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.


13
Aug 13

Three and a Half

Lily eating a pearWell, Lil, I have some news for you: I think you’re an introvert.

I don’t want to box you in, and anyhow it’s more of a continuum than a yes/no, but I see things I recognize. The way you play for an hour by yourself without any outside stimulation. The way you stand at the edge of a group of kids at the park, watching them and trying to figure them out. You come by it honestly, but it still makes my heart hurt a bit. Not because I disapprove; far from it. Introverts are some of my very favourite people, and also pretty in vogue among the techie, cerebral, introspective types I tend to run with. But introversion is tricky. You’ll pick up labels like “shy” and “awkward” and you’ll either take those in as parts of your identity or you’ll rebel against them. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll be a perfectly well-adjusted human. It is a pretty consistent folly of your dad’s to extrapolate from today to your entire future life. It’s probably silly and I probably shouldn’t, but I do. And sometimes it makes my heart hurt.

Speaking of extrapolation, I’ve been thinking about who, what, and where you’ll be when you read these. I imagine you in your 20s. I don’t know why. I don’t know how I expect to keep them secret from you that long. But I think of you reading them in your 20s, all of them in a sitting, and I wonder what you’ll want to know about being three and a half. You like pears and corn on the cob and sausages with mustard. You love the beach. You’re in circus school on Sunday mornings. You find the word “toots” hilarious. Your youtube favourites are vihart’s math videos, and goats yelling like humans.

That will change. You change quickly now. You went away to California for a few weeks to visit some friends and you came back a different kid. It made me feel protective for a minute. Like I didn’t want you influenced by the outside world. Which is stupid, because those influences are wonderful kids, but also because your life is going to be full of other influences and the last thing I would want to do is stop it. But parenthood is a conservative force – we love you the way you are, and we resist change that we didn’t initiate. Forgive me that, if it happens again when you’re old enough to notice. It’s not a rational response; it’s a reflex. Parental lizard brain.

The world will be different, too. Right now, we — the collective we — worry about some things. We worry about the planet – we think we’re heating it up and we think that’s going to cause big problems. We’re spending a frustrating lot of time debating the evidence and agreeing with each other, but we also have lots of excellent people trying to make it better. We worry about humanity – it’s getting easier for one angry person to hurt a lot of people, and the fear of that is pushing governments into reactions straight out of science fiction: armed drone patrols, global mass surveillance. I don’t talk about this much with the three and a half year old you, but I want the adult you to know that we see these things happening, and we’re not sure how to fix them, but we’ll try. I have hope that we’ll succeed.

Right now, that’s not your biggest concern, though. And that’s fine. Right now your biggest concerns are whether there is ice cream at the beach (there is), and whether tonight is a hair-washing night (it is), and whether I will read you one more story (I will). Thank you for adding so much silly to my life. Thank you for asking “why?” about everything. Thank you for sneaking quietly into the bedroom on Saturday morning, staring at me inches from my face until I startle awake, and then announcing that it’s time for pancakes.

I love you, Lil, and I love the person you’re becoming.

Daddy

 


13
Feb 13

3 Years Old

Photog, pt 2Hi Lil,

You’re three. You can count, you can sound out words with help, and you can sing. Thanks to your mom you’re a big fan of Mary Poppins and thanks to me you’re a big fan of O Brother Where Art Thou but I think you still sing mostly to Raffi and One Direction. For One Direction you also dance, which involves more hip motion than I’m really comfortable with.

You seemed to understand Halloween and Christmas much better this year, and you definitely understand your birthday. You want 3 star-shaped candles on your cake. You want star candles because your mom put glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling of your room. Every night when I put you to bed we turn off the lights and we sit in the rocking chair and we stare at the stars and talk about which one is your favourite. It’s basically the best thing ever.

You’re developing complex thoughts and emotions now at a dizzying pace. Like “awkwardness of forgetting someone’s name.” You try to remember, wrestle with it visibly, and then call them, “that one,” quietly, half-embarrassed. “Patience with daddy clearly being an idiot” is another one that’s coming along nicely.

The one that stopped my heart, though, was a story from day care. You’ve been in day care for 6 months, and I wondered how it would go since it was your first real socialization with other kids outside of occasional visits. It’s a big day care with a different groups for different ages. A month or two ago, a new boy came in to the group next to yours in the facility. He was pretty sad on his first day and, during naptime, he was lying on his mat and crying. Your mat was nearby, on the other side of a half-height dividing wall. When your daycare supervisor walked over, she saw that you were awake, and speaking softly to him through the wall saying,

It’s okay. You don’t need to cry. Your mommy will come back. Mommies and daddies always come back.

You break my heart, kiddo, in all the very best ways. Happy birthday. I love you I love you I love you.


13
Aug 12

Two and a Half

French BreakfastHi, kiddo.

I’m writing this one from an airport. Tomorrow we’ll probably video chat, because you are a kid for whom the world has just always included video chat.

I’m at the airport so that I can fly to Boston. I’m going to meet up with a bunch of other people from Mozilla who are working to make the web awesome for you. I find it difficult to remember life before the web, and I didn’t even really get it until my teens. It changes quickly. I wonder what it will look like by the time you read this. I hope it’s excellent. I want you to know that a lot of incredible people worked really hard to build it. We think it’s just about the best thing we can do to make the world a better, fairer, friendlier place. I hope you agree.

Since my last note, you’ve become a city girl. You ride streetcars and subways. When I ask you what you want to do on Sunday morning, you answer, “Go to the café. Then go to the Farmer’s market.” You’ve become a hippy. You have skinned knees. You fell and cut your lip last month, and you have two slivers in your hand that you won’t let me remove.

And yet you run. You run and you laugh while you’re running. You pull all the pillows off the couch and then fall blindly back into them. You climb onto the railing of your crib, stand on the back of couches, and generally terrify your mother and me. And when you (inevitably) damage yourself, you cry, and you run to one of us, and you make us kiss it better and then, through sobs, you say, “feel better now.”

Last week I took my 5,000th picture of you. That’s one every four and a half hours since the moment you were born. I don’t think I’ll keep up the rate but thanks for your patience, regardless.

You are just the best of me, little girl. Thank you for everything you bring into my life. Thank you for kisses and hugs and being clingy after your nap. Thank you for helping me make pancakes, and for sharing your chocolate. And thank you for video calls when I’m far from home. We’re boarding soon, Lil. I love you.

Daddy


13
Feb 12

2 years old

HandsDada happy!

Yes, Lily, I’m very happy. I’m always happy when I’m with you.

Dada kiss! hug!

Every time you kiss someone, you hug them, and then eskimo kiss. You kiss, hug, and eskimo kiss nana. You kiss, hug, and eskimo kiss mommy. You kiss, hug, and eskimo kiss teddy, and your tea cups, and my RC helicopter.

You smile a lot. You know that you’re supposed to smile for pictures, but you don’t really know how to make that happen on command, so smiling for pictures is sort of a grimace. I think it’s beautiful, but I suspect in a few years you’ll think it’s silly.

I watch you count toys and name the letters of the alphabet and I start to understand why parents all get this far off look in their eye when they talk about how quickly the time goes. I bet that part gets worse with time. The parents of 7-year olds in my life seem to feel it more deeply, and the parents of 15-year olds even moreso.

I wonder, as I have before, and even before that, which of your current fascinations will persist. You love bugs bunny cartoons. You can recite Sahara Hare verbatim. So can we. You put HP sauce on your scrambled eggs. You sit on the potty with an android tablet on your lap and watch nyan cat reaction videos and the duck song. Your childhood will be very, very different from mine.

At night, you can’t go to sleep without one verse each of Rainbow Connection, Climb Up Sunshine Mountain, and Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star. In the last month, you’ve started to sing along.

And then I tell you it’s time for sleep. And you say,

Okay. Goodnight daddy, I love you.

And it gets me. every. time.

I love you too, Lily. Happy birthday.


13
Aug 11

18 Months

A Girl and her Pine ConeYou became a little girl.

I wasn’t consulted on this, and if I had been I’m not sure I would have approved. You’re a wonderful little girl. The best little girl. But 6 months ago you just were finishing up with being a baby, and I thought I’d have more time to prepare for the next thing.

Years from now, you’ll want to know all about this part of your life. There’s change everywhere, and you’re not so hot on forming long term memories just yet so you’re counting on your mom and me to take accurate notes. We’re trying. We have a running log that Mommy tries to keep up to date with every new thing you do:

Lily gives lots of kisses now, sometimes when asked, and sometimes spontaneously! She kisses her toys, pages in books, and definitely people.

Lily loves to share things with her toys – they often to get to share her water or her snack. She also likes when we wrap them up in a blanket and rock them to sleep.

Sometimes she likes the water, sometimes she’s really hesitant about it. Mostly she likes to play with the toys on the side of the pool. Life jackets? Forget it.

You literally learn new words daily. Some of my favourites in the last week: Hospital (sounds like hoh-pitatah), aluminum (a-lem-in-nen), tilapia (dala-pala), and dirt (dut).

Your mom and I talk about you a lot. What kind of school you should attend, what kind of activities you might be interested in, what we can do to ensure we both spend as much time with you as possible. We know we can’t predict the future. We know that you’ll have your own opinions, loudly stated. We know that change is constant, and that it can sneak up on you. We do it anyhow, because the illusion of a plan gives us something to hold on to when the uncertainty gets overwhelming. I think you won’t understand this the first time you read it but, when you have kids of your own, you might.

Today you ate a mouthful of sand at the playground.

Today you refused to eat your sandwich until you dipped each torn up little piece into a blob of ketchup.

Today you lay with me on the couch and made me put on music videos and then told me which ones to skip.

Today I have something in my eye.

You became a little girl.


13
Feb 11

1 Year Old

1 Year Old“Da.”

It’s assertive, when I come in the door after work. A statement of fact. “Da has arrived, Mother, in case you were wondering.” And then you squeal, and crawl down off the couch backwards like we taught you, and you crawl over to the gate by the front door and reach up for me to pick you up. And then you remind me where every light in the house is by pointing to them. “Teh.” (pointing) “Teh.”

6 months ago you couldn’t crawl, now you’re starting to walk. 6 months ago you couldn’t talk, now you’re babbling constantly and have 4 or 5 words that are consistent and recognizable, even if they aren’t quite English. 6 months ago you were a baby and now… you’re not.

A lot can happen in 6 months, and a lot has. A lot of firsts, too. Your first tooth, first flight, first foreign country, first beer. Yeah, that’s right, beer. Why? Because you won’t tolerate not having any. Every food that Mommy and Daddy eat, you want; and you’re fearless. Olives, pickles, pizza, steak. You are fearless, in everything, and it scares the crap out of me.

Parents think stupid things, Lily. You’re fascinated with light, will you be a photographer? You love books, will that last, will you read everything you can get your hands on, like Daddy does? You love food now, does that mean you’ll be a foodie, or that you’ll end up flipping a switch and getting really picky? We try to predict the future from the scraps of information we have, because you so constantly surprise and amaze us; we’re desperate for some ability to understand what the future will be like. It’s exciting and scary and foggy and incredible. I don’t want to rush things, but I can’t wait for you to start talking more, because I see the things going on in your head and I want to know all about them.

I asked Grandma when it stops. When each week stops feeling like there’s a brand new kid in the house. Grandma said, “it stops?”

When I write the next one of these, you’ll be 18 months old and, for all I know, you’ll be in college. Go easy on me, Lily. Gently. I love you more than anything in the world, little girl, but it’s all I can do just to keep up.

Love,

Daddy