Friday, July 12, 2013

Letter to Sebastian, age almost-8

Oh Sebby! My favorite almost-8-year-old in the whole world!,

You wrote your age as "7-8" on one of your assignments the other day, and it dawned on me that you are as big as Abe was when I first started to feel like a parent of a Big Kid. Now I will be the parent of two Big Kids, and I'm so happy about it! I love watching you try out so many new things and learn so many new skills. You're so thrilled about every new thing you learn. Times tables? "Quiz me on the fives again, Mommy!" Civil War? You make a bayonet out of a letter opener, to stick inside your curtain rod "musket." Cursive? Every drawing you make is now signed "Sebby" in lovely script. Alphabetizing? You've started making your own dictionary, of course. ("Page 5: Ham through Howitzer.")
I've been amazed, this past year or so, how much of a hard worker you've become. You've always worked hard for your age---even as a 6-month-old we felt like you were constantly striving for some unseen, just-out-of-reach goal---but now I think I'd pick you over most adults as a working companion. When we were painting the little kids' Bunny Room, you spent hours helping Daddy and me. You learned to make your brush strokes all go the same way, and you even did some stenciling, which is hard to get right. But you worked at it patiently, and the bunnies you made were as good or better than any I did myself! I kept thinking you'd get tired of painting after a while. "You can take a break after this," I kept telling you. But you wouldn't do it. "I like it," you said, cheery in your knee-length paint shirt. "Can we start the next color?"

In those weeks leading up to Marigold's birth, Daddy and I would lie down at night and talk about you. "He's so focused," I'd say. "He seems to love finishing a task, and doing it well."
"The thing is that he's so fun to be around," Daddy would say. "I just like hanging out with him!"
"I know! He's such a good companion!" I'd say. "I keep thinking of more jobs for us to do together because I'm enjoying his company so much!"
Because you are my second child, Seb, you are the one who helped me learn how wonderfully different each child can be. Three-year-old Abraham---sweet, serious, careful---was mystery enough, but then we added you into the mix, and Daddy and I were totally baffled. Were you going to be calm? Boisterous? Dissatisfied? Focused? Silly? You were all of these at once, and so unexpected in your gifts that you finally taught us to stop trying to classify you as something, but to just enjoy YOU and all the things you were.

And my goodness, what a number of those things there were, and still are! If anything, you grow more amazing to me with each passing year. Artist, writer, thinker, builder. Exuberant and friendly; serious and contemplative. You were always the one that always engaged people in conversation---clerks at the grocery store, lifeguards at the pool. You struck up a friendship with the man that hung our porch swing for us, asking him how he liked his job and telling him how much you, too, enjoyed using tools. He told me as he left that he'd take you on as an apprentice whenever you were old enough. (You were five.) This year, the man who came to wash our windows told me the same thing. He was totally won over by your obvious admiration for his skills, and by the way you followed him around chatting and asking him for tips on his technique. The guy at the sprinkler store, laughing at you as you drooled over the Impact Sprinklers, offered you a job on the spot. If you don't watch out you're going to be wanted as an apprentice by half the laborers in the Salt Lake Valley!
So you're friendly, and people love you. But you don't seem to need that kind of attention. You're not really a spotlight seeker, and you always seem perfectly happy to stay in the background if you need to. You'll sit poring over a book---our Encyclopedia of Science, Great Buildings of the World, or Children's Atlas of the World---for literally hours at a time. I had to laugh when I saw you nab the instructions to our new smoke detector---of all things---and settle down contentedly with them at the kitchen table. You sat there enthralled, looking back and forth, back and forth, from the smoke detector on the ceiling to the instructions under your chin. I assume you were locating all the parts on the "Parts Included" diagram. But for goodness sake, I don't know anyone that would read instructions just for fun! You aren't like anyone else, though, and I'm so glad of that. Daddy and I used to think our kids would be some sort of amalgam of us, mixed-up but recognizable. I used to think about what you might be: my eyes, Daddy's hair, my music, Daddy's art. But I could never have written you, if I were thinking you up like a character in a novel. You're better and more complicated and more delightful than anything I could imagine.

You and I get mad at each other occasionally, of course. Everyone does that. And things like Piano Practicing and Spelling are hard work, and they can bring out strong feelings---in both of us. But what I enjoy so much about you is that for the most part, you navigate challenges bravely. You WANT to get everything right the first time, I can tell, and you get frustrated when you don't. But when a passage of music is hard, more and more I see you willing to tackle it again, and then again. You tape patches over your papers when you misspell a word, wanting to get it right, but willing to press on instead of starting over. You draw pictures of the Solar System in every conceivable variation: "This one is to scale for distance, but not size." "This one is to scale for size, but doesn't include moons." You're getting comfortable with a bit of inexactness in life---but you're doing your best to limit it---and I love you for both traits.
I admire the way you deal with new situations, too. I remember a couple years ago, how nervous you were to try the waterslides at a new swimming pool. You hung back, clearly torn between excitement and fear. The Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland affected you the same way. But one day, you seemed to acquire a new resolve, and when something unfamiliar came up, you'd say, "I'm going to try it!" in a determined voice. I don't think you were less nervous than before, but you just pressed on regardless. I'm not a big thrill-rider myself, so I've taken to asking you for reassurance. "Am I going to be scared?" I said, holding your hand as we stood in line for Thunder Mountain last time. "Maybe a little," you told me soothingly, "but you'll be glad you did it." And you were right.

I think it was a little while after I noticed your newfound bravery that you came upstairs on a Sunday morning wearing Abraham's old suit. I'd been saying, vaguely, for a few months, "You ought to try on that suit and see if it fits you yet!"
"It probably won't fit," you kept saying, and so we'd forget it for another week. I wasn't sure where your reluctance was coming from, but I didn't think that much about it.
That morning, though, you came striding into my room, clean from your shower, hair slicked back, tie slid smartly up under your collar. "How do I look?" you said, grinning at me.
"My goodness you're handsome," I said, meaning it. I couldn't believe how grown-up you looked.
"I tried the suit, and it fit me!" you told me happily.
And I don't know if there was anything more to it than that. You can tell me someday, maybe. But you know how we talked about metaphors the other day during school? To me, that suit seemed like a perfect metaphor for how you're growing. Maybe it takes you awhile before you're ready to try something new. You'll think about it, and you'll talk about it. And then one day if you suddenly decide you're ready---you'll do it---and it will fit you like it was made for you, my dear sweet grown-up boy. And I'm convinced there won't be anything important to you, that won't "fit you" eventually. Not because things come effortlessly to you, but because effort is exactly what you're good at, and once you know that secret, the world is yours. And you'll conquer it impeccably dressed, I'm guessing.

I love you, Yibbam Sebbibble. So happy you're my boy!

Love,
Mommy

3 comments:

  1. I love this--you are lucky to have him, and he is lucky to have you as such a thoughtful, attentive mama.

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  2. 461gcv this is a test comment

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