The state of Sylvan at any beach—running in and out of the waves.
You patrolled with me this winter. You’ll probably be a full patroller before I will.
I told you I’d give you a quarter if you went out to swing in your underwear with no shoes. You put on sandals, trousers, and an unsnapped jacket, telling me where I could put my quarter.
Four and a half months ago, we made a big switch, transferring you from our neighborhood elementary school to the Waldorf School. We really wanted to love our neighborhood public school: it’s full of smart, caring staff; it’s four blocks away; we fit neatly into the community of families there. But you were oh, so unhappy. While I don’t know that you’ll ever love school (I can always hope), you’d gotten to the point that you cried every morning on the way to school. “I hate it. I don’t want to go,” you’d say. I started thinking what you needed was a therapist, that you were eight and depressed. It just broke me. I’d drop you off and cry as I walked home.
Moms can’t always fix their son’s problems—nor should they always try. I waffled, but we visited the Eugene Waldorf School, where your current teacher gave you an hour-long interview on the Saturday before Christmas, asking you to throw a beanbag with him, stand on one foot, skip count, draw, follow directions, and answer some written math problems, all in a very soft, patient voice. Your Dad and I looked at each other, nodding without nodding.
And now? You’re definitely a happier human. You come home from school muddy and paint-laden. You never complain that you don’t want to go to school. You play a pentatonic flute, write beautiful cards in Spanish, and knit, all as part of your everyday curriculum. There are things you don’t like—eurythmy’s not your favorite, and some students’ behavior surprises you (building a culture of respect can take years; in the meantime, you have classmates that take advantage of that, because, hey, they’re in 2nd grade).
Your valentines this year, which you had to make for your classmates at the Waldorf School. Your bookmark valentines were beautiful, and you never once complained about making them (that’s different from years past, let me tell you).
And you went back down a grade because of your summer birthday, which means we get to keep you for an extra year when you’re 18. As difficult as parenting is for me, as excited as I am sometimes to run away into the woods by myself, I already appreciate that extra year.
Cousin reading. Dom looks unimpressed, but I’m not sure he likes Sandra Boynton.
Your first state-wide chess tournament. You finished strongly, and I think you were most excited about the salt water taffy in your trophy.
While you’ve always loved listening to music, especially as you go to sleep, you’ve started to reach that tween obsession with some pop songs. I get it; I’m into some of the same songs, especially “Pompeii” by Bastille and “Let Her Go” by Passenger. While you’re doing other things, you hum “Glad You Came” by The Wanted.
I wish you and Daddy could see eye-to-eye more often. I sometimes feel like a middle child when you two are misunderstanding each other. I understand both of your frustrations, and I just want you both to sit with me and gaze into each other’s eyes until you can understand each other. You both just desire respect from the other, or that’s what it looks like from the outside. Dad wants you to acknowledge him, to listen, and to follow through. You want him to understand that not all sibling altercations are your fault and that sometimes you need more than a cursory instruction before you’re ready to move on. In thirty years, you’ll both belly up to the bar, sharing a (root) beer while you refer to dear old Mom as a hopeless hippie.
I love you and your soft, soft cheeks,
I just thanked my lucky stars that when snow grounded us in Chicago overnight, you two were my travel companions. You took it like pros, actually getting excited about the mile and a half that we (I) had to walk to make it to the cots from which we were unceremoniously roused at 3:45 a.m.