This letter is part of a collaborative project with other photographers. Be sure to click on the link at the bottom to continue reading more letters in this series.
Last May, you turned 9 years old. NINE. I can hardly believe it. More than once over the last few months, I’ve caught myself just watching you… amazed at how big you’ve grown, noticing the way your shoulders have widened slightly and the way your hands and feet have become callused from a baseball-filled spring. You’ve caught me staring, too, and respond with your usual (and sometimes annoyed), “What?” Whenever I tell you I can’t believe how big you’re getting, you get that little embarrassed blush and look away awkwardly. Well, get used to it, buddy… there’s plenty of awkward waiting for you in your tween years.
Third grade was a good year for you. Not only did you have a wonderful and warm teacher in Mrs. F., but you also had some great friends in your class. You were also part of not one, but TWO championship baseball teams, one in the fall and the other in the spring, and this summer, you and your brothers are enjoying swimming the summer away at the pool. You and Toby also started piano lessons this year, and though you complain each and every time I tell you to practice (those scales are a killer, I know!), I promise that you won’t regret it later. Pinky-promise.
Although you’re getting bigger by the day, I love that you’re still very much the little boy you always were on the inside. You still love to draw and create monsters and every type of robot imaginable. And your creations are becoming increasingly complex, too. I think your latest ones even transform from robot to dinosaur to other mythical creature, all with a few easy (for you) twists and turns. A few weeks ago, I bought you and your brothers some glow sticks to play with at the “movie in the park” we watched that night. While I was helping your brothers with theirs, carefully following the directions on the packaging in order to make the perfect “glow in the dark hat,” you were already at work making your own set of glow in the dark glasses, complete with wolverine ears sticking out of each side. (Toby took one look at yours and ditched me and my efforts to make something more like yours.)
When I saw what you had created, I wasn’t only impressed because of your creativity, but also because I never would have thought to make something like that. This probably won’t surprise you, but I was never really the creative type, especially when I was your age. I was always a rule-follower. Not that you aren’t a rule follower (you’re the first to remind mommy of the rules when you catch me “bending” them at times). But I would have never had the imagination it took to create something original out of those glow-sticks. And while I’ve definitely become more creative as I’ve gotten older, I never had natural creativity that you possess in all your nine years.
And in that moment, I was reminded of something I need to do a better job of remembering. As parents, I think it’s hard not to project our own expectations and fears onto our children. Instead of expecting you to approach a problem the way I might, I need to step back and honor the way you looked at it… and really, the way you look at the world. Of course, where your dad and I can, we’ll be there to guide you. But along the way, it’s your path, your voice, and your way of seeing that also has to be honored. You and your brothers aren’t miniature versions of me or your dad. You’re each different from us—and from each other—and that’s as it should be.
And that’s just one of the many reasons we love you so very much.