Beatrix: Three and a Half

Hi kiddo,

This weekend you turned three and a half and you are treating it as a very big deal. You have been asking what three and a half year olds get to do that three year olds don’t. We have been suggesting that three and a half year olds have fewer tantrums than three year olds, to limited effect.

But it’s true, you are a much bigger kid now. Since my last letter, you’re out of diapers, out of your crib, riding a balance bike, and getting ready to start kindergarten in the fall. That went by really fast, B.

It’s warmer now, even if summer is taking its time getting here. Last year you would hide behind our legs when the neighbours were out on the street. This year you march up to them and tell them about fire hydrants and flowers, whether they asked or not. You’re still an introverted kid like your parents (and your sis!) but you’re finding your confidence. Don’t let anyone ever tell you those things are incompatible. One is about who you choose to be around, and one is about who you choose to be.

You have big feelings these days. The other day in the car I was too slow to respond to you pointing out a backhoe on the shoulder, and you got upset that I was “not respecting your words.” And sometimes when you’re crying you’ll shout, with this incredible 3.5-year-old self-awareness, that you don’t know how to calm yourself down. But it’s not just the hard emotions – your happiness is dialed way up, too. Your giggles are incredible, and they come out most when you’re with Lil. So is your curiosity. You notice things. You notice everything.

The other day we were walking you home from preschool, and you were up ahead with your mom. I was watching you go, this strong, confident, healthy kid. And I had some of my own big feelings. I thought back to the scary bits. When your mom was pregnant and we found out that she’d been exposed to a virus that could cause us to lose you. When you were a baby and the docs were getting worried that you weren’t gaining weight. I was talking with grandpa about it yesterday. About how parenting is amazing and transformational and also sometimes really scary. I’m so grateful for you and lil and your mom. I’m trying to live in a gratitude place instead of a fear place. But sometimes it’s cause for some feelings.

Thank you for being the incredible kid you are, B. Thank you for all of the big feelings. I love you, and I’m so proud of what a big kid you are now.

Daddy

PS – There’s a charity that we support that works on ending violence against women. This year they asked me to write up some thoughts about Father’s Day and how being a dad of daughters makes me think about those issues. I wrote them something, and I’ve included it here below in case, when you grow up and read these, you’re curious.

When you’re a dad of daughters, people expect that to be why you give. I get it. Dads don’t talk about it a lot, but the depth of the love we feel for our kids is so intense. And to see one of them hurt, a skinned knee or a bruised cheek, it causes this sharp physical pain in us. At least it does in me.

And so people figure, sure, he’s supporting women’s shelters because he has daughters. He can see them in that position. He would want to protect them.

If that’s what drives you to give, that’s so excellent of you. And thank you for stepping up. But it’s not really why I give.

Because the truth is, I can’t see it. I can’t imagine my daughters, grown, and running for their lives. I can’t picture them abused and fearful and trying to protect their own kids with nowhere to go. I can’t see my happy, safe, healthy daughters in that. When I try to, my brain sort of shuts it out.

Unless you have people in your life who have gone through it, I bet yours does, too. You tell yourself a story about how it wouldn’t happen to your daughter. How you would protect her, because that’s what loving dads do. I hope that’s true for her.

But it shouldn’t happen to anyone. Everyone deserves to be safe, and loved, and protected, but not everyone is. I can’t let my brain shut that out. I can’t treat this as someone else’s problem. I need to make this my problem, too.

On father’s day, I’m thinking less about how this gift might help my own girls. I’m thinking more about the conversations I’ll have with them as they grow up. When they learn how awful the world can be. When they look to me and ask what I’ve done to help. I want to have a good answer.

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