It’s the middle of summer, though you wouldn’t know it for all the cool, rainy weather we’re having. For the second year in a row it’s gotten the better of our tomato plants, and in two weeks of rain they’ve lost all their promise, the dense, deep-green foliage now spindly and pale from drowning.
The other day I sent you and Merry out in your rain boots to play in the pouring rain. The temperature was in the mid-70s and you played happily together for an hour until you finally felt chilled and came in, dripping wet, to a warm bath. I hope you’ll have many more chances to go out in the rain this summer. I’ve been remembering my early ambitions as a mother not to say no to fun for risk of a mess, and I’m afraid this past year or so I’ve been too overwhelmed and distracted to let you get properly dirty often enough.
At the moment you’re down in the basement where Daddy’s almost finished framing the new rooms. I told you your quiet time could be spent helping him and riding your bike. You have a brand new orange bicycle with training wheels and a helmet. It was a gift from Nana & Papa upon the arrival of Joshua, and you’ve taken to it like a fish to water. You’re so good at riding it, and so strong, that you hardly need the training wheels, except that you would have trouble navigating how to handle stopping, or slow moments like tight corners. You love your bike and I’m so proud of you for how well you remember always to park it in the garage with the helmet on the handlebars whenever you hop off even for a moment.
These days we are laughing often at your developing sense of humor and mannerisms. The first two weeks after Joshua was born you attended two VBS camps in a row, leaving home every morning and coming back around lunch time. I think maybe it was the time you spent hanging out around so many other kids, most of them bigger than you, but somehow you seem to have a more big-kid take on things these days, right down to your facial expressions. Combine this with your fresh haircut and how fast you’re growing and I have a genuine big kid.
As if all that weren’t growth enough, I have to tell you how proud I am of your growing ability and interest in handling yourself: you are pretty much potty trained finally (FINALLY) and pretty good at taking initiative for it. In fact, we’ve started the next phase of this process: getting you up just before we go to bed at night to have you go potty in hopes of eventually training you to stay dry at night, but for now to at least not wet through a diaper by every morning. (Little victories.) The best thing, though, is how competently you can get yourself dressed or washed up or even bathed with almost no help or coaching. This is such a help to me since my hands are full with your baby brother so much. And you seem proud of yourself, taking delight in your achievements. I love how eager you are to help with chores, and how you take ownership of the things I ask you to do. It still hasn’t occurred to you that these little tasks are a pain in the ass, and you feel special when I ask you to carry out the recycling or trash.
Of course, if I ask you to work on a big task like cleaning up the toys – anything that takes extended, repetitive involvement – you sing a different tune, making big claims about how tired you feel, way too tired to do all this work all by yourself.
Your vocabulary these days often includes generalizations such as “all this work” or “all the time” or “every day.” I’m finding this interesting because it reminds me of me. You experience the world vividly, enormously, dramatically. Let me try to explain what I mean.
Often we have to rebuke you for your attitude at the end of a thing. You make these sweeping complaints like “I don’t EVER want that to end!” or “I want to stay at the park ALL THE TIME” or “Why do I not get to do that NEVER EVER?!” The flip side of these statements is when you say something like “Miss Nicole, I want you to come over EVERY DAY” or “I want to have this kind of food EVERY TIME.”
Before I go on, I must include a tangent on the subject of rebukes. See, you are a stubborn man, and one of your biggest challenges is your unwillingness to receive correction or instruction. We talk about it often, explaining the difference between wisdom and folly when you all too frequently whine this ridiculous line: “I don’t love it when you say serious words to me.” It’s not often that an instruction or rebuke gets met with anything but struggle, us continuing to press an issue until your will bends reluctantly to ours, but a few times, and increasingly often, you’ve been different and there’s very little that makes me feel more delighted with you and proud of you than when you turn at my instruction and look me right in the face and cheerfully, without being compelled, respond the way we’ve labored to train you. It’s a joy to see you beginning to bear wisdom’s fruit already.
But back to the issue of your dramatic perception of everything, and your huge capacity for appreciation or disgust. Everything in your world is a big damn deal, and while it drives Daddy and me crazy most of the time, I can see beauty here too. And while we want to teach you when it’s not appropriate to care (like when the kitchen faucet is resting over the right-hand basin instead of the left-hand one – about this issue I have begun to teach you the concept of Being Obsessive) and when something is legitimately, objectively No Big Deal, I don’t want to think we should or even can change the size of your heart.
You are a glutton for all things good. You’d never be able to decide how many cookies is too many, and you never want to switch gears when you’ve got a good thing going. Never is this more apparent than at bedtime, which you earnestly protest. When you finally accept it you begin a series of stall strategies, asking for a reading night, or a story, or a chase-and-tickle, or ice water (you claim your throat is tickly).
The other day as I listened to you go on in this fashion, and perhaps as you responded to my customary question “What do you want to do tomorrow?” with “I want to read books ALL DAY LONG”, it reminded me of the birthday card my very wonderful uncle sent me a few years ago. I was in college and I was surprised and touched to receive his greeting in the mail. When I read the message on its cover I was awe-struck at his choice of that card for me. How did he know? And beyond that, how did this random person being quoted get inside my heart and verbalize it? That card stayed pinned to my desk throughout my years in college and I saw it and felt my heart resonate with it every single day.
I think this greeting card’s claim is yours, too, as it is mine, and I love that we have this passionate, perhaps even gluttonous personality in common. As for how to harness it with wisdom…? Well, that’s something I’m still only beginning to try to figure out. I have no idea who John Burroughs is, but I know he belongs in our club:
“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”
I love you.