Monday, April 4, 2011

Now We Are Six...

Dear Henry,

Six years. Six years and nine days, actually. Plenty of time to get to know a fellow. And fall in love with him, too. Which is exactly what has happened. Love at first sight I thought when they lifted you up over that sterile blue sheet in the operating room. And it was. But only a tiny, flickering hint of what I feel now - this swelling, throbbing, beaming affection that always threatens to o'er step its bounds, to annex another chamber or organ because the heart feels so limiting and cramped.

I know I am not doing everything right, Henry. Today, for instance, when you cried and carried on in the school parking lot because you didn't want to go inside...I didn't know what to do. I alternated between tough love and marshmallow mom. Reading is hard. And the bathrooms are stinky. You made some compelling arguments through your crocodile tears. Part of me wanted to just take you back home; if we're being totally honest, that's where I'd prefer you to be. But part of me wanted to give you a swift kick in the pants and tell you to stop being ridiculous. At some point during our emotional exchange, the rational part of me surfaced and I knew that I needed to walk you into that classroom and let you prove to yourself that you can do hard things. You finally agreed to go in. I watched through the window as you hung up your back pack and headed to the reading table. My heart hung heavy in my chest; moments like these are precisely why I have such a hard time watching you grow up, why I wish it could just be Woody-n-Buzz and juice boxes forever. I know that growth presupposes hard-ness and pain. And I'm just getting to the point where I don't fear those things so much for myself. I'm not to the place where I can accept them for my children very easily. My first inclination is always to make an easier way for you, a path of less resistance. But I know that ultimately you need the opposition. It's like fertilizer for your little character. I have to remind myself that what I ultimately want is for you to be confident, brave, strong, understanding, deep, grateful, conscientious...and all those traits grow best in soils of adversity and challenge. I remind myself that God let Adam and Eve choose for themselves, He let them experience the lone and dreary world, and eat their bread by the sweat of their brow.

But boy do I want to make sure there are plenty of soft assurances, warm respites, and sweet indulgences along the way. I couldn't wait to pick you up from school today. Knowing it might have been a hard day, I tucked your blankie under my arm on my way out the door. You're usually only allowed to have it in bed, but I thought a hard day at school warranted an exception to the family policy. Your eyes sparkled when I handed it to you in the back seat. You pulled it up near your face, rubbed it under your nose and sucked your thumb. I watched your shoulders fall in total relief; I knew just how you felt - 100% safe. I used to feel the same way when I walked through the front door after school. Mimi was good at comfort-making, the best really. I hope it's a skill I inherited. I want your little soul to feel completely at ease - safe and warm and loved when you're at home, Henry. Because it is. And you are.

I borrowed the title of this post from a favorite A.A. Milne poem. The last lines say:

But now I am Six,
I'm as clever as clever,

So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.

You are so clever, Henry! It's one of the most delightful things about you. The other day dad and I were talking to you about safety, being cautious of strangers, not going into peoples' homes or backyards without our permission. We felt good about what we'd taught you but just to make sure it had all sunk in, Dad posed one last scenario to you:

What if you were out riding your bike and a stranger pulled over in their car and asked you to come over to them and they had a piece of candy. And they said, can you come over here and help me with something...I'll give you this piece of candy. What would you do?
You had to think about that for a while. You furrowed your brow in concentration. And then you said, Well, I'd tell them, 'I don't want to come over there by your car...but why don't you toss me that piece of candy?' We got such a kick out of that! We thought you were so clever to come up with a way to stay safe and get the candy :)

Like I said earlier, Henry...we both know I'm not doing everything right, but I love you. Sometimes it's hard as a parent to know how much to push, how to respond to bad behavior, how to discipline, how to teach...but love is easy. I don't have to think about it. I don't have to try. It's just there, in abundance. One heart hardly seems room enough to hold it all.

Happy six, darling boy. What do you say we just stay here for ever and ever?

I adore you,

Henry - about 2 years old

p.s. Those pictures make me cry; look at that face!!!! I would do anything in the world to be able to go back in time and play with that little boy all day.


  1. Oh this is beautiful Em...Thanks for sharing it. Happy Sixth to you both!

  2. Oh darn Em, you really know how to write beautifully about your life and children! And that 2 year old Henry is about enough to die over!!!! Those cheeks!!! You are a good mom.

  3. Happy Birthday to Henry! What a big, sweet, lovable boy you've got. He sure is lucky to have you as his mom.

  4. Happy Birthday big boy! Miss him and you.

  5. Em, I have goosebumps all over! You really do need to write a book of some sort...for money, fame and fortune. You could get all three. Your writing is really some of my favorite kind to read. I LOVE how you put your emotions into words. Beautiful, as always. Henry, what a guy. The candy comment is hilarious. Miss you.

  6. Emily, this is so tender & sweet. What a treasure these will be to Henry! I'm so grateful for your example of mothering! Love you.

  7. You know something? Henry is going to grow up up up someday and he is going to read these letters when he ( come some more tears) becomes a father himself, and he is going to be SO GRATEFUL YOU WROTE THEM! Because he is going to want to know how to be a dad, and you, my dear, are showing him how. Your words are wonderful.

    "Character fertilizer". Perfect. (Can we market that?)

  8. What a sweet post, Emily! He's so darling. And as always . . . thanks for sharing your gift with us.

  9. I have this bookmarked for days, ever since you posted it so I could leave a comment.

    Lovely love that little Henry. Lovely love you and Henry together.