Monday, August 22, 2016

Love, more

Once again I return to this completely ignored space to acknowledge my twin boys' 16th birthday.  This is a long post but they each deserve their own letter. 

August 22, 2016

Dear son,

You are 16 years old.  Somehow I couldn't even envision who you would be in 2016 when you were born 10 weeks early and barely 3 lbs. and 12 oz.  You were this fragile thing wearing a mask to protect your eyes as you baked under bright lights to help your body rid itself of jaundice.  Yet your liver eventually figured out how to do its job and after 8 weeks you got to come home to our first floor apartment in a two family house.

It is wild to see you now - all 6'1" of you and still growing.  You can't start braces because the orthodontist says it'll be stealing our money since your jaw will be the last to finish.  So while it is a relief we have a principled orthodontist, it is unnerving that you might be going to college with braces.

You've embraced rugby with gusto, are diligent at your job in the grocery store and chomping at the bit to take your learner's permit test so you can start driving around town (with one of your beloved parents, of course).  You are also figuring yourself out, which is at times marvelous and other times maddening.  

But luckily for me, it is mostly marvelous.

Happy birthday darling son.

I love you,

August 22, 2016

Dear son,

You've stopped acting.  I'm trying really, really, r-e-a-l-l-y hard not to completely lose my sh*t over this.  It isn't because either of us harbored fantasies that you were going to make it big as a song-and-dance man on Broadway but because it was something you enjoyed and were good at.  This spring you were so good as the villainous and heartless Bill Sykes in a local production of Oliver! that little kids ran out of the theater out of fear and at a few shows the audience applauded your demise.  But you won't darken the door of your school's theater and are not interested in participating in local productions.

Darn it.  You are growing up and wanting to do your own thing.

You have found in rugby a sport that "clicks" for you.  You are getting more responsibilities at your grocery store job that require codes and keys and the authority to make overrides.  Pretty heady stuff for a teen.  You had a heart-to-heart talk with your godmother this past weekend about how to manage people that are creating roadblocks and not let those individuals make you stumble. 

So I'm going to shut up and let you be you. 

Happy birthday.

I love you,

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Happy Birthday, Happiness

April 23, 2016

Dear Daughter,

Today you are 12 years old.  Still not a teen but at 5'11" you are often seen as a high school and a few times as a college student.  You seem bemused by the misunderstandings.  I don't find them nearly as funny.

You started at a new school this year and for the most part it has been a wonderful, lovely fit.  The teachers challenge you and marvel at your work ethic while the students are mostly kind.  Except this is that wondrous time of life when all children between the ages of 11-14 seem, at times, to get all Hunger Games on each other.

You have been in the sights of the "Queen Bees", as you call them, twice this year.  Early in the fall someone said something to you that upset you so much, that tipped the scale for you, that you stood up in front of hundreds of other students in the dining hall and yelled at her.  Told her to back off and stop her behavior.  I could not be prouder of you to stand up and yell - loudly and in front of middle and high school students - that you were being hurt.  Clearly telling off your twin older brothers on a near daily basis came in handy that fall day.

As winter ended you were part of a larger formal class discussion about body image and food and you were telling your classmates that you eat more than them because you are bigger than they are and you are hungry.  Then you cried recounting that some classmates had on several occasions whispered and pointed at how much food was on your plate during lunch.  This led to a heartfelt conversation about judging one another, about being comfortable in your body and taking care of oneself.  Other classmates thanked you for your candor, for saying what they felt and for showing that whispering and shame really hurts.

Which, by the way, are pretty great things to be talking about as 11 and 12-year-olds and I am grateful that you attend a school that addresses these issues head on, without sugar coating them and in real time.  I know a few too many people in their 40's who could benefit from that conversation, both as the perpetrators of unkind words and those who are lacking support.

But those were truly the only two days that you left school with difficult tales.  If you have any "drama" to report you talk about it as if you could care less.  With one student you made it clear "we're never meant to be friends and that is fine".  You focus on the schoolwork as well as the students who do make you happy and feel good about yourself, who in turn share with you their trials and happiness.

That fearlessness you had as a little kid, both in age and height, is still there.  New situations don't frighten you and you graciously meet new people - children and adults - with no trepidation.

So that perception of you being older than you are is an honest mistake.  You continue to carry yourself with a confidence, self-preservation and wisdom that is beyond your, now, 12 years.

I love you.

Happy birthday,