11
Jun 17

Beatrix: One and a Half

Hi B,

It’s hot today. Much hotter than it was in my last letter to you. We took you out for a morning walk because we knew that, by afternoon, none of us would want to move. Walks are a hit for you, because walks inevitably involve dogs. You are pro-dog. Loudly, enthusiastically pro-dog. You point at them, and tell them that they are a dog. You’re very excited about this. And when they leave, you immediately start asking for more. “Mo… mo… mooare!” This is true of birds and flowers, too, but dogs reign supreme.

You’re talking a lot more now. Still single words, and only your parents really understand them, but there are dozens. Almost all of them are food related, surprising no one. You know milk, water, banana, yogurt, and baguette. You know books, blocks, dog, cat, and bunny. You roar when you see pictures of lions, tigers, or flamingos (??).

You also know, “no.” You know that there’s a set of things you’re not supposed to do. Things like throwing your milk cup on the floor. So you’ll hold it out to the side, make eye contact with us, hurl it at the ground and then solemnly say, “Noooooo.”

When we got in from our walk, your cheeks were red. I don’t think you got a sunburn, I think you were just warm, but it reminded me of a pretty awful time at the very beginning of you. Back in May of 2015, before you were born, when you were about 2 months along, your mom was exposed to parvovirus. It’s a nothing disease – kids often get it in school and don’t even notice. It gives you red cheeks for a few days (they call it “slap cheek”) and then goes away. No big deal. Except that when a pregnant mom gets it, there’s something like a 1 in 20 chance that the baby does. And if the baby catches it, the baby dies. No maybes, no dramatic interventions. Heads or tails.

Unless and until you have your own kids, B, I don’t really think I can explain to you how that feels. To know that either everything is fine or we’re about to lose you and there’s nothing we can do but sit and see which universe we’re in. Just sit. And wait. Every day for 8 weeks. Waiting for something to happen and hoping that nothing does.

I sat there watching you today, with those pink cheeks fading as you cooled off. Toddling back and forth, reading books to yourself, trying to get into the snack cupboard. You don’t know that any of this ever happened. But I never forget how it felt to almost not have you in our lives at all.

Having you in our life is amazing, Bix. You’re like a little Dionysus. Everyone should always be eating and drinking and having a nice time, as far as you’re concerned. Especially Lily (“yi-yi”) and especially, especially dogs. You’re a delight.

Love you, B. Next week you move to the toddler room at daycare. That’s how quickly time flies.

Daddy


14
Feb 17

Lily: Seven

Hi kiddo,

We spent a few hours this weekend gluing 100 sunflower seeds onto a piece of paper for a school project. Since my last letter to you, you’ve started grade 1. Your teacher doesn’t believe in homework for grade 1 kids, and I agree, but we do have these occasional projects. It makes me think about all the clichés of parents doing their kid’s science fair projects. Silly and inconsequential as it is, I found myself coming along behind you and straightening out sunflower seeds that you had knocked off of their glue blobs. You watched me do it at one point, and then looked up at me and declared, “We are a good team.”

You broke your arm a few months ago. You did it in the most normal way, falling off the monkey bars. You didn’t wail, you just went and sat quietly until a teacher asked you if you were okay. It’s hard to express to you how it feels as a parent to see you hurt. I know that you’ll be fine. Kids do this. It’s probably even beneficial for you. But there’s this intense urgency to those moments. I do a pretty good job of keeping calm in times of high stress, but that day was a hard one to stay calm through. Your mom was taking you to get an x-ray and even though she’s perfectly capable of doing it herself, I felt like I needed to be there. Melissa heard it in my voice over the phone, and basically ordered me to go. You’re fine now, of course. But for the photos you might not even remember it in a few years. But I will.

Because your sister is now more than a year old, we felt like it was safe to start traveling again, so two weeks ago we all went down to Mexico. Travel is such an important part of our life, and it makes Melissa and me so happy to share it with you. You’re learning to be a pro traveler from the start. Mexico was amazing, there was great programming for you and B, and a lovely atmosphere overall. You’re such a water kid — you went swimming at least 3 times a day. And for a kid who doesn’t eat much, you were extremely impressed with the buffet. It will take a few years before B can handle the more adventurous trips, but seeing you two explore together, and the way you take care of her, is just lovely.

But the vacation didn’t really take us away from the fact that the world is in a sort of messed up place, Lil. While we fundraised on hotel wifi, your social justice instincts were still going strong, too. You ask a lot of questions about why mean people get elected, and why someone doesn’t tell them that they’re not being fair. We try to frame our answers in terms of participation — that it is important to have a point of view, and to express it, and to stand up for what’s right. We try to do that in our own writing about the stuff we know. But we’re still looking for ways to do more that feel true to who we are.

Your world is pretty full right now. You have skating, karate, swimming, and choir. Your choir teacher clearly has fascinating taste. We’ll be making breakfast and you’ll start humming Supertramp, or Aerosmith. Leonard Cohen, or Bahamas. Music is another thing that is important to all your parents, and that all of us love to see taking root in you. Even if it does mean hours of, “Dream on, dream on, dream until your dreams come troooooooooo” on repeat.

I love you, Lil.

Daddy


11
Dec 16

Beatrix: 1 Year Old

d81_8626Hiya Bix,

You’re napping right now as I write this. When you wake up, it’ll be lunch time. You are a champion eater, ravenous and loud about it. You’ve gone from a really little kid to a giant in the 6 months since my last letter.

We have a video monitor to spy on you while you sleep. The camera’s cheap, the picture is grainy black and white, and I love it. Right now you are in downward baby pose, one of your favourites.

The world is in a strange place right now, B. I don’t really know what to say about it, or how different it will be by the time you’re old enough to read these things. When I used to read about awful things happening in history I always had trouble relating. I couldn’t understand why the people in those times didn’t do more to resist. Right now there are some awful things happening and it feels like we’re on the precipice of some more, really awful things that are about to.

Your mom and I talk a lot about what we want to do about it. How we can make the kind of change we want in the world, and resist the kind of change we don’t. As an adult, I think you’ll realize that your mom and I are pragmatists. We get things done. It’s how we succeed at work and it’s how we run our life. We try not to spend too much time on moralizing or polarizing. Life, and the people that fill it, are full of nuance, Bix. It’s never the right call to weaponize those disagreements, and turn others into villains. But 2016 has been the kind of year that can radicalize a person. And so I have trouble really predicting what kind of parents you’ll think you have. But I want you to know that we’re paying attention. That we care. And that we’re trying to figure out how to make the world better.

Heavy stuff, I know. But none of it matters to you, today. Today, you have figured out standing, and climbing stairs, and you’re one step away from walking. Your big sister is the most important person in your world, followed by your mom, then Adele the pig, then Anne at daycare, and then, I think, me.

It’s okay. I don’t mind. I get to put you to bed every night. You’ve settled on Down to the River to Pray as your lullaby, just like your sister did. We rock in the chair. I shush, and you grab at my face in the dark. Then you snuggle in for a minute and sigh before moving to your crib. Where you immediately find Adele.

You’re waking up from your nap. Gotta run, B. I love you. Happy Birthday.

Daddy

 


30
Oct 16

The Co-pour

logo-4webI’ve started writing again.

I suspect most of you know this already, but for those who don’t: Melissa and I have started writing down our thoughts about management and leadership in tech in a new Medium publication called The Co-pour. We’ve got a few dozen posts up already, covering promotions, firing, and several other areas we’ve seen new leaders struggle.

We have more in the works but here’s the current list, in case you’re curious:

I’m not shutting this place down, it’s still where I’ll write my letters to the girls, and anything else that feels right. But the organizational leadership stuff feels like a chunk of work that can live in its own place. And the collaboration with Melissa makes it important to me that it’s a place we built together.

Anyhow if that’s a thing you’re interested in following, and you haven’t found us over there yet, I hope you’ll take a look. Leading people is hard work, and we want to help where we can.

[PS to the Mozillians out there: Yes, it’s hosted at mfbt.ca. I’ve had to domain for years, for obvious reasons. This felt like an appropriate use of it.]


13
Aug 16

Six and a Half

Lily and BixHi sweets,

In the six months since my last letter to you, one thing has become abundantly clear: You are a kind and patient and amazing big sister for Beatrix. You make her laugh. Last weekend you were speaking in a low, gravelly voice to make her giggle and ever since then she’s been growling at her stuffed animals. She loves you most of all, and watching the two of you together is wonderful.

The big conversations I mentioned in my last note continue to be ones you want to have. In the last month we’ve had conversations about why people bully, why some people are poor, and whether God is real or just a story. Heavy stuff, but you approach it all in a really open and curious way. Sometimes there will be a lull in the conversation and then you’ll say, “Daddy, can you tell me more things about why people smoke?” I try to talk to you about this stuff as honestly as possible, and love watching you come to your own conclusions. I hope we’ll have many more conversations like these as you grow up — they’re my favourite.

About a month ago (when you were supposed to be sleeping, naturally) we were talking about superpowers. You told me that you think one of your superpowers is that you know how other people are feeling. That one hit me in the gut a little bit. I know that superpower well, and it’s a powerful one. But it’s a hard one, too. And harder still when you don’t realize that other people don’t have it, and that expecting them to read you like you can read them isn’t really fair. We’ll talk more about that one, I’m sure. And then you asked,

“Daddy, am I smart?”

Here’s the deal, kid: your mom, your step mom, and I – we all think you’re awfully smart. We try to focus our praise more on the times when you when you work hard, when you’re creative, when you struggle through something and figure it out. I think you don’t want for praise. But we try not to lean too heavily on the fact that you have a natural intelligence — I knew that I was smart, growing up, and it can teach you to take the easy path. You can end up coasting on your smarts instead of learning how to work hard. But yes, in these letters that you won’t read until you’re older, and frequently enough in your day to day that I hope you never doubt it: yeah, you’re really a very smart kid. It’s a superpower too, for sure, and I’m happy that you have it, but it’s also not without its pitfalls.

The summer’s wrapping up and this year we’ve had a couple weeks where you were at our place full time. They’ve been so great. I love having you around on weeknights and driving you to camp in the mornings. I get hung up a lot on making sure you don’t feel like a visitor in our house, that it feels like another home to you. I think we do a good job there, but having the longer stretches with you really helps. My hope is that, as an adult, you read this letter and roll your eyes because of course it always felt that way.

I think, for most parents, there is a weird kind of hope that you are taken for granted by your kids. That they just feel safe to assume you’ll always be there. Maybe extra much for parents who are only with you some of the time, I don’t know.

You have this expression you picked up at school, where you talk about how important it is to help “fill other people’s buckets.” You fill my bucket, kiddo. I love you,

Daddy


11
Jun 16

Beatrix: 6 Months

Beatrix, 6 MonthsI confess, Bix, you got me.

There are things I thought I was ready for, 6 months ago, because you were our second kid. Certainly, your sister prepared me for a lot of it, but a funny thing about parenting is how much that first year blurs. The exhaustion and the amazing little moments mix together in a way you can’t really explain to someone who hasn’t been there. We’re in the middle of that blur with you, and it’s absolutely like doing it for the first time. You are not your sister, you are very much your own kid, and that’s wonderful and I was surprised.

Some things are exactly the same, too. I kiss your head a lot. And squeeze your belly. I rub my cheek against your cheek because your skin is so soft. You gnaw on my knuckles with your gummy grin, and stare off into the distance, lost in thought. You don’t sleep through the night and, like your sister, you have a stubbornness that will see you holler for an hour solid at 4am if you feel like, secretly, your mom’s holding out on food. We have loving neighbours and patient coworkers and we feel very lucky for that.

For a while, you were a really little kid. There are these charts and percentiles for growth and you were kind of low on them, and the docs never made it a serious issue, but it certainly made us worry. When you’re a tired parent of a newborn, worry is a profound and powerful and constant emotional experience. It’s everywhere, and knowing that it’s common and normal doesn’t change anything. People would talk about how cute and tiny you were and we’d wince a bit. But you’re so much bigger now. We don’t really fret about it any more. These days you eat everything in sight, and your complete lack of teeth barely gets in your way.

We’re still figuring you out. We don’t know what colour your eyes will be, or what kind of hair you’ll have, and you still have a lot of nicknames as the world figures out what to call you. Some of my favourites:

  • Bix
  • Bea
  • Bixworthy
  • Corporal Bixington
  • The Diva
  • The Con Artist
  • Manfart

When you are older, you will ask me to delete this list, and I will not.

I love you, Bix. Your mom loves you and your sister loves you. Thank you for being your own kid and putting us in our place. Thank you for smiling when we come into your room in the morning. And thank you for letting us sleep a little more last night.

Daddy

 


12
Feb 16

Six

SixHey kiddo,

Holy crap you’re six! In the six months since my last letter to you, you became a big sister, and a substantially bigger human. Six months ago you were sounding out words and now you’re reading us Robert Munsch books. It’s all going so fast. Every time I see you I stare at you, because I feel like your hands are so big, and your head is so big, and when I pick you up you’re just so big.

Your curiosity is limitless right now, which of course I love. You’ve also inherited your dad’s tendency to obsess over a topic until no one else can stand to hear you talk about it. I’m sorry about that, but not too sorry – it’s a wonderful thing to be curious and I love watching you go through it. Your current obsessions are Volcanoes, Space (particularly planets, dwarf planets, and moons), and so very much Minecraft. You’ve become a catalyst for several other families getting Minecraft set up. You should be earning commission.

You have given us a few scares in the last six months, too. Nothing nasty, just regular kindergarten-is-a-cesspool-of-disease stuff, but in your case that meant a couple weekends in a row of upset stomach and nausea. Seeing you sick is really hard – I spend most of those nights sitting in the armchair in your room while you sleep, just in case another wave hits. So many parents have to go through so much worse; I feel for them in a way I never could before you came along. Having your kid suffer is the worst thing, and I don’t forget how fortunate we are that you are a happy and healthy kid 97% of the time. I hope that will always be true. Even writing this part makes my heart hurt.

I think the biggest change, though, is the kinds of things you want to talk about. The other night you didn’t want to read stories, you wanted me to tell you about Rosa Parks. You learned about her in school but didn’t really understand why she’d be arrested for what she did. A couple weeks ago you were standing on your bed when you should have been asleep, delivering a tirade about how people should be nicer to mother nature. You declared for about 20 minutes that you were vegetarian until you realized it likely meant eating more beans. You have always had a selfless streak, a sense of justice — but it’s becoming such a part of you lately. You have passion about it. It’s beautiful.

I still worry about how you’ll feel about your sister – how the two of you will get along and how you’ll adjust to the shift in attention. I still worry about a lot of things with you. Uncle Rico once described parenting to me that way, before you were born — that you never stopped worrying — and at the time I thought it sounded like a terrible way to live. But I get it now. There is worry – of course there is, you’d worry too if your heart was walking around outside of your body, in the custody of a 6 year old – but there is an amazing fullness there too. Thanks for that.

You’re an incredible kid, but you knew I’d say that. I can’t wait to see what you obsess over next.

Love,

Daddy

PS – You’ve stopped calling me Dad and gone back to Daddy. Thanks for that, too.


15
Dec 15

Bix

Beatrix Mae

Beatrix Mae

Well hello, Beatrix!

We weren’t expecting you for a couple weeks yet, but you showed up early. We suspect it’s because you wanted anyone at all to remember when your birthday is, and any closer to Christmas/New Years would be hopeless. Whatever the reason, you’re here and you’re excellent and we’re delighted and we’re exhausted. Luckily both your parents are veterans of jet lag, so we’re not too fussy about napping at 7pm or 6am or whenever it is that you’ll let us.

By the time you read these letters, you’ll know that I write them to your sister, too. If you read those letters, you’ll know that guessing about the future is one of my favourite dad follies. But, true to form, one of the things I think about most these days is the kind of relationship the two of you will have. She met you for the first time this weekend, and we weren’t sure how it would go. She’s 5.5 right now, which is not an age where kids generally cope well with having to share the spotlight, or their toys, but she was curious and excited about you and jumped and smiled every time you made a noise. When I called to tell her that you’d been born, she said “But I haven’t figured out how to teach her everything she needs to know yet.” I told her you two would figure it out together.

Let’s see, things you’ll need to know when looking back: You scared us a couple times when your heart rate dipped, enough to call in a whole room full of specialists, but then showed up in your own time perfectly fine without any of their help. Your response to the very first contraction was to flail around and then start power hiccuping. You always sneeze in 2s and 3s.

As for the name: we hope you like it. My feeling is that any time you can give a kid an ‘x’ you sort of have to do it. It’s the coolest letter. You’re named in part for your great grandmother, Beatrice. I never met her, but your mom tells me she was gentle but strong, a lifelong feminist, and aces at math. Those sound like great things to inherit, as far as we’re concerned, but we also wanted to give you a name you could make your own. Beatrix is an ancient name, it goes back to the latin Viatrix, and in the thousands of years since, it’s picked up a bunch of diminuitives and variants, so you’ve got room to work. Your family is already testing out nicknames: Bee, Queen Bee, Bea (Be-ah), BiBi, and more I’m sure that they aren’t telling us yet.

In our house, your mom, Lil, and I are calling you “Bix.” We’ll see if it sticks. I’m sure you’ll have opinions. I can’t wait to hear them.

Love,

Daddy