Friday, May 23, 2014

Letter to (Three Year and One Month Old) Graves

Dear Graves,

It's hard for me to believe that you're really three. In some ways you seem so grown up and like such a little boy but (and I have no idea when I'll stop saying this, maybe never?) in so many ways you're still "Baby Graves". That's how you self identify when a stranger asks your name and it could not be more precious. [On occasion you have started to refer to yourself as "Brother" (I think I have the Berenstain Bears to thank). And you sound SO country. My first thought was when did I miss your ordination?]

In some ways, the day you were born seems so distant in my mind, but it others it seems like it could have been yesterday. I wrote about it, and how it transformed me, (and also how you yourself have done just that!) for a friend's blog recently-- "That ten-ish hour experience was a big one, one that will forever effect the way I view myself, the things I'm capable of, and the strength I truly did not know I had. It, to this day, gives me courage to do big things and make bold changes in my life. But at the same time, his little life has done that exact same thing for the whole duration of it thus far. He challenges me because, unlike his sister, he's very different from me. I've watched the Lord increase my patience through him and He's used Graves's life to sanctify me in a way nothing else has. Some days I battle the same fears I did that glorious day. Fears that an experience, a day, a year, or his childhood, will never end or that it won't end the way I want it to. Fears that I'll cave and give up on something- like homeschooling- that I deeply desire because it's just too hard. Fears that I'm not strong enough and simply inadequate for the task at hand. God uses him- his birth, his life- to remind me that the good (the very good) is often times bought at a price. Sometimes, it feels like it comes at the price of my sanity. But like his birth, it really just comes at the price of a bit of pain and pressure. So much beauty- patience and flexibility and trust and creativity- has been birthed out of my mothering of him and the struggle, like a birth, that it has entailed. I've learned so much from him. Thank you, Graves, for being such an excellent teacher. From day one."

Truly, you have been such a great teacher and I've learned so much from you. The Lord has used you to make me the person I am today. A person more confident, more brave, more fearless, more gracious, and more flexible than I would be otherwise. 

You're talking up a storm and really stringing big thoughts together. Sometimes, you still don't make sense and in a way, that's my favorite. Other times, you'll express a BIG IDEA I had no idea you had any comprehension of and that floors me every time. 

A couple of months ago you told me that you were a big boy and were done with your "baa". That was super short-lived. I did talk to Papa about it and we decided to keep the ball in your court at least for a while longer. I'll push you to do some things, but right now I'm not making the paci a hill to die on. That may come back to bite me, but it's important to you right now, especially at naptime and bedtime and if you're hurt or really sad, and I'm just not willing to make you get rid of it. In my heart I don't think you're ready. And I think I'll know when you are. Hopefully =)

I shared this in Annie's letter, but you guys love "playing family". You mimic us so perfectly. Annie takes care of the babies and you run around furiously giving stuffed animals "medicine" like Papa does at work. And then you come home to help Annie with her baby dolls! Another night y'all were having a night party, calling each other "Momma" and "Papa" and you hollered "What, Daaaaarling?".

The other day I heard y'all playing and Annie said "Bud said we're at Fulton". I looked at her, confused, ans she told me "Bud is the speaker-driver". Then you started yelling "CAUTION!".[This is what happens when your kids take lots of public transit.] 

You love the city- the dinosaurs at the Museum on Natural History, the cork box and dress up clothes and water table at Children's Museum, and music programs at Central Library. As I've said of Annie, I hope you remember this place and with you I've actually prayed that the Lord will give you memories beyond what is normal for a child your age. I desire that so much. But more than that, I hope that you'll remember the people. For example, on Easter Sunday we were on a crowded bus and you were talking with an older lady and she offered to hold you. Graves, you sat in a stranger's lap on a public city bus. I never would have dreamed that in a million years. And in a million more years, I will never allow someone to speak about what a cold, rude, selfish city is. The strangers that consistently give up their seat for me, over to carry your stroller up the subway stairs, and yes even hold you in their own lap prove otherwise. I will tell you these stories so often so that you do not forget. 

One night awhile back, dressed you up as a monkey and you told us your name was "Cugu". You went a little crazy and started attacking your trainer/the trapeze artist (aka Annie) and she pretended to call the zoo and told them "You sent the wrong monkey. This one is wild. I need you to come get him". 

Often Annie will be having a deep, pensive discussion with me (which is incredibly cool, but frankly very draining) and you'll just come up with the funniest thing to lighten the mood. For example, completely juxtaposed to Annie's contemplative existentialism is you standing in a storage bin, yelling LOUDLY that the "kitty food boat" is leaving. I could not love either of you more.

Speaking of, she recently made up a song for you..."You're my present. You're my present. You're so special to me. Anytime you want to, you can play with me. You're the best present to me." It was so beautiful and made me cry. You often let her ride in your lap in the umbrella stroller if she gets really tired of walking (As an aside, doing it vice versa irritates her, but you are SO easy going about that kind of thing and also you love snuggling. She doesn't like people in her space. You're love language is physical touch. Weather someone's holding you or you're holding them, doesn't matter). You two truly love each other so much. 

I also shared this recently, but it's worth repeating because it's so fundamental to who you are. You drive me up the wall just about every day of your little life. You really do. When you don't have the self control to sit through a meal, when you get distracted every two minutes while picking up your toys, when you round a corner RUNNING with scissors (albeit the preschool kind) in your mouth, blades on either side of the tongue. You sitting still for an arbitrary reason is the least of my concerns. I am doing my best to make sure you don't get hit by a train or run into traffic. I'm also trying not lose my mind, and my temper, every day. And I'm slightly terrified to try homeschooling you. But I'm also remembering that, while your sister is brilliant in her own more socially acceptable way...YOU will be the one who discovers the New World, walks on the moon, rides the fire engine. Or you'll move your wife and very young children 1200 miles away from everything they know and love, insist they only ever use public transit or walk everywhere they go, and drag them to the South Bronx. And God will use you to wreck their lives in the most glorious way. You are so much like your papa and knowing how your story can turn out helps me on the hard days. 

Know what else helps me? Your sweet, sweet spirit. You are the most charming person I know. That's the best word for you, really. You are just sweet and kind and friendly, almost to a fault. I hope people don't use those things to their advantage as you get older. Your smile is contagious and even when you are so BAD, you're so amazing. And really, you're hardly ever bad. [I don't like to use that word for children anyway.] The thing is- your sister misbehaves more, but when she does it's usually out of stubbornness and defiance. When you do, it's usually out of forgetfulness and impulsivity. 

You are so sensitive to the needs of others. The other day I started crying and you brought me all you lovies & told me "Papa will be home in a little bit to take care of you". 

I've thought about something a lot lately- how, in many ways our NYC journey mirrors my pregnancy with you, your birth, your little life. Just like this place I've learned scared to love, you stretch me and challenge me at every turn. But just like this place, you're full of a million treasures and I'll never be able to find them all. Your heart so tender, your enthusiasm so great, your sensitivity so astute, your cheerfulness so contagious, your smile so captivating, your love so strong, your spunk so delightful- these are just a few of the gems we've mined in only three years. I can't wait to learn more about you, Graves, and for all the things I know you'll continue to teach me about myself, about love, and about the Lord Himself.

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your outfit is a 2T.

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