Monday, August 4, 2014

To Evan, On Your 6th Birthday


We spent the day today in Daytona, at Aunt Kate's new house with the brand new pool that was just ready this afternoon.  In the morning we went to Daytona Lagoon and got wristbands to play for as long as we wanted: laser tag, rock climbing, go karts and a thing called "Island Hopper" which made everyone's tummies feel funny. Then we came home and opened presents and busted the pinata and ate cake and ice cream and swam in the brand new pool.  Tonight, when I tucked you in, I asked you what your favorite thing was and you said "I don't have a favorite thing.  Everything was the best thing ever."

Everything was the best thing ever.  This sums up your personality perfectly: you are such a happy boy, so in love with life and with people, so willing to face your fears (you're deathly afraid of heights, so the rock climbing wall was a challenge), such a Leo.  You started kindergarten this year, one of the youngest kids at a big, brand new school, without your best friends, and you learned what you needed to learn and got stickers in dance class and made friends with all of the 4th and 5th grade girls, which is not only adorable but a brilliant survival tactic.  You still play soccer and though you hate to lose, you're starting to understand teamwork. You love to collect tiny things and to play Minecraft, and you talk constantly.  You are tiny in stature, but have a gigantic personality.

I thought a lot this week about the time leading up to when you were born, the anticipation and the imaginings.  Everyone told me that raising a boy would bring much less anxiety than raising a girl.  I accepted this as truth, because it made sense: girls are notoriously susceptible to relational aggression, body image issues, etc., and the mother-daughter relationship is always fraught.  And you were such a calm, easy baby, and have become such a kind, gregarious child, that it would be easy for me to continue to believe this.  But instead, I've come to notice your nuances of character, the things that surprise me, and pierce the narrative I've constructed.

You love to dance.  You have the physique, light and muscular, and you are never as engaged and attentive as when you're dancing.  And yet, you're opposed to taking ballet because "ballet is for girls."  We can and will negotiate that treacherous and complicated territory, but there's a bigger picture here: boys can't do what girls do, at least not without some serious consideration and most likely, some real consequences. This has been a hard and scary lesson for me, because I want to protect you.  Because you are an incredibly sensitive child, easily wounded and deeply compassionate, but savvy enough to hide it from nearly everyone.  Because the world--at least our little world--does not yet make room for sensitive boys who love My Little Pony and Ninja Turtles and ballet dancing.  At least not without a fight.

And so I worry.  Perhaps excessively.  Okay, definitely excessively, but I try hard not to let it effect my behavior and choices.  Right now, and for the last several months, you have a small red mark on your cheek, right under your right eye (a broken capillary, the scourge of the fair-skinned), and your peers often comment on it: "What'd you do to your eye?" "What's wrong with your cheek?"  "What's that thing on your face?"  And Dr. M said it was nothing to worry about, but gave me the name of a pediatric dermatologist who could zap it off with a laser (awesome).  I was planning to make the appointment when we got back from Florida, but the other night when I was putting you to bed you said "Mama, would you still think I'm cute if I didn't have my red spot?" and I thought that maybe I had misjudged the whole thing.

Because you are strong and confident and fiery; you are both self-conscious and rebellious.  You're all Leo, full of contradictions.  You won't look me in the eye when I talk seriously to you, but you'll crawl into my bed in the middle of the night, plagued by a nasty cold, and spend the wee hours with me learning butterfly and eskimo kisses. You're still small enough for me to pick you up and hold you, but a few weeks ago, on the Holy Cross levee, I unwittingly sat in an ant pile and you discovered it and pulled me away and for the rest of the weekend were acutely attentive, worried and protective and proud.  You love to kick-fight with your boy buddies at school but are sweet with your sisters, and can't wait to trade Squinkies with your girlfriends at summer camp.  And I know I can't protect you--I can only love you, and teach you how to navigate a world that isn't always so.

But Evan, let me tell you now, while it's still okay to do so: I love you, with every inch of my being, with every speck of my soul.  You are beautiful and funny and loving and I just cannot believe that we've been given this gift.  I try not to spoil you with my love, but I hope you will forgive me if you read this years in the future and decide that I've done just that.  Because I just couldn't help it, and because I hope the world will someday do the same.

All my love, always--