Beatrix: Five and a Half

Hey kiddo,

You’re five and a half, you’re 4 feet tall, and you’re a grade 1 kid in the fall!

Photo of Lily and Beatrix deciding what to order from an ice cream truck in summer

School wrapped for you and your sis ten days ago, and since then we’ve been in a block on the calendar just marked FAM TIME. Ten days of day trips, new foods, swimming, and minecraft. Whatever it took to wash off the remnants of virtual schooling, and get you into a summer mode.

Your school experience during COVID was better than most, but it was still really hard. My last letter to you was when you were still doing in-person school, but most of the last 6 months has been virtual. You did your best, doing crafts and singing French songs by yourself with headphones on, as we worked in the next room. Sometimes you’d come in very proud of something you’d made. Sometimes you’d come in frustrated and crying because you couldn’t hear what the teachers were saying. Because you’d cut your headphone cable. With your safety scissors. Again. (This happened 5 times. When we went wireless, you broke the charging port instead.) You had a better year than many kids have had, we were very lucky. And still you were ready to be done.

We started FAM TIME at a fire pit. Each person burned one thing that reminded them of virtual school that they wanted to be done with. And then we made smores. It was our way of giving you a clear transition. And probably our way of giving us one, too. You burned a picture of COVID that you’d drawn. It’s so strange that a 5 year old knows what a coronavirus looks like. But it continues to be a strange time and I’m just in awe of how well you have rolled with it.

What’s not strange, though, is that you would have art to burn. You have art everywhere. Everywhere. We have to barter with you now, about cleaning up the loose paper clippings and cardboard slivers before we get more paper. The going rate is 10 things in the recycling bin for each new page, and still we can’t keep up with it all. I don’t even want to talk about your tape consumption.

But it’s wonderful, and creative, and expansive art, B. Sometimes you retread the same ground over and over again, and then all of a sudden branch off somewhere new. Last month you were building a cardboard dog house for someone else’s dog. Last week you became utterly fixated on our need for a piƱata. Right now, you’re unstoppable on the subject of halloween decor. Sometimes I’ll just sit with you and scroll through an art gallery’s website and listen to your running commentary.

If you’re marking time as you read these, your mom and I are now double-vaccinated. Almost 80% of Toronto adults have at least one shot, and about 55% are done. For now. There are new variants that are looming, and talk is picking up about annual boosters. The thing about living through a pandemic, B, is how tricky it is to balance. You have to find a healthy place between paying enough attention and not paying too much. If you tune too far out, you put yourself and those you love in danger. If you tune too far in, you will struggle to ever feel fully safe again. That’s true about a lot of scary things, honestly.

I’ve been trying to think about what I can say to you, in this moment, that distills what we’ve learned in the last year and a half. I don’t have enough distance from it yet to be able to see things clearly. The best I’ve got right now is that when things go really sideways, it matters a lot who’s in charge and what they value. We have seen some horrendous things in the last year done by leaders – political, corporate, community – with the wrong values. We have seen heroism and generosity too. But so far the best I have for you, B, is that you should choose leaders very thoughtfully when you’re choosing, and lead compassionately when you’re leading. The consequences reach further than you think.

Right now you’re not too fussed about that, though. You’ve asked us five times today whether day camp starts tomorrow. (It doesn’t, that’s Monday). You are excited to be hanging out with other kids, and to have camp counsellors other than your parents for the first time in a long time. I don’t blame you. I’m excited for you, too.

I love you, B. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight,

Daddy

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