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


13
Aug 15

Five and a Half

Work in ProgressHi sweets,

It’s been a busy time since my last letter to you! We just got back from our honeymoon and we’re pretty excited for the weekend since we haven’t gotten to hang out with you since the wedding.

You were amazing. During rehearsals you fidgeted and had trouble staying put and we adults all basically agreed that if you needed to run around during the actual ceremony we were just going to have to get right with that. But when the day came, you were a total pro. You walked with me down the aisle, and held my hand, and stuck with us through the whole thing. It was your one request, when we first told you that we were engaged: you wanted to be the one standing with us. I don’t know what precisely that meant to you, but it meant an awful lot to the two of us.

Your dress is, of course, destroyed. This tells us that you had a good time.

The other thing going on in your life, that you already know but most other folk don’t yet, is that you’re going to be a big sister. This is another one of those things that parents get really nervous about but that you totally sailed through. When we told you, you jumped up and down on the couch. You were so excited that you weren’t going to be an “only kid” anymore. And now you tell us how you’re going to teach the baby everything. The other day you ran up to a stranger at Ikea and said, “You know what? My step-mom’s not fat! There’s a baby in her tummy!”

So that was helpful.

In a few weeks you start senior kindergarten which means moving to a big kid school and being the smallest class around instead of the biggest class at your preschool/junior kindergarten. This makes my heart clenchy. Sometimes already you come home with stories of someone being a bully or someone not liking you and I have all kinds of feelings about it that I try not to let you see since this is normal and you’ve got to figure it out for yourself. But it’s not easy. I heard a quote once from a writer named Elizabeth Stone that sums it up beautifully in a way that I really didn’t understand until I was a parent. She says,

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

It’s so true. Watching you grow and run around and scrape your knees and hurt your heart and figure out how to say hello to an older kid and deal with disputes and try to stay awake at a party to be a big kid when it’s way past your bedtime. All of it feels like it acts directly on my chest – it’s so forceful, potent. I’m so proud of the kid you’ve become and the person you’re becoming and the way you handle everything that comes your way.

I love you, Lil,

Daddy

PS – You’ve started calling me Dad. What’s that about?

 


13
Feb 15

Five

Saturday morning light. #lilyHi sweets,

Today you turn 5, which makes this the tenth one of these letters I’ve written (A letter, 6 months, 1 year old, 18 months, 2 years old, Two and a Half, 3 years old, Three and a Half, Four, Four and a Half). Every time I write a new one, I read all the other ones and then I fall down the rabbit hole of looking at old pictures of you, and I land in a big pile of feels. That happened again this morning, and I’m sitting in the Mozilla office sniffling like a goober.

You’re the coolest little kid, Lil. You’re big into Monopoly Junior right now, and you cackle a little when something good happens, but when you’re winning by too much, you give everyone else some of your money, “so that we all have a nice time.” You’ve got friends on the street and go over to hang out with them, which is totally normal and great, but also a hard thing to get used to. You’re developing all these mannerisms that are so big kid that it hurts, even though it’s awesome. There’s a lot of that in parenthood – heart-swelling-to-painful awesomeness. When you need my help to undo a button at the back of your dress, you gather up all your hair in your hands and tip your neck forward and I’d swear you were 17.

You’re working through having two homes, just like I did when I was your age. Which is expected and normal and still heart-achy. So far you’re just curious and trying to puzzle it out. For our part, as we muddle through it, we talk to other “bonus moms” who have been at it longer than we have, and try to pay it forward by talking to friends who are becoming step parents for the first time, to share what little we’ve learned. Take it from me, kid, there’s no quick road to the other side of this one – you’ll spend a lot of time thinking about it, well into adulthood. But I’ll always be here, if you want to talk about it.

You refuse to go to sleep. You sleep like a cat, you’re out for 9-10 hours a night at least, but getting you to close your eyes is a daily, ridiculous struggle. A few months ago I taught you the word, “stalling”, but naming it hasn’t eliminated it. You want another story. You want to pee. You want to cuddle. Your newest trick is to ask wide open questions about the world. Smart, thoughtful questions and they are my achilles heel, because of course I will talk to you about stars and planets and plants and animals and dinosaurs. Last week’s 9pm gambit was, “Daddy, how does light work?”

I pretend to get annoyed, and tell you to go to sleep, but I’m not really annoyed at all. I love our conversations. They’re the best part of my day. I love watching you experience the world, and watching you grow. It hurts sometimes, but in the best way.

I love you, Lil. Happy birthday.


13
Aug 14

Four and a Half

Hiya kiddo,

I’m writing this one from your mom’s place. It’s bedtime, and you do a better job of falling asleep when I stay in your room in the rocking chair. We’re doing this thing right now where, during the week, our visits happen at your mom’s place instead of ours. In some ways it’s a holdover from when you were a littler kid and it would have been too much driving to bring you across town and then back the next morning. I suspect, by the time you read any of these letters, your mom and I will have tried several different arrangements. I hope you’ll feel like we were trying our best to give you lots of time in both homes, without making you feel like a ping pong ball. I also hope ping pong will still be a thing, and that we will play.

You’re an even bigger kid now, and in a few weeks you start kindergarten. Two weeks ago you read a book to me cover to cover for the first time. Last week you rode a really-for-real-not-pretend pony, and told half of Centre Island that you were a cowgirl. You also conned another kid’s grandmother out of a piece of watermelon. You can talk to strangers with less shyness now, but after a day full of people, you get that same quietness that I do, and explain to me that you’re all out of words, and need to rest your voice.

I think you mostly don’t yet know that not everyone has a Missy. You’ve probably never really heard the word stepmom, or at least not processed it. Sometimes you’ll correct people who call her your mom, and say, “That’s not my mom. That’s my Missy.” It’s a very matter-of-fact thing, though; it’s not biting. We’re both braced for the first time it is. I had my share of step parents growing up, but there’s still not much advice I can give her: you’re not her mom, but you’re not her fun aunt, either; care for her, love her, be able to set and enforce rules, and find your own kind of relationship. She knows those things. She thinks about them a lot, and talks with other stepmoms. We both do. I don’t know if you do. You make it seem easy. She’s your Missy, and that’s just fine. Thanks for that.

It’s time for me to head home. You just sighed the most beautiful sigh which is how I know that you’ve conked out. You couldn’t sleep for a while because you had Rainbow Dash in your bed, and you wanted Twilight Sparkle. Later in life I will tease you about this.

Love you, wonderful girl,

Daddy


13
Feb 14

Four

FourFour is a big deal. Big girl bed. Big girl bike. You explain this to me, in case I’d missed it.

“Soon I will be four, and then I’ll be a teenager.”

Eef.

I travel a lot these days. Not constantly, probably not even 25% of the time, but enough that I often go a week without giving you a hug. And being the overthinker dad that I am, that makes me wonder what effect it has on you. We video chat when I’m gone, whenever the internet connection is good enough. When it isn’t, I record videos for you and send them to your mom to play. I’ve never missed a weekend with you, though it’s sometimes been quite a trick to make that work. I think I’m a really present dad, I try to be, but I wonder how you feel about it, and how you’ll think about it years from now. I hope you’ll agree.

My dad, your grandpa, tells me that when I was a kid and he had a weekend with me, he felt protective. Like he didn’t want to share. Like he wanted me all to himself. And how that wasn’t very helpful and we had a much better time once he got past it and made room. Boy do I understand that, now. Time with you is the best thing, and sometimes I don’t want to share. But grandpa’s wise, and sharing you with others is great, and watching you venture off and be social and own a room is just wonderful. But I’m still glad that you let me read you stories and tuck you into bed at night.

Today was your birthday and you ran around like an idiot with a birthday cake tiara and a birthday bear and made goofy faces any time I tried to take your picture. You ordered pizza and oreo cake and tried to splash me with bathwater. And you fell asleep while I stroked your hair and you snored a little and it was the best thing ever.

Goodnight, Lil. Sweet dreams. I love you.