Monday, August 15, 2016

When You Woke Up This Morning, You Were 8

Dear Little Boy,

You aren't so little anymore, I suppose. I keep asking you when you are going to outgrow my lap and you've started to believe that it is going to eventually happen. You used to just laugh and tell me that you'd always be my Baby Chicken. These days, though, you know that time marches forward and that you get bigger and stronger and older all while my lap stays the same size.

You tell me that when you outgrow it (which your siblings haven't yet, so I am not entirely convinced you ever will either), that it'll be fine because I can just sit on you instead.

Always with the touching and the tucking.

You've always been a tucker. Hands, feet crammed underneath me in some odd way. It looks terribly uncomfortable and doesn't always feel fantastic from this end, but you seem to crave it sometimes and so I indulge you.

If you were to ask your siblings, they'd probably say that I indulge you more than them. They've taken to referring to you as my Schmoo. They nicknamed you that, to go along with their collective insistence that you're my favorite.

You know what?

Let them think that.

I don't actually have a favorite kid, as I am certain I've explained 783 million times this summer. You're all special and different and unique and challenging and difficult and weird and awesome in your own ways. I love you all for who you each are. I struggle with every single one of you in a different way.

But hey, that's the wonder of parenting I matter what I do, someone is mad at me for something, and so I say let them believe that you're my favorite.

So are they.

This year has been an interesting one, and if you'd have told me one year ago today that we'd be prepping for a second year of homeschooling, I'd have probably laughed in your face.

But then the last year happened and something deep in my gut told me that it was time. School wasn't working for you. In too many ways, it was causing more harm than good and so it was time. I pulled you out just weeks after the year started, panicked a little bit, worried for a long time, and then we figured it out.

You've thrived at home in a way I never imagined. You have made so much progress with reading. You're nearly two full grade levels ahead in math. You are always asking when we can make the next science experiment. What are we going to grow now, Mom? Can we do this?

My living room has been full of race car tracks and rainbows and art projects and presentation posters. I have a chalkboard in my dining room now and spend hours and hours developing curriculum. You've discovered just how much you love music, now learning to play piano, doing musical theater, falling in love with performing.

You have never learned in the conventional way, the one that school seems to focus on. You don't sit, you don't absorb things the way they say you are supposed to. You need to move and do and see and feel. You need to experience the world, and when you get it, whatever it is, you understand it on a fundamental level that a classroom could never teach you.

You make me think. You make me create. You make me wonder every single day if I'm doing the right thing.

I've never really been sure of much with you. You've taught me so often that I really don't know nearly as much as I think I do. You've taught me that I always have something to learn, a new way to do things, a new experience lurking out there in the world inviting me to join.

You live outside. You need outside. You crave it, even.

You don't sit well, but you don't get bored. There's always something to do in your world. Always.

Baseball, bikes, scooters, skateboards, rollerblades. There's always some kind of helmet in my car, and it always belongs to you.

You never know when you're going to need it.

You're a born helper. The more physical work is, the more you love it. You need to move. You love to build. You love to destroy. You're teaching your baby brother to follow in your footsteps and half the time I am not sure whether I should be ecstatic or terrified or a little bit of both.

This year you've been fortunate not only to have your Dad be your den leader for scouts, but your big brother as den chief too. I don't know if you'll stay in scouts as long as your brother. I don't know if you'll ever love it as much as your Dad does. I don't know if sports will take more and more of your time, leaving less of it for scouts over time. I don't know.

I do know that this experience for you, with your Dad and your big brother, has been something that really is amazing. I hope that you understand just how special it is.

This summer you started backpacking, learned how to cast fly fishing, and I hear you caught more fish than your Dad...which could be true or you could just be refining the very important life skill of telling a good fish story.

You've been telling good fish stories for a while now.

One of the coolest things about you is that even when you're scared, you try new things anyway. Fear has never stopped you. I am not sure it ever will.

You're the bravest person I know.

You've been through a lot this year. This whole school thing has always been more complicated for you, even from your first days of preschool. I don't know how long you'll be home, but for now, it works.

I know the transitions have been hard for you, but you've weathered the changes well.

You've always been my most patient child. You have always had to be.

When you woke up this morning, you were eight. You went to bed with one less tooth than you started the day with. Things are changing, you're growing up.

It seems to me like you were just turning three. It seems like there is no possible way that you are already as big as you are. And just when I think you're getting too big, you manage to fold yourself up and tuck your hands and feet under me just like you used to when you were little. Tuck in under my wing as long as you need, Chicken.

School starts tomorrow. Meet you in the dining room, pants optional.

Happy birthday, Chicken.

I love you.

Mama Chicken

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