Well the first thing you’ll notice about this letter, in some future date when you read these, is that it comes well after your birthday. I don’t have a lot of good excuses. There was a lot of busyness and sickness around your birthday and it’s taken me awhile just to get my thoughts flowing again. So I apologize.
Also I did use a photo in the header that has you looked none to pleased to have your photo taken. I hope you will see it one day and regret your face that tells your mother. “Really, mommy. Another photo?”
For some reason I find myself feeling differently as I write this year’s letter. I know you are only 9 and just a child, there is something more grown up about you suddenly that I feel like I am writing a letter to a young adult as opposed to a kid. You’ve grown in height and maturity so much it seems that I guess I feel like I am already started to glimpse the man you will become. Of course, it could be just because I don’t feel like I can carry you anymore. But perhaps that’s just as much a function of me getting older as you!
Maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising though. When I was 9 I went to India and I felt like that trip had a profound impact on me. I am not sure what my parents would say about how I changed, but I do feel like your trip to London this summer helped you grow up in a way that only travel can do. Of course, London isn’t some vastly different place, but nevertheless I think there is something about just seeing the different ways cultures can be, different ways cities can be built, different systems for getting around. All those things sometimes act like learning another language. They give us a different mental grammar. And you were so wonderful in London walking around and taking in the sights. Fearless on the tube, leading the way. I was so very proud of you. Traveling is something this family likes to do and I feel like you’ve gotten bitten by the travel bug a bit and will continue to enjoy traveling adventures and I find myself even more excited to take you places.
I also shouldn’t be surprised that you always impress me with your maturity. You have a cool confidence about you. And it shows that you have growing awareness of your own thoughts and feelings. You still have trouble expressing your feelings especially when you’re feeling bad about something. It almost makes me cry when I see how sensitive you are. But it is the source of your empathy and kindness, and it always makes me so proud when I see how understanding and kind you are. What I’m learning as a dad is that being vulnerable is a hard thing. I thought perhaps I could get you there faster because I am someone who is expressive and comfortable in my own skin, but I think that it’s a skill that just takes time. And in the end, you are just 9. You are already far ahead of where I was at the age. You are sensitive like me, and I know it can feel overwhelming at times. Expressing it does make a big difference, but I have every confidence that when you feel the need to take that next step really explore your feelings you will get there. Maybe I underestimate how long it takes to just observe our emotions before we really understand how to express them.
You also continue to impress me with your desire to read and learn. This, too, can really change a person. You are reading and several levels about your grade level and it also reminds me how much language transforms us. It seems your growth has really evolved as you’ve read more and more with more complex plots and vocabulary.
That being said, the one area that we need to get better at is being able to have serious talks with you. Up until now I think I’ve been just content to let you unfold without trying to guide you. You are at the age where you can pretty much look up anything you want on the internet and that makes things a bit scary. So we need to talk to you about the things you might find. And really this is the beginning of a real loss of innocence. We have to tell you that people might try to manipulate you. That people aren’t always kind. That you may find disturbing images. And it’s so hard to have a conversation with you about these things sometimes, because you tend to sort of shutdown. And I think that’s why it’s also been difficult to write this letter because I feel like I should be talking to you instead of about you. And I often don’t know how to talk to you, because I’m afraid of you shutting down. Sometimes I don’t even know if you’re listening. Maybe it’s because it’s hard for you to process these things because you’re so sensitive. Maybe also you feel like we are having these talks with you because we’re accusing you of doing something wrong. I think realizing some truths about the world will be hard for you initially, but I know you’ll be able to handle it. You just have a very big heart and it can be overwhelming sometimes, but you will be stronger after you wrestle with these things internally. But I just want you to know that I’m going to keep trying. And it’s not so much that I want to tell you things, but I also really just want to hear what you have to say. What you’re thinking. How you’re feeling.
I feel really caught between wanting you to be older and more sure, and preserving that child-like sweetness. And I feel, that in some way, this is where you are too. You also see yourself changing and wishing you could still be a child. Maybe that’s why you’ve been less patient with your little brother. Don’t get me wrong, you are still doing well, but I imagine it’s hard having to be the more mature one, while your little brother gets to be more of a kid. Little siblings come along and take that freedom away. And I think sometimes as a parent I too often am expecting more maturity than you are capable of. Well I think it’s always good to remind you to be good to your brother, I am sorry if sometimes I get mad when really you are just being an 8 year old.
Who am I this year? Well I guess we old people don’t change as much. I still feel like I’m still waiting for some important change, some test, some awakening. I don’t know. Maybe it’s that I still feel uneasy about the future. I know myself, but I don’t know what kind of world you will face. And even though your character matters most, I guess I can’t help but wish for a world where you can flourish. Maybe I just really need to work on making sure I stay in the moment. But overall I feel good and I’m excited to take you and Allie to Europe this summer. I want you to know more of the world and enjoy travel like I do. We have so many more places to go!
I am sorry this letter is so late. I’ll do better next year. I shall leave you with a poem, my growing up child. Happy Birthday!
when I see your face
my heart is a shield
as if you could become
you were meant to be
ensconced in my love
for why would I want
come to you
but harm happens
and you must learn
and I must bear
of your falls