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.
I may not have helped Alex advance in his reading/writing/’arithmetic skills as much as I would have liked, but he has learned a lot this summer.
Classic kid learning, which may be the best kind, has been a big part of this summer for Alex. The kind of kid learning that sticks with you well into adulthood. The kind of kid learning that often comes out when drinking with other adult friends, or reminiscing with people you’ve known forever. The kind of kid learning that only happens by osmosis.
Alex has learned how to make various types of bracelets/necklaces:
The ones that I remember making obsessively in summer camp as a kid were not this cool. They were with boring ol’ string, of various colors, of course, or that really stiff plastic rope. I tried to explain this to Alex, but he didn’t understand why I didn’t just make a thousand rainbow looms a day like he does.
He’s learned hand slapping games galore. I’m sure if you asked my mom, she would groan at the memory of me constantly reciting them on my own, and repeating them over and over when I had friends over. (Miss Mary Mac Mac Mac, all dressed in black, black, black…)
There is another thing Alex has learned this summer. One that is not so typical of what I think about childhood summers, but it seems that now Alex knows only this. And this one will come back to haunt him as he has to unlearn it, I’m sure.
This summer Alex has learned that he always wins. Even if your mother eloquently explains to you how the odds are not in your favor, and in fact stacked against you, and don’t get your hopes up, and blah blah blah.
Even if the chances of you being the one summer camper to bring home the poster that you all decorated is slim to none. Even if not a single other camper won some carnival game because it isn’t designed to be won. Even if there is a 0.0001% chance of winning. (Maybe I should take the kid gambling.)
I mean, really? What more does a kid need to learn?
I have slacked off this summer.
It’s not easy to find time to make your kid practice his reading and writing and math skills when: a) you work all day and only have about two hours a day with him to start with (which includes making dinner and cleaning and showers and and and), and b) he hates it. Hates it. Alex does not want to practice reading. He does not want to write sentences. He does not want to do math worksheets. He doesn’t like to be wrong, and, as we all know, learning involves being wrong a lot.
So, Alex hasn’t been doing a ton of purposeful studying in preparation for first grade. Obviously he’s learning and growing and changing, because that’s all inevitable, but we haven’t sat down and practiced.
I had high hopes of having him do some workbooks, reading to me every night, writing in a summer journal…
Well, none of that has happened.
Until two weeks ago, when Alex, of his own accord, decided he needed a journal. He wanted to write in a diary. I think the reality is that he was drawn to a bright blue notebook and some cool pens, but a diary sounded like an idea that would get me to agree to buy it for him.
“Can I get these, Mom? I want to write a diary!”
Of course I let him get them. We have a rule that he can always get new books, so I figured this was a similar type of request. He picked up the pens and book and carried them through the rest of the store until we checked out.
So, he has a little blue diary. He has written about Kennywood, swimming, and getting a new toy. I am trying to get him to do it every night, but so far he does his Super-Grumpy-Kid-Thing every night and claims he has nothing to write about because his day was boring and nothing happened, which means I have to help him come up with something or I’m too exhausted and let him skip it.
But he’s doing it most nights. He’s practicing his writing, spelling, and thinking about his day.
And the best part about all of this? As I kiss him goodnight, handing him his diary and fancy pens? He says goodnight and then he goes to sleep.
He. Goes. To. Sleep. As in, I am not putting him to sleep.
If I had known a diary would be the answer to him putting himself to sleep I would have procured some cool looking pens and a book a long time ago. He writes in it, looks through a few comic books, and then turns out the light and puts himself to bed.
The kid who never sleeps, who has never slept, who has always needed a long bed time routine and a lot of encouragement, is now (usually) easy. (Usually is key: at least once per week he does call for us after he’s been in bed for thirty minutes or so. But I’ll take it!)
Growing up is cool.
Even though he can be a total and complete cranky little grump, Alex is having a pretty awesome summer. Don’t ask him, though, because he will tell you it’s been “fine” or, depending on his mood, “boring” “the same as always” or “bad.” This, of course, is not true. I don’t think I have picked him up after a camp day one time and found him with less than a huge grin on his face as he’s running around playing with new friends.
So far, he has gone to three specialty camps in between weeks of, well, “regular” camp, I suppose. The “regular” camp is hosted by our local community, so he’s surrounded by other kids in his school district, doing arts and crafts, swimming, and spending many hours playing outside at the nearby park. He gets to go swimming three times a week, which is obviously the best part of every week.
The specialty camps have been pretty amazing: one was an outer space theme, one was Castles, Knights, and Dragons, and the one he did last week? Superhero Science. There could not be a more perfect camp for Alex, unless it was Superheros and Wizards and Dr. Who Science Camp. (And don’t worry: Wizard camp is coming up!)
Needless to say, he loved it.
As I picked him up on Friday afternoon, he got into the car and said, “Mom, I miss Superhero Camp.”
I don’t blame you, Kid. Superhero camp was right in your wheelhouse.
Alex is a grump. He is able to complain about anything. A day does not go by where he doesn’t have multiple complaints about what was done, what wasn’t done, who did what, who didn’t do what, and why that day was not the way he wanted it to be.
Don’t get me wrong: Alex is also a very happy kid. He loves playing. He loves wrestling. He loves spending time with other kids.
But he’s a grump.
I ask him how his day was every day. When I pick him up from school or camp, or if it’s a day at home we discuss our day around dinner time. “What was the best thing about your day?” I learned to ask because asking, “how was your day?” inevitably gets a response of, “TERRIBLE! HORRIBLE! NO GOOD!”
Maybe lots of kids respond this way, but I never cease to be surprised by the negativity: “The best thing about my day was swimming…but the day was ruined when we had to stop swimming” or “the best thing? There was no best thing. It was all terrible” or “I don’t know. I didn’t really like anything we did today.”
There is never not a complaint. Things are never just good. On a rare day, I’ll get a response of, “my day was okay. So-so,” as he gives you one thumb up and one thumb down, or puts his palm down toward the ground and rocks it back in forth in the “so-so” motion.
And lately, that grumpiness is often related to swimming.
Alex loves being in the water. Last summer, we started taking him to lessons. He had only been in water maybe three or fours times prior to that, so needless to say it took quite a while for him to not be totally freaked out by the whole thing. But now, about a year after he had his first lesson? The kid wants to be swimming all.the.time.
He’s not exactly a Swimmer, either. I finally feel confident that if he is in a pool he won’t, you know, die. But I wouldn’t throw him out in the middle of a deep pool or lake and expect it to end well, either. Fortunately, he has all of the confidence in the world about his swimming abilities when he is able to stand.
And as such? No day is perfect because he didn’t get to spend the entire day in the water.
Today, Alex has a field trip with his summer camp. I asked him this morning how excited he was and his response? “It’s going to be terrible because it’s not a swimming day.”
What a little grump.
I discovered this post sitting in my drafts. It’s from a little over one year ago, and comparing it to the recent hose pictures I am completely blown away by the kid that has emerged in a year.
It’s funny how every at stage of Alex’s life, every few months, I find myself saying, “now he really looks like a kid…” and “oh, no, I mean, now he’s a kid!” I don’t imagine this will change as he continues to grow, change, learn, grow, change, learn, and grow into himself. Grow into the self that I sometimes get a glimpse of: the grown up Alex. The real big Alex.
But these old pictures? Oh man, he was such a little guy still. I mean, look at him now! He looks like he belongs in school, riding bikes, reading, running, talking back…he does all of these things, of course (except riding bikes…we’ve got to teach him that, still!), but he really looks like he does them, too.
So here is an old post that for some reason I never published. Cute, little, Alex.
He may be growing up (too fast), but he is clearly still a little kid.
He (apparently) still needs me to tell him which way his shorts go on.
I couldn’t find our sprinkler. I couldn’t find the slip ‘n slide. I couldn’t find the baby pool/slide combination thing that he has probably far outgrown.
He didn’t care.
A hose is all he needed.
No one will be surprised to learn that by the end of this little adventure in hose play I was completely soaked.
It was worth it.
Zach’s father just celebrated his 60th birthday. To commemorate the amazingness that is turning 60, Zach’s mother decided we should throw a surprise party.
But not just any surprise party. This would be extra special. Amazingly special. We would get family and friends from all over the country in addition to the family and friends that are close. We would have amazing food, a bartender (!), and lots and lots of fun. It would be hosted at our house, under the guise that Zach would make us all cocktails before a fancy dinner out in order to get Zach’s father, called Big D by Alex (and, let’s be honest, everyone else at this point because kids do that), to our place.
Somehow we managed to keep the secret. Somehow, even though Alex knew for months, no one spilled the beans.
Somehow we managed to get almost all of the many people who love Big D to Pittsburgh, staying in hotels, quietly facebooking so no one knew where they were, eating take-out at our house because we couldn’t go out and risk being spotted! Somehow we managed to absolutely shock Big D.
And, yeah, there were many (happy) tears shed.
At one point Alex asked me why people were crying. “Sometimes, people cry when they are happy. They’re happy tears!” I attempted to explain through tears. He looked at me like I was crazy and walked away, only to show up again when cake was served.
It is a funny thing to cry when happy, but I, along with at least ten other people, shed a lot of tears during this party. It made taking pictures a bit difficult at times because everything was so blurry and made me even happier to be the one behind the camera so I could mostly hide my ugly-cry-face.
All of Big D’s siblings were able to make it: three from New England and one flew all the way up from Florida!
Plus their spouses and kids, and kids’ kids!
The outtakes from the family pictures are, by far, my favorite pictures of the day. People who see each other not nearly enough having way too much fun.
And then there’s Alex making this ridiculous face in nearly all of the pictures:
He’s lucky he’s cute and was surrounded by so many people who love him and even more who love his Big D (and therefore have to be nice to him).
It was an amazing day.
We are all lucky to have someone as wonderful as Big D in our life.