Letters to my children, part 1

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9/8/09

Dear Alex,

You’re crossing a milestone, little man. Last night, I couldn’t yell at you for still lying awake at 10:30. I know very well how it feels to be wound up about tomorrow morning. This morning as we left you at preschool, I wondered how long it will be before school becomes another cog in the power struggle instead of something new and exciting. Before the twenty-minute commute becomes a real chore for us all. This is supposed to be a transition for you, to prepare you for kindergarten. But it occurs to me that I need the transition, too, to get used to the routine of daily transport.

Ready, set, go

Ready, set, go

On Facebook today, people were talking about how bittersweet this milestone is, how exciting. You, however, took it all in stride. You were all business. The only way I knew you were nervous was that when we got there early, you didn’t want to go play on the playground; you just wanted to go inside and get settled in.

Tonight, I sit at the edge of the pool and watch you wow all the other parents at swim lessons, and I think about how long it has taken you to reach this point of confidence. You’ve probably already forgotten how much shrieking and screaming you did whenever it was time for swim lessons. You still have a long way to go, but you’ve definitely come a long way, baby.

You’re crossing into new territory, and dragging us with you. You cling to the self-centered irresponsibility of babyhood—blaming us when you wet your pants, since we didn’t tell you to go to the bathroom—pouting, “Grownups are ALWAYS telling me to do things!” when we assign you a job around the house. Tonight, when I told you to clear your dishes off the table, you yelled, “No! I did that LAST night!”

“Yes,” I said, “and so did I. I do it every night.” The look on your face was priceless. It had never occurred to you to think of it that way. Is that a glimmer of hope I see? A tiny spark telling me that the synapses are firing, connecting other people’s feelings with yours? Is this how a child comes to realize and embrace the fact that he is not the center of the universe? One battle at a time?

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