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Dear Simon,

Today you are two years old. Or, as you say it when I ask you, “tea.”

The occasion of your second birthday has put me in a pensive mood, just as the occasion of your first one did. I’m not sure if it’s because of the sleep deprivation brought on by your ongoing illness or despite it, but, regardless, I feel a need to step back from the daily minutia and reflect on the big picture.

I recently ran across a quote, attributed simply to a modern educator, that has framed my thoughts.

“Try to see your child as a seed that came in a packet without a label. Your job is to provide the right environment and nutrients and to pull the weeds. You can’t decide what kind of flower you’ll get or in which season it will bloom.”

So, dear Simon, who are you today? And who are you shaping up to be?

Let’s start with some basics. Like your Zadie, you appear to be left-handed. You are a bibliophile, but a fickle bibliophile, insisting on reading Moo Baa La La La twice a day one day, then shaking your head and tossing it aside when it’s presented the next.

Except for sausage pizza and peanut butter sandwiches, you eat a lot like me. You love macaroni and cheese, yogurt and granola, “baby-cakes” and grapes. You can eat an entire pint of blueberries at one sitting. Someone forgot to tell you that toddlers don’t like dark chocolate. And bless your heart, when you drink the dregs of my lukewarm, milky tea in the morning, you pretend to love it and say “Mmmmmmm…..yummy,” even as the scrunched-up face that precedes this pronouncement indicates otherwise.

As you grow, you continue to explore and play. You still love to swing, but now you also love the rest of the park, too. You delight in climbing over play sets, turning the wheel and clanging the chimes that are affixed to many of them, walking over the bridges, and running frontwards and backwards up and down ramps. You like a good slide, and you like it even more if you can throw a ball or roll a car down it before your own descent.

Speaking of cars, right now, your heart is won over by anything with wheels. In fact, your heart is frequently won over by anything that you can even pretend has wheels. Apple wedges look like cars to you; sandwich halves look like cars to you, your cup looks like a car to you. If you can scoot it over the floor or across your high-chair tray, it’s a car. And if it’s a yellow bus, it’s the most perfect car of all.

Lest you be pigeon-holed as all-boy, let the record show that you love to love your stuffed animals. On a typical night, you are tucked into bed alongside Baby Bunny, Little Baby Bunny, Super-Speedy, Mr. Froggy, Annabelle, and Dirty Dog or Dirty Duck or both. You pick these friends up, hug and kiss them, and then ask others to do the same. When you hug them, you say “aaahhh” and sway from side to side in a way that makes me melt.

For the first year of your life, your father and I spent a lot of time talking about who you looked like. You had his chin, his face shape, and his hair, with my eyes, my dimples, and my coloring, all topped off with your Pawpaw’s upturned nose. In some pictures of you, I can see your father’s young face staring back at me. In others, I see myself 37 years younger. The vast majority of the time, though, I just see you. That’s what happens when you hit two; you start to become an individual-the person you are.

Speaking of the person you are, I’ve learned much more about your temperament this year. At two, you are a sweet, observant, and sensitive child. To be honest, your sweet and gentle nature worries me a bit. When other kids grab toys from you or take a swing at you, you look stunned, bite your lower lip, and cry. If there’s an aggressive streak to you, I have yet to see it. You don’t like too many lights, too much noise, or angry voices. Your gentle nature will make you a good man, a man I will love and respect one day, and, if you choose, a wonderful husband and father. But I fear it will make your life in the rough-and-tumble world of the school-yard a challenge.

Like your dad, you are a quintessential observer. When you approach a playground or classroom with lots of other kids around, you stand by the sidelines and size the whole thing up before joining in. Once you warm up, though, your inherent social streak takes over, the dimples come out, and, baby, you light up the place.

A cautious streak complements your sensitive side. Even when you really “dive into” an activity, you don’t do it with the same reckless abandon I see in so many others your age. You didn’t try to walk until you were certain not to fall. You waited until you had a mature grasp to pick up a crayon and scribble. You don’t like to take risks, and you don’t try anything until you are reasonably assured of success.

Thankfully, your serious nature is balanced by a playful side. Whether it’s scratching kitten’s emery-board tongue in the Touch and Feel Kittens book to make me and your father cringe, pushing me around like a toy, shaking your head when I lean in for an Eskimo kiss, or playing peek-a-boo by hiding under towels, you like to play with us, and you let us know that you are in on the joke.

Finally, you know your own mind. Your father and I spent months-23 of them to be precise-teaching you to call us “Papa” and “Mama.” We directed others to call us that in front of you. We changed the words in books to reflect our choices. You are having none of it and consistently, perhaps innately, call us “Mommy” and “Daddy.” Your father is having hard time of this, as he really likes “Papa.” I’ve made my peace with it. It’s like a nickname in that it’s only special if someone other than I chose it.

Unbelievably but undeniably, we’ve spent two years nurturing you and trying to provide you with a loving, encouraging environment. It can be difficult to accept that you are the person you were born to be and not my or your father’s projection of our better self. We, like all parents, have hopes and dreams for what our seeds will bear. But two years into this journey, you have made the job unreasonably easy. There have been few weeds to pull; you are a delightful little seedling, and even as I am curious to know when and how you will blossom, my love for you grows by the day as your young self takes root and shoots up.

Happy birthday, Stinkpot. I love you,


3 Responses to ““Tea””

  1. bethnbobinnc says:

    Happy Birthday, Simon! You almost shared mine but you were a bit impatient. Hope you’re feeling better and get a good stab at one of those cupcakes! Love, Aunt B

  2. christine says:

    What a beautiful letter to your son. Happy birthday, Simon!

  3. blg says:

    Maybe this wonderful letter will balance out the enema post?

    Seriously, this brought a tear to my eye. And, lovely writing, you editor, you.

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