Big Kid, Big Problems

Dear Alex,

You’re in kindergarten now– a big boy in a big school, and even at over a month into the school year it still blows me away every single morning when I drop you off and you confidently march up to the door all by yourself. Your teacher tells me that you have adjusted very well, are well-behaved and are way ahead of most other kids in your class academically. That much isn’t a surprise to me; you’ve shown us time and time again over the years just how sweet and brilliant you are. How lucky I am to call you mine.

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What did surprise me for the first time this morning, though, was a new kind of problem I haven’t dealt with explicitly as a parent yet. You told me that you don’t like music class…. and when I asked why you said that you get “embarrassed” when you have to go up in front of the other kids to play instruments (apparently it’s not just you by yourself, you guys take turns going up to do these little performances in small groups).

“Embarrased?” I asked, knowing perfectly well what the word meant and what you were probably getting at, but I wanted to hear your thought process. “Embarrassed” is an emotion I’ve of course seen you feel before, but not a word I’ve ever actually heard you say.

“I don’t want the other kids watching me! What if they see me mess up?!” you say, with panic in your eyes that are starting to well up tears.

Oh, my sweet boy. I tell you that everyone messes up sometimes, and that it’s okay. That messing up is how we learn. That the other kids won’t care if you mess up, and if they do care then they aren’t worth your energy and thoughts. I tell you an anecdote about a time the skirt of my costume fell off during a dance recital performance, and how I finished the dance with no skirt on and got a big round of applause from the audience. I watch you giggle as I tell you to imagine me on stage with my skirt falling off next time you have to play an instrument in music class. When I ask if that helps you feel better you say yes, with a bit of hesitancy and uncertainty on your face. And so we move on with our morning.

But my mama heart still hurts. We’ve entered the point in your life where I can’t really help you anymore. Now you have these big, more mature feelings and problems.  I can talk to you until I’m blue in the face– giving you advice and encouragement, but at the end of the day I can’t just step in and solve your problems anymore. Instead, I have to step back and watch you solve them yourself.

And even though I know you are smart and strong and will do just fine in this great big world, it’s still such a hard thing for me to do. Plus it will only get harder as the years go by and your challenges continue to mount.

For today though, I hug & kiss you one more time… then watch you walk away through those big metal doors.

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All my love,
Mom

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I plead the 5th…

Dear Alex,

YOU. ARE. FIIIIIIIIIIIIVE. You’re actually 5 and some change now, with the maturity and smarts of a 7 or 8 year old, but I still can’t believe it. In a lot of ways it feels like I just found out we were expecting you yesterday. In even more ways, it feels like you’ve always been there. And I suppose you have– for I’ve never been without my heart or soul, and you’ve always been a part of that. There’s a popular bible verse in Jeremiah resonates with me on this particular subject: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart (Jeremiah 1:5).” Remember the very first letter I wrote to you, right when we were about to start trying for a baby? I called you a twinkle in my eye. You’re still that, and so much more.

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It’s been an amazing year for you, and I’m so excited for all the things you have coming up on the horizon. Five is a really fun age– you’re reading and writing like nobody’s business, you’re making closer friendships & lots of lasting memories, you’re taking bigger risks & learning so many new things, and at your core you’re gaining a depth of feeling & understanding that forces me to begrudgingly admit that you’re not my “baby” anymore. (But who are we kidding– you’ll ALWAYS be my baby! 😉 ) As I’ve said about many other phases of parenthood thus far, it is a very bittersweet feeling.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a poem I wrote about you. You have a thing lately with coming into our bed at some point most nights… and honestly, I don’t mind. Not only because I know this time is fleeting, but also because it’s hard to find one-on-one quality time with each of you three on a regular basis. I’ll take it where I can get it, even if it means less sleep. I can sleep when I’m dead, right?

RIGHT?!?! My God, I’m so tired. Zzzzzzz….

Anywho, I’ve sat here for a good 10 minutes now thinking of all the amazing things you’re up to, what an awesome person you’re becoming, and how proud I am of you. But that’s lead to my getting pretty emotional, so I think I’ll let the pictures do the telling for me.

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And I’ll wrap this up by saying what pictures can’t — THANK YOU. Thank you, my sweet Alex, for making me a mother. For being the twinkle in my eye, the skip in my step, the zest that makes life worth living. Thank you for teaching me more than I can ever hope to teach you. Thank you for being the best son, big brother, and friend I can possibly imagine.
All my love,
Mom