Every year, for as long as I can remember, I’ve had a Christmas Tree. A real, pine-smell-emitting, cut from the Earth, needle-dropping, Christmas tree.
“It’s so weird that we put a tree inside our house,” Alex admitted to me while we were decorating the tree last night.
It is weird, for sure, but it’s also lovely. It smells so wonderful and looks so pretty and makes me feel so warm. So peaceful, happy, loved, and Christmas-y.
The last two years we have purchased our tree at a local farm, and this year Alex was lucky enough to get his own tree. He was quite insistent that he get a five foot tree, but, sorry kid!, no way.
He loves his tree. His tiny little tree. His huggable, still delicious-smelling, needle-dropping, cut from the Earth, real Christmas tree.
He’s lost his two bottom teeth already, but the loss of the top front tooth seems so big to me. He will no longer look like a little boy. The fact that he kept his baby-teeth-filled-smile until he was seven (“and a quarter!”) made me happy.
It kept him little for a little while longer.
As these new big teeth grow in, we will get our first glimpse at the person he is going to become.
It’s going to be awesome.
She knew what I was going to say before I even said it.
I had just asked for a minute of her time. I guess that was enough of a hint.
“You’re quitting, aren’t you?” she asked.
I smiled, laughed a little, and nodded in agreement.
I quit my job.
I actually liked (most of) my job. I enjoyed the work I did and I felt, day to day, respected and like I was doing something important. My work was interesting, and I was actually good at it.
But you know what’s more important to me right now? Zach and Alex.
So, I quit my job.
To stay home. For the first time since Alex was two.
(And no, it didn’t happen just like ::snap:: that. This has been a long discussion over many months, many spreadsheets, many concerns, many budgetary considerations.)
The first time I dropped him off at daycare felt amazing. It was only two hours, and we did it once per week to transition him from the only thing he had known: being with me all day, every day, except when he was with Zach or his adoring grandparents. This was the first time he would be with strangers. Strangers who would feed him, change him, play with him.
He loved daycare. And once I went to school on a more-than-full-time basis, he went to daycare full time.
He did great. And I have to admit, it was great for me, too. Two years with a baby, one who refused to sleep, meant that some time away, doing things with only other adults, felt pretty awesome. So, I did just that. Spent more time with other adults every week than with him. Spent more time with other children every week than with him.
I impressed people, made a name for myself, and now I’m quitting.
Alex is very excited. I’m anxiously psyched to begin a new routine. A new day-to-day. Domestic, picking Alex up after school, being there with him on sick days, not having to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to work.
Not having to do every single chore and every single errand on the weekend? I can’t begin to imagine how different that will feel for all of us.
We are lucky. Immensely lucky. It won’t necessarily be something we can do forever, but for now?
He lasted an hour this year.
That’s at least fifteen minutes longer than last year, and every year before that I’m pretty sure we made it to only a handful of houses before he declared that he was done.
When I think back to Halloween as a child, I remember staying out for every possible minute of Trick or Trick. The second we were allowed on the streets we were out there, and not until the last light went out at the farthest stretches of the street did we run home to count our candy.
Alex doesn’t need to do that. At least not yet. For now, he’s perfectly happy to spend about an hour walking around, saying “Trick or Treat!”, running back up to the same house when he realizes he forgot to say “thank you!”…
Life is good for boys named Alex.
Two Thousand Thirteen.
Two Thousand Twelve.
Two Thousand Eleven.
[Imagine inserted here is a picture of Alex wearing a very cute, blue, Batman costume. He is very serious. Furrowed brow. (How is it possible I don’t have one of him this year?)]
Two Thousand Ten.
Two Thousand Nine.
Two Thousand Eight.
Two Thousand Seven.
Alex has kind of grown up in a bubble. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but it can certainly make things outside of the bubble especially hard to deal with.
He’s surrounded by good people. Great people. Caring, accepting, non-judgmental, to-each-their-own, people. People who love his sense of style. People who understand that his interests don’t include sports. People who give him time to open up, to talk when he’s ready (and understand that once he starts he won’t stop), and who don’t push him when his feelings are hurt. People who see him for who he is, for Alex. His family, the friendships we’ve helped him build through our friends and their kids. These people? These people have been in Alex’s bubble. These people get him and love him.
But the world may not. The world raises children to be mean. The world teaches their children that boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls, and anything outside of that is wrong. The world says, “you throw like a girl” and means it as an insult. The world says, “man-up” and means to stop being so emotional and start being stronger. The world tells their children that it’s okay to pick on another kid, or at least doesn’t actively try to prevent it. The world doesn’t teach to-each-their-own; the world teaches my-way-is-the-only-right-way.
Why is that? Why can’t the world grow up? Is it so hard to raise our children to be better than we are? We want them to have a better education, to buy a bigger house, to get better jobs. The American Dream! But apparently we don’t want to raise them to not hold our prejudices as truth. Apparently our prejudices are right and we must pass those down to our children, who can then be bullies to kids who don’t fit that perfect mold of White American Male (or whatever it may be at that time of judgement).
It has been ten years since I graduated from high school, and I spent many hours this weekend reminiscing and catching up at my reunion.
I wasn’t going to go. Weekends are notoriously too busy, and I didn’t have the strong desire to spend time with, well, basically strangers at this point.
I still keep in touch with a few people, though, and one of them is someone I have known since second grade. (A mind boggling thought as Alex is making friends and could potentially know these people for the rest of his life.) When a friend you’ve known since second grade is flying across the country for reunion? You kind of have to go.
So I went.
And ten years isn’t that much time, is it? Sure, we’ve all changed in a lot of ways: everyone had graduated from college, was working in some capacity, many were in graduate school, a few were married, and two fellow alums had babies. But then in other ways it seemed like not much had happened. We are all still young, looking relatively unscathed from life. A little gained weight here (hi! Thanks, baby!), some facial hair there, but mostly it looked like the class I graduated with a decade ago.
And it was fun. Great fun.
I’m so glad I went. I’m so glad I got over my anxiety, my fear about being judged for being a young mother, my concern that people would still be stuck in high school mode, my apprehension that the whole thing would be awkward.
Thinking about being a decade out of high school while simultaneously watching Alex as he navigates his way through first grade is something else. I have distinct memories of first grade. Most of those memories aren’t as strong as the ones I have from my time with everyone I spent the weekend with, but they are there. I remember my teacher, some students, my mom. I remember what I got in trouble for (talking, using the wrong color crayon), what I excelled at (math), and the people who began to help form who I would eventually become.
Will Alex remember this year? Will he look back at his time in first grade when he is in high school and remember struggling with spelling? Will he remember that he excelled at math? Will he remember being bored? Will this be motivating or demotivating to him as he enters tougher academics?
I know one thing for sure after spending the weekend with nearly one quarter of my graduating class: I wouldn’t change where I went to high school for anything. And I really hope Zach and I can provide the right environment for Alex as he continues through school. Perhaps one day he can go to his ten year graduation at the same place that I attend my 32nd.
My lovely little Alexander,
I screwed up this year. I didn’t complete your slideshow or yearly letter on time, so this year you get something a week late. I have a lot of guilt over this, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you don’t mind one iota. Instead of spending time on this around your birthday, we spent a wonderful five days together. With your birthday falling on a Thursday, and camp ending the day before, your Dad and I decided to take Thursday and Friday off to spend the last few days of summer together. And Monday being a holiday? Bonus! We had an amazing five day weekend full of back to school shopping, birthday day fun, and a very small amount of relaxing.
Seven days ago we spent the day doing some of your favorite things. Other than the obligatory yearly well-child visit, the day was about you. We went to your favorite french bakery, the toy store, and a second viewing of Guardians of the Galaxy. Needless to say, the bakery, toy shopping, and movie were a big hit. And the whole day I kept looking at you, staring at you, saying, “Buddy! I can’t believe you’re my seven year old now!” You would smile every time in this way that you do, with a slight flush to your cheeks, your eyes bright and knowing, and the corners of your mouth attempting to not spread out too wide in a grin.
“Seven, buddy! Seven!” I would grab you saying, amazed at the fact. But seven you are! And what a year it has been. What changes we have seen in you! And what an amazing young man you are becoming.
While you were six, you started and completed Kindergarten. It was not an easy start, and really it wasn’t easy at the end, either. But you did it! You graduated from Kindergarten, and learned so much along the way.
You continue to be a very sensitive, loving, kind person. We frequently discuss your feelings, of which you have many, and how various things in life affect them. It’s a struggle for you to not take everything personally, and to not be very worried about how you are doing in life. While this causes you some pain, it also means you are a very conscientious young kid with a big heart. I have never once been concerned about you being mean to another kid.
And now you are beginning first grade, your first time in a full day learning environment as Kindergarten was a half day program. First grade is going to be The Big Serious, at least relatively speaking, and I am nervously excited to see how the year turns out for you.
Unlike Kindergarten, you were quite excited for the beginning of first grade. In fact, you were so excited that you “didn’t sleep at all!” the night before. You woke your father up at five in the morning, exclaiming your inability to sleep. When I picked you up after your first day of school, your eyes were glossed over and you told me you felt like you were dreaming all day. Your excitement kept you awake and had you wake up far too early in the morning, something I can relate to for sure!
For your birthday this year, you had very specific plans. You knew that on your actual birthday day, we would do something quiet, small, just you and your parents. But we discussed doing something bigger a few days later. We had talked about doing a party, but you wanted nothing to do with that. I must admit that when you told me your plans I was both surprised and yet not so surprised. Your plans were so very you.
This was your birthday plan:
Go out to breakfast and order peanut butter/chocolate pancakes
Go to the toy store and get toys (you knew there could be a lot because you chose not to have a party)
Have sushi for lunch, specifically sushi rolls with cream cheese in them
Have Chipotle for dinner
We didn’t quite have that day exactly as you had desired. We went to Chuck E Cheese in the afternoon, had amazing pizza for dinner, and entirely skipped the toy store as you had gone two days before in between eating macaroons and seeing an IMAX 3D movie and the day before after back to school shopping when you got maybe the coolest costume yet.
And little man, I’m so happy that you still love costumes, superheroes, reading, and wrestling. I love that you have grown into an immense love of swimming. I love that you were so excited about starting first grade that you couldn’t sleep. I love that you still like to dress up sometimes, wearing ties and blazers. I love that you and Daddy have a love of comic books and Dr. Who and Adventure Time together, and that I can join in on the love in my own way. And I love that last night you told me you couldn’t help it, you just had to kiss me again and again and again…
I can’t wait to continue watching you grow up, Alex. You make me so proud.
I love you, Little Dude. Forever and ever.