If I had to pick one word to sum up your seventh year on this planet it would be: transformative.
One of the absolute best parts of the last year has been watching you blossom as a reader. You read above grade level. Your favorite author is probably Roald Dahl. You’ve read James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, Fantastic Mr. Fox, George’s Marvelous Medicine, and right now you’re reading The Witches. You think it’s strange and creepy (you’re right).
When you come and read with me, all my parenting dreams come true.
You also got into music big time this year. First it was Guitar Hero, your Kidz Bop cd, and pop music on the radio (Fall Out Boy is your favorite band). You started taking ukulele lessons and after a few months moved on to the electric guitar. The first song you asked your instructor to teach you was Eye of the Tiger.
One day you and Sage came with me to Kroger’s and trailed behind me strumming your ukuleles. You stopped and played for the lobsters. It was one of the best moments of my life.
You improved your basketball game this year, too. You and your dad go to the gym and practice – sometimes for damn near an hour – and you always keep a good attitude about it. If you keep playing, you could be really good.
You still play chess. Much to your delight, you beat some of the older kids in Chess Club. You still haven’t beat your dad, though, as determined as you are every time you play (see your face below).
If you want to know what you look like when you win, check out this picture snapped at the exact moment you beat your big brothers and big cousins in cards:
A lot of great things happened on your seventh trip around the sun. The most mind blowing for you might have been your first dog: Frederick Douglass, the beagle pointer (we think) mix.
It was love at first sight.
Now you always list your brothers like this: Puda, Goldie, Sam … and Douglass.
The same week you got your dog – spring break – your grandma Peggie and grandpa Cannon came to visit. You went fishing and loved it.
You went to Chicago two times.
You love staying with our family on the south side, running and playing with your cousins, and taking the El around the city.
The Field Museum museum mesmerized you. You enjoyed it on a completely different level since you can now read all the information at the different exhibits.
Lincoln is still one of your very best friends – Holden, too.
I love the above picture of you and your best friends. I always tear up when I look at this picture because I remember that night. Senior graduation, where you all accompanied your senior buddies on their big day (you and Lincoln shared a buddy – her name was Bailey, and you all three really liked basketball).
It was a great night, but it was also one of the last nights we saw one of the most important people in your school community, Leslie Campbell. She passed away that weekend, and it changed everyone.
I debated writing about a loss so painful that is ultimately not mine. But it changed you, and I want you to remember why.
We decided to take you to the funeral. You’ve gone to school with Lesley’s daughter, Peyton, since you were both four.
More than anything your dad and I wanted you to learn about being a good friend when a friend is going through a hard time. From those conversations, and attending the funeral, you started to realize a few things. You realized that kids can lose their moms. You realized that good people can die for no reason (and know this, honey, Leslie Campbell was a good person. She was brilliant and a fighter, she was kind, and she cared about doing the right thing). And eventually you realized that one day you will die. We were standing in the kitchen, talking about death, and you asked me: mommy, am I going to die?
My heart shattered into a million pieces in a way you will only understand if you ever decide to have kids.
Of course I told you the truth. Yes, we all die one day. Even you. Even me. How do I teach you the best way to grapple with the reality of death when I struggle with it every day?
You decided we would both live to be one hundred years old.
You became a little philosopher. You’d sit with your dad and extend your arm, swinging it back and forth at the joint (like the robot dance). Daddy, you’d ask, how I am doing this? How am I alive? What does it mean to be alive?
Your dad told you about west African philosophies and theories of personhood. I told you about how different people in our family believe different things, what Christian, atheist, and agnostic mean (you decided you were agnostic like me). We went to church a few times (we found a church that doesn’t believe it’s a sin to be gay, so I was comfortable taking you), and you enjoyed it. You like the idea of Heaven.
It was a heavy summer.
But it was a fun summer, too.
You spent more than a few days in Beckley Park, exploring our favorite trails.
You spent a ton of time with your brothers – your favorite people in the world.
You didn’t want for the classics: sleepovers and tents.
And ice cream, of course.
For all the things that changed, there were a lot of constants, too.
You’re still Puda’s mini-me.
You still love any opportunity to wear a great costume.
Like when you dressed as Fantastic Mr. Squirrel for the school’s Derby parade. You were selected to hand a rose to the Derby princess, so you had to wear your special occasion dress clothes. The theme of the parade was parks, and this was your solution. You looked great.
And you are still enthusiastic about our family Halloween costume.
You still love a nice, cozy nap.
I am immensely pleased to report that I still have pictures of you and Sam napping together to include in this letter.
And you and Sam are still the best friends ever.
You guys aren’t all sunshine and hugs. You fight. You bicker. You punch the crap out of each other sometimes. But you are the best big brother a kid could ask for. Every one who sees you at school is always quick to tell me and your dad what a great job you’re doing looking out for your little brother.
In the picture below you’re just a few weeks shy of eight. This captures the huge change that took place in your seventh year. You come home from school, you sit at this desk (a hundred year old desk I found at an antique mall – you love it, especially the drawer in the bottom) and you bust out your math, spelling, and reading homework. You do it without being told. You do it without supervision. And of that doesn’t sum up how much older, responsible, and mature you’re getting every day, I don’t know what does.
You’re an amazing kid. I’m happy you still let me pull you in for hugs as often as I want.
Which is pretty darn often.
Every year I write these letters and I search for the big, hard words. Words that are meant to show what it feels like to love you with my whole heart. Words that are never enough.
I am so proud to be your mom. I am so happy that eight years ago, on a cold winter’s night, on the longest night, you came into my life. You will always be my brightest light.
I carried you up to bed last night just because I could. Even when I can’t carry you in my arms because you’re too big, a day that will be here soon, I will carry you in my heart.
Kiddo, you are brilliant, kind, funny, sensitive, and full of light. And you’re pretty good looking, too.
Welcome to eight.
Love you forever and always,