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,