  For example, earlier this month you played a minor role in a play and had to attend several play practices.  One afternoon when I walked in to picked you up after one of these practices, you ran up to me, threw your arms around my neck, and started crying. Of course, I immediately asked what happened.  I really had no idea what could have sparked this reaction from you.  I mean, I knew the play practices were kind of boring, but you never carried on like this.

You pulled your head away from my shoulder and said, “The girl sitting next to me kept taking her gum out of her mouth and playing with it…and it was GROSS!” At which point you buried yourself in my neck and continued to cry.  I smiled and patted your back and said, “Honey, gum is gross, and if you need to go to the bathroom and throw up, I completely understand and I’ll come hold your hair back.”  Then to make you feel better, I went down the long laundry list of things that make me dry heave at the mere thought of them.

You even have several friends that you’d rather not sit by while they eat because their table manners gross you out, and trust me, I get it.   They gross me out too. I’m sorry you got this trait of mine, but at least you have someone close-by that will be sensitive to it.

However, you didn’t only inherit my weirdo traits.  I’m proud to say that I did manage to pass along some good stuff too. You are independent, and I love that about you.  You want to do things on your own, and you don’t always need me around to walk you through everything.  You’ve never been that kid that cried when I had to leave you in Sunday School.  I didn’t know how much of a blessing that was until your brother came along because he is that kid.  He’s almost four, and he still cries.

I know in about ten years we will be butting heads often because of this independent nature, but good news for you.  I’ve been where you are, and I know what it feels like to desperately want to be your own person, out on your own.   I see it in you even now.  I drop you off for church or some other activity, and you want me to stay in car while you go in by yourself.  And you walk in with your head up high, feeling like big stuff.

Also, you are a very motivated child.  I’m not sure I can take all the credit for that one though because your father is one of the most motivated people I’ve ever met.  I have no doubts that if you were in the public school system that you would be a strait A student…especially if they still give out those “honor roll” bumper stickers like they did when I was a kid.  You would get the A’s just so you could claim the award of the bumper sticker.    In fact it wasn’t until recently that I started putting grades on your schoolwork, not because I’m giving you a report card, but because seeing me write an A+ at the top of your paper is enough to make you slow down and do the work correctly. I don’t think you’ve missed a math problem since.

We even talked about it the other day.  I said, “You know, those A+’s don’t really mean anything, right?”

You shrugged your shoulders and said, “I know.  I just like seeing ’em.”

I’m blown away with how smart you are.  Honestly, Edie, you pick things up so quick.  I know I’m your mother, and I’m supposed to tell you that your smart even if you’re dumb as a rock.  But honey, it’s actually true.  I am so blessed to have a ring side seat to watching you learn.  It’s fascinating.

You’ve taught me so much over these past seven years, and I’m so proud of the kid you have grown into.  I know you feel like I’m always on your case right now.  It seems every time we turn around, I am having to correct you for something…your manners or the way you speak to others.  And sometimes I worry that I don’t spend enough time telling you about what a great kid you are turning out to be and how happy you make me. At least once a week, I make a point to tell you that you are a joy.  You make me laugh out loud every day.  You are smart and beautiful, and there isn’t another little girl in this world that I would want to raise in your place.

Love,

Mommy

My dear sweet Roarkie,

I am soooo behind on writing your letter this year, but since you’re only three and won’t be reading it anytime soon, it probably doesn’t bother you too much.  It bothers me though, just not enough to actually carve out the time to sit down and write…until now that is.

You spent the first week of your third year of life learning to use the potty.  Oh how I have dreaded this day since I found out I was pregnant with you!  Sure I was excited about a baby coming, but in the pit of my stomach, I knew that a positive line on a pregnancy test meant that potty training was again looming somewhere in my future.  At some point, plastic underwear covers and wiping urine off the floor was going to be part of our routine, and I could feel my blood pressure rise every time I let my mind go there.  So I put off.  And when everyone started telling me it was about time you were out of diapers, I put it off a little bit longer.

Even though I had a stinky attitude about potty training at first, you picked it up quick.  There are several reasons for this, but it was primarily because you’re awesome.  Isn’t that what you really want to hear anyway? Wow does it feel good to not have anybody in this house in diapers.  It’s been over six years since I could say that.   So maybe I am a little behind in writing your letter, but we’ve accomplished a lot this month.  So I still feel like I’m ahead of the game.

Whenever someone asks you how old you are, you hold up your fingers proudly and say, “a BIG three.”  I don’t think you have ever said just “three.”  It’s always a BIG three, and I have to agree.  You are a big three in so many ways.

First there’s the obvious one–your size.  You are and always have been a big boy.  You are solid, and you outweigh all your friends by several pounds.  People tell me all the time that you’re going to make a great football player one day.  I always smile and nod politely even though on the inside I want to run for the hills, shrieking, “I never signed up for football games!”  I can’t image that a kid from mine and your father’s gene pool could be any good at sports, but I guess anything is possible.   And just so you know, if wrapped up in all your big bones and stocky frame is a hidden athlete, then I will become a fan of football.  I will be on the sidelines of every one of your games, cheering the loudest.   And let me just tell you, son, that is love.  True love.  Because as much as I hate football, I love you more.

You also seem like a big three because you have an incredible vocabulary for a kid your age, and it makes you seem much older than you really are.  There is an easy explanation as to why you talk so well and that’s because you get plenty of practice.  Your father likes to say that you “narrate your life” because you talk to yourself.  “I’m walking down the hall.  I’m getting my juice.”  We never have to wonder what’s going on in your head because you’re going tell us every thought that you have, every second that you have it.  This can drive your father and sister bonkers, but to me, it’s become the background noise of my day.

When you’re not talking, you’re singing.  Nine times out of ten, you’re singing the theme song to Bob the Builder. It was the first song you ever learned, and you sing it a zillion times a day.  And if your narrating is the background noise, then your singing is my soundtrack.  It’s funny.  Even though I’ve heard that Bob song more than I can count, I still find it adorable when you bust out with a “Scoop, Muck, and Dizzy, join the crew!”  It makes me smile every time.

I love having a son, especially having you for a son.  To know you is to love you, Roark.  People light up around you.  There is something about you that is just infectious and others are drawn to.  I can’t pinpoint what it is exactly because I’m your mother, and I find you more adorable than most already.  But people are always telling me that you are a joy to be around, and I have to agree.  You’ve got your Sunday school teachers wrapped around your little chubby finger.  Seriously, I’m not sure they could love you any more than if they had given birth to you themselves.  And your teacher at Mother’s Day Out told me that you’re their class clown.

You are quickly moving from baby to boy with your dirty fingernails and a love for all things with wheels.   When we are listening to the radio in the car, with every new song you ask, “Mommy, is this a boy song or a girl song?” If I tell you boy song, then it’s like I’ve given you permission to bob your head and sing along.  If I say “girl song,” you cross your arms and pout until I change the station. I love that you are fast becoming all boy.  You love guns and shootin’ at bad guys.  And with your hard hat on and hammer in hand, you walk around the house “fixing things like daddy”.  It’s the way it should be.

And even though you are growing faster than I can keep up with, there are moments when I’m reminded that your still my baby.  My favorite time of day is waking you from your afternoon nap.  I quietly walk into your room and sit at the foot of your bed while you climb into my lap to snuggle.  You’ll lay your head on my shoulder, and I’ll wrap my arms around you tight.  We’ll sit like this for about five minutes or so, neither of us saying a word.  I’m pretty sure that  you find this time as comforting as I do.

You see, you are more than likely the last baby that I will have to hold like this, and for the most part, I’m fine with that decision.  I really am.  I love our life right now, and honestly, you just get better with age.  And even though I can’t wait to see what you’re like at five or ten, or the man that you will someday become, I know the one thing I am going to miss is how it felt to hold you in my arms.  As long as I live, this snuggle time will be one of the moments of motherhood I cherish most. So I’m going to hold you as long as you let me and sit at the foot of your bed until you no longer need my lap because unlike diapers, I’m not sure there will ever be a time I’m ready to give that up.

Love,

Mommy

Dear Edie,

Another year has come and gone, and despite my pleading for you to please stop growing so fast, I turned around one day, and poof, you were another year older.

To celebrate your sixth birthday, we had a small princess party at home.  You had your reservations at first that I could pull off a decent party at our house, but when I mentioned that I would buy you a new princess dress to wear for the party, you never doubted again.  We invited seven of your friends to come to our house and be treated like royalty for an evening.  You had a blast.

As long as I live, I never want to forget the moment when you came home to see your party decorations.  You’d been gone all day, playing at a friend’s house while I got everything ready for your party.  I spent the entire day decorating, hurrying from one errand to the next, and running around like a crazy woman hopped up on goof pills.

I wanted everything to be perfect.  I wanted your party to feel magical.  I hung Christmas lights around the living room and lit a zillion candles.   Everything was pink: the tablecloth, the decorations, the lemonade.

When you came home, you ran upstairs, and immediately started going from one spot to the next, looking at everything with such excitement. You’d yell out,  “Oh wow! Look at this!” and then run to the next spot, “I didn’t know you’d bought these!” I stood at the top of the stairs, just watching you.

Then all of a sudden, you stopped.  It was like a switch flipped in your brain.  You turned in my direction and ran across the room.  You threw your arms around my legs and said, “Thank you, Mommy, for my party! It’s so beautiful!”  And as quickly as you came, you left and went back to exploring the room.

I started to cry, big, happy tears.

You see, this mothering gig has been pretty hard on me lately.  I’ve been struggling with the fact that I am dedicating all my time and energy towards people that don’t really understand the sacrifices.  Please, don’t take that as a negative comment on your character.  It’s not your fault.  You’re a child, and it’s just the nature of motherhood.   In fact, I like to think I’ve grown a lot this year because of some of the struggles we’ve faced, but in that one moment that you squeezed my legs tight, I knew you appreciated me.  You acknowledged the effort I’d put into planning this party, and what’s more? You appreciated it.  It felt kind of like I was being given a present on your birthday.  So thank you for that.

I think on the surface you are a pretty normal six year old little girl.

You love having secret hide-outs, and I’m constantly finding areas in our house that you’ve turned into a secret oasis by draping a blanket over a chair or lining up pillows around the legs of a table.   You’ll collect toys from your room and bring them into your secret hide-out like a squirrel storing nuts for the winter.  This leaves an incredible mess, and eventually, I make you clean it all up.  Several times I’ve tried to embrace the whole tent building/secret hideout thing, but for some reason, the tents I build just don’t meet code, and you quickly become bored with them.  I probably would  have failed the “Tent Building” chapter in Parenting 101, you know, if such a class existed.

You discovered the magic of a Barbie this year and have spent many hours laying in the floor of your room, making up your own fairy-tales, and acting them out with these dolls. Man, does that take me back.  I did the same thing when I was a kid, and if you are anything like me, you have only begun to scratch the surface of make believe with a Barbie doll.  Trust me, it gets better.

However, your favorite past time these days is painting.  Well, it’s probably more accurate to say painting pictures and then giving them away.  I’m not really sure which one you enjoy more.  The painting or the giving.  You want to take pictures that you’ve painted everywhere we go, to give to anyone we see.   Most of our family and friends have been given one of your masterpieces at some point this year.  I love this about you, and I hope that this trait of giving and serving others stays with you.

Your relationship with your brother has begun to morph into a more typical brother/sister relationship.  I now find myself saying motherly things like “Keep your hands to yourself!” or “Stop aggravating each other!”  Thanks to your Uncle Sonny, I had no illusions about the two of you always getting along.  I know what it’s like to have a brother, and like most siblings, I learned the definition of a love/hate relationship early as a child.  So I think what ya’ll are going through is pretty normal, and if your Uncle Sonny and I are the gauge to go by, then you will start to enjoy each others’ company soon enough.   I’ll just  make sure no one gets physically wounded in the process.

I should be use to it by now, but I still can’t get over how much you’ve grown this past year.  One morning not too long ago, I noticed you were looking strangely taller.  I couldn’t help myself.  I sent you to your room and stood you up against the growth chart.  Sure enough.  You had grown an inch.  OVERNIGHT.  Ok…so maybe not in one night, but seriously, it was a month. I’ve got the documentation to prove it.  One month, and you grew an inch.  And all of a sudden, those pants that use to cover your shoelaces became capris.  No wonder I can’t keep up.    And I know this is going to sound crazy to say it, but you are even outgrowing your teeth.  Your teeth?! I didn’t know it was possible either, but you are living proof that it happens.  Your baby teeth use to be all snug in your mouth, but at some point while you were five, your mouth grew bigger.  And now your teeth look small and spread apart, but don’t worry.  You’re still beautiful.

I’m so proud of the person you are growing into.  You have an amazing gift to forgive others, and I love that about you.  Recently, a close friend of yours said some ugly things to you because she was trying to show off in front of some other friends.  Later you told me about the incident while trying to choke back tears.  I asked if you said hateful things back to her.  I wasn’t accusing you of anything. We were just talking about what happened.  You looked up at me and said, “I would never say that to somebody.”  You were so sincere.  You acted like you were shocked that I could even think such a thing.  Even now as I write this, I tear up over it.  I’m not sure that I would’ve had the self-control to hold my tongue like you did.

Edie, if you don’t remember anything else about your childhood, I hope you know one thing–you are a good kid with a good heart.   And I couldn’t be prouder of you.

Love,

Mommy