Sunday, February 8, 2015

Letter to (Three Year and Nine Month Old) Graves

Dear Graves, 

We've been having a great time lately- we went to a little holiday train show at Grand Central and saw the big Rockefeller tree. We also had a wonderful Christmas Eve and went to the super late service. We didn't get back to Brooklyn until about two in the morning. We also showed y'all The Wizard of Oz (your first non animated/computer generated movie). You adored it and got even more obsessed with Wicked Witch. 

We also got our first big New York snow which was exciting. You spent half an hour jumping and sliding in it and and then started sobbing when you had had enough. Annie brought her dinosaur and kept burying her and digging her up and playing little imaginary games with her. She was NOT happy to go inside. 

As an aside about the city I heard myself say these words recently "Yes, I am so proud of you for using the potty...but no, I won't bag it for Papa to see when he gets home"- I guess this is the kind of thing that the mother of an observant Brooklyn boy who has been watching urban pet owners for the last ten months says.

Back to Christmas! We had a really low key Christmas day. Taking down Christmas mid January had y'all so disappointed. You asked me when it'd be Christmas again and I told you not until next year and you started crying. Y'all hardly got any presents this year. You were just sad for the decorations to be gone and the magic to be over. It has nothing to do with new material possessions you acquired. What you were experiencing was way different from the post Christmas sadness I experienced as a child. And that brought me a lot of joy.

Right after Christmas we all got sick. Annie told me one afternoon "I went to check on Graves and I think he was so tired and so sick he actually fell asleep during his naptime". And she was right, you had. But that evening? The little boy that was so sick and tired this afternoon? I  caught him with Vasoline half way up his back because "his bottom hurt". I cleaned you up and you began playing dress up in his sandals from last Summer and "riding" a horse purse of Annie's from 

You memorized your first verse of Scripture- Luke 2:14. It took the entirety of a month, but you did it! Also, around Christmas, I heard you singing to the (sort of) tune of "Go Tell It On the Mountain"-- "shepherds watched their fields...and Jesus died on the cross...and Mary bore him". A little out of order Son, but I'm thankful you're occasionally listening.

You are getting so big. When Papa changed stores his schedule flipped and it bought us a free Sunday off. Then he took off a couple in December to enjoy the season. Then we all got sick. In other words it's been a LONG time since I've done had taken you anywhere in the toddler carrier by myself (and an even longer time since I've tried it with heavy coats and mittens and all that). You're a bit heavier and I was out of practice. The first time we did it, I let you hold my hand from church to the six train to Papa's store and you did great but it's still really anxiety inducing (platforms scare me way more than the sidewalk even though kids get hit by cars here all the time). I know I can't do the carrier or a stroller much longer and while it's been amazing to face a lot fears this year, I'm glad this is one I'll get to avoid the emotional energy of working through. 

Oh, speaking of growing big! Back in my day as a Consignment Sale Queen, a dear friend of mine bought a jon jon on the chance she'd one day have a boy. She turned right around and handed it to me and told me she wanted you to use it first since you were well...already here (though tiny at the time). I've had it tucked away all this time and now you're finally wearing it. We're taking care of it for our little friend back home! 

I continue to love watching you and your sister interact. Awhile back, I started singing to you at the beginning of rest time like I did when you were tiny. I was trying to preserve your nap, which was an exercise in futility, but now you (and I) love it so. Then Annie started requesting to sing you one song (usually about dinosaurs and composed in the moment). Then last week you started asking for her to rock him during her part of the ritual. Then y'all decided to move to snuggling in his bed, which is very reasonable since you guys are practically the same size. She did switch it up and "worked on" carols with you one day (In the interest of full disclosure this beautiful moment also included Annie saying "He smells like salad dressing. I'm going to call you 'salad face".) Such sweethearts. 

The other day Ann Peyton was perched next to me while I was working on school with you (all day, she never gets as close to me as she does when it's time to teach her brother). I was trying to be very patient and cheerful and keep saying "Hey, Bud, look at this. Graves? Hey, BudBud- can you turn around?" and she goes "Um..if you'd take that flashlight away from him, he could probably concentrate a lot better".

Another night, Annie read Papa a story she had "written" in lieu of their bedtime books. After it was over, you got upset because you didn't have a story and you said you wanted one about a dragon and "it could be short". I got ready to tell you a quick one and then Annie hopped in your bed, snuggled up with you and said "I'll tell him a dragon story!". One of God's sweetest gifts to me is y'alls friendship.

I took you to Cumbe (your African dance class) by myself for the first time. I was so proud of us for rocking it and then walked a mile home without getting lost, collapsing, having a nervous, or even getting (much) out of breath. Well, I walked. You spent the whole trip in your stroller without fretting once, even when it started raining. And visiting with me the whole time. We did treat ourselves to a little date at Brooklyn favorite, SmashBurger. I'd be lying if I said you weren't painfully disappointed when you realized it wasn't a double date and Peyton and Annie weren't there waiting for us. By mid supper, though, you were saying things like "I love you, Mr. Cheeseburger" and giving your toy crocodile sips of my Coke.

Poor little HSP #3 in our family. "I know who else had a bad night- Goliath". This is what you told me when Papa and Sister headed up to the South Bronx to volunteer one afternoon for the first time, leaving me to take you to your dance class. Basically the same as getting your head handed to you by a shepherd boy. I get it. Hard is hard, yo. 

You are such a feeler. When I was little, Minnie lied to me and told me that there are two different kinds of chicken: the animal chicken, which was in all my books and the plant chicken, which is what we ate. This happened one evening when I made the connection and was on the verge of a huge emotional breakdown. I know she was trying to protect me from the pain she knew it would cause. Well, you had a similar (though not quite as intense) reaction one morning recently. Even though we've talked about it a few times before, it really clicked. We offered hyou no delusions of fanciful chicken plants, but we did tell you that we try to buy our meat in the most ethical way we know how and explained what that meant. We talked it over a good bit. For a very short time, because you and your sister don't really do much at all independently of each other, we had two tiny vegetarians (though y'all would probably call yourselves plant eaters or herbivores). It didn't last long, but you have days where you struggle and refuse the chicken. 

In that way you're like me. But you're mostly a lot like your papa. The other day he ran in the bathroom and dumped ice on y'all in the tub and started flicking the lights and telling y'all your dinos were about to become extinct. You two are both such fun! 

You are still the most affectionate guy. I know it's unlikely, but I hope you never stop hugging and kissing me this way. Even on challenging days, you always make up for your awful listening skills and terrible impulse control with your charm, your smile, your cheerfulness, and most of all the way you LOVE.

I saw a picture of you from two Christmases ago where I called you a "beautiful mess". I am so thankful for my beautiful, messy boy who has taught me so much about patience and flexibility and dying to myself over the last three and a half years.

I looked back on another picture- a wedding I was in. And it brought back big memories of Min having to bring you to The South so I could nurse you. You were a good eight months old and refused a cup or a bottle. It was a wonderful little reminder to me that when at three years and eight months you tell me "I can't!" when I ask you to count more than two objects. The fact is, even eight months into our new normal with you I thought you'd have a vegan grooms cake and we'd be putting you to bed with a rice sock on your stomach when you were fifteen. These days you're rice sock free and not only tolerate, but adore, dairy. And drink from cups that don't even have lids or spouts! I battled a lot of societal notions in my head when I realized that I wanted to let you quit nursing in your timing. And these days (though I'm a bit more seasoned so it's thankfully less frequent) it's sometimes hard not to analyze what I think is "normal" for a preschooler. I know you CAN count, but right now it's most important to me that you enjoy learning and knows I think you're really smart and very special.

Graves, you are really smart and very special. We love you so.

Momma (and Papa)

P.S. Your t-shirt is a 3T, but it runs big so I'm certain you'll have another Winter in it. Your jeans are a 2T and they are FINALLY about to be too short. Your pjs that we use for long johns under your jeans are a 3T, but they're snug so it works. 

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