Monday, September 2, 2013

Dear Ben,

This year, your fifth, has been an emotional roller coaster. In contrast to your fourth year, when everyday was up and down, up and down, this year the ups and downs have been in weeks. So for a few weeks you'd be the best kid I could imagine. Kind, helpful, funny, creative, thoughtful, mature, obedient. I'd feel like the best mother. And then it would switch and suddenly for a few weeks you were beastly: Yelling, slamming doors, refusing to listen. Those weeks were tough. The good news is that you generally save that behavior for Dad and me. At school, with babysitters, with family you're well behaved and respectful. Only one time in two years of school have you gotten a bad report and your teacher was SO SURPRISED.

The most exciting thing from this past year is that you're learning to read and write at an amazing clip. Just a couple weeks ago you made a card for a friend's birthday and you sounded out "Happy Birthday" almost all by yourself. I'm in awe of your curiosity and voracious need to learn new things. Both will serve you so well in the years to come.

One of the most fun things about your emerging personality is that you're definitely picking up on Dad's and my geekiness. Video games are a favorite of yours. You love making up stories about zombies and dragons. You even wore your wizard hat to the Renaissance Faire. At first it freaked you out a little that people kept talking to you, but after a while when someone would say, "Are you a wizard?" you'd proudly say yes. And when Dad and I brought you home Catan Jr. from Gen Con, you have no idea how excited and proud we were by how quickly you picked up the game.

The biggest milestone this year (to me) was your first Weird Al concert. I was so excited, but at first I wasn't sure I'd made the right decision, taking you so young. It started close to bed time and you seemed tired. When Al came out on stage you just seemed perplexed by all the lights and how loud it was. You said you'd had fun, but I wasn't so sure. However, the very next day you started asking for your iPod to listen to Weird Al. And now all you ever request in the car is Weird Al. And when we hear original songs in public you say, "This is Weird Al!" So even though you have absolutely no context for the jokes or parodies, I've succeeded in making you a Weird Al fan.

The most poignant milestone this year was taking the training wheels off your bike. It just seems to completely symbolize you growing up. Now you have your own transportation and you can (almost) completely balance yourself on your own. It's scary and thrilling to have you becoming more independent. It makes my heart ache a little, but it's also what's supposed to happen.

You're getting to the sweet spot of childhood. Those handful of years where you're old enough to be somewhat self-sufficient, you can do stuff that's fun for us and you still want to hang out with the family. In a couple more years Sam will be in the sweet spot with you and I think the four of us are going to have a lot of fun. I'm so looking forward to the next half-dozen years with you. You're turning into someone I genuinely want to hang out with and I'm so proud to be your mother.

Happy birthday, Ben!

I love you,

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