(And yesterday it was well over sixty degrees, so now it’s gone. For now.)
For a few years now, Alex has been curious about the whole Santa thing. “Is he really real?” “How does he deliver so many toys?” “Do reindeer really fly?” “How does he MAKE everything?” “Does he really know when you are sleeping or awake? That’s creepy.”
My response has always been the exact same thing. Year after year, question after question:
“What do you think?”
And it works! Who knew that kids could be so easily tricked by simply asking what they think? “What do you think?” left Alex with the ability to keep believing, even though he had his doubts. He thought Santa probably didn’t actually know when he was sleeping, and he thought the toys were probably made in his toy workshop even though the same toys could be bought at any store. He thought Santa was real. The last few years, it totally worked.
“Mom. I was just remembering that time last year when I said I wanted a certain light saber and you told me, ‘maybe Santa got it!’ and then Santa did get it. I was thinking about that. And I want to know if maybe you got it and put it under the tree?”
“What do you think?”
“MOM. I’m asking you a question. Did you give me the toy?”
“…what do you think?”
Lather, rinse, repeat. I said “what do you think?” probably four or five more times as he asked me about this toy. I said, “what do you think?” when he blatantly asked me if Santa was real. I said, “what do you think?” when he asked if Santa was fake and again pressed on whether we give him presents and signed them as if they were from Santa. “What do you think, buddy?”
He got mad.
He told me I wasn’t answering his question. That he was asking me a yes or no question and that I was being mean and annoying and, “MOM! TELL ME! TELL ME THE TRUTH!”
I told him.
“I’m a little sad. But it’s also really nice that you gave me all of those presents. This year, I’m going to ask who each Santa present is actually from so that I can thank them.”
I’m a little sad, too. Santa remained a Little Kid Thing. Alex’s belief kept him in Little Kid Land. He’s really growing up.
Oh, my sweet Alexander,
Today marks the day that you turn eight years old. Eight. A huge number. Two away from double digits and closer to being a teenager than I can manage to think about just yet.
You are marvelous. I’m honestly not sure I tell you that enough. I’m not sure you know just how much I adore you. Just how much you are adored by me, your father, your grandparents, your fake uncles and aunts. How well liked you are by nearly every adult you meet, and how sought after you are as a playmate. We tell you, sure, but do you get it?
All children are special, and I know I’m very biased, but I honestly think that you are unique. Outside of the fact that I’m your mother and obviously think you are great, I truly believe you are spectacularly special. You are one of the most kind-hearted, sensitive, and sweet, people I’ve known. You still ask to hold my hand. Every night, I sing you a song before bed. You want kisses, hugs, and cuddles every single day, multiple times a day. You won’t let people kill bugs, you have decided you don’t want a dog (besides the fact that you are so allergic) because you don’t want to be sad when it dies, and when I so much as get a little angry at you? You get very upset, sometimes cry, and it’s not an act.
The other night, as I held your hand and rubbed your back, tucking your blankets in around you, I told you a list of things you had done that day that made me happy. We had spent the day with one of your friends, and I couldn’t help but choke up as I explained all of the things you did, how you handled yourself, that made me so proud to be your mother. You were willing to put aside what you wanted for your friend. You were willing to ask them how you could help when they got upset, kindly asking what was wrong when they started to melt down, quietly nudging them back into happiness and asking how you two could make your time together work. You were so mature and kind, and I’ve never told a story about your behavior that made me as proud or tear up as much as this one.
Every year, I write you a letter on this blog. Every year, I love to talk about what you learned. You learned to walk. You learned to talk. You learned to run and throw a ball and swim. You learned to read and write and do simple math. You learned to be more independent. But this year? This year you showed me what you’ve been learning all along: how to be a good human.
Alex, you are a good human.
I couldn’t be more proud.
This was our first summer together in many years. Alex has been going to full time care during the summer, hopping between summer camps or simply sticking with daycare. He’d loved those camps, but with me not working it was obvious that we would spend the summer together. Our first time spending all day nearly every day with one another has been pretty great, and I can’t believe that we are in the last two weeks of freedom. We are officially very close to the start of second grade.
Alex has definitely enjoyed doing absolutely nothing most days. He’s enjoyed being able to tell me that he doesn’t want to go anywhere. Every morning, I ask him what he wants to do, and nearly every day he responds, “I don’t know. Just hang out here?”
So, we do that. He has lots of screen time, jumping between video games, Minecraft, and movies, all of his very favorite activities, and I plan our upcoming trip to Europe, anxiously thinking about how to pack and what activities we will do and where we will get cash and how we will get around and and and…
We’ve also gone to the amusement park a few times, the zoo, swimming, out with friends and family, and recently spent a long weekend in The Poconos with my best friend.
There was fishing, and swimming, and, of course, lots of junk food and marshmallows over the fire.
He went to a few day camps, had an overnight at a far away camp where he slept in a cabin and went zip lining and was without family supervision. So, that was A Thing. (A Thing for his parents, not for him. He loved it and very nearly decided to go for an entire week by himself!)
This summer has flown by. It’s flown by in beautiful colors and I’m hopeful that it won’t be our last together. But even if it is? I’m glad we had it.
And now we have to work on getting back on schedule, back to the School Stuff, back to the really hard reality that is Alex hating school and barely being able to talk about it. If it were up to him, he’d have summer break forever (but only if I could bring his friends with us on most of our adventures. “You’re fun, Mom, but…I just like my friends, too!”).
Fourteen days left. Let’s make the most of it, Kiddo.
Nearly every year for the last three (four?) years, I have spent some time downtown during Anthrocon, the annual convention for furries held right here in Pittsburgh!
This year? It seemed like a good year to take Alex.
Unfortunately, our schedule was a little tight that day so we were only able to stay and Furry Hunt for about 45 minutes. We were there during the parade, this year marking the first year that the parade has been outside. (Typically, I’ve gone down with friends during the evening and basically just hung out around the main hotel chatting and taking tons of pictures.)
It was busy. SO busy. I have never seen it like this before, and while it’s a good thing for the Furries, it was a bit of a bummer for us. As nice as it was to see a huge crowd gather for the parade, I missed being able to easily see everything and everyone I wanted.
Overall, even during the short time I was there, it was so fun. I adore the Furries and I love taking their pictures.
And who doesn’t love spending time with flurries and friends?
Can’t wait to do it again next year!
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.
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.
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?