On Saturday I took you to soccer practice. It was a make-up class, so it was a different group of kids, a different coach, and a different location. Watching you for the next 45 minutes was one of my prouder moments in parenting. Every single kid in that class was acting out. Some kicked over the equipment, some kept running away, two boys constantly kicked the other kids, took balls away from others, and no one listened to the coach. No one but you. You were not oblivious to what was going on, but you just didn’t seem to mind. You did your thing. You kicked the ball into the goal. If another kid took your ball, you went and got another one. You would glance over at me with a little smile, and I gave you the thumbs up. You did what the coach said. And you had fun. Despite all the craziness around you.
I was so proud of you. Not because you were better than any of the other kids there. But because you were you, and you stayed you. It would have been easy to join in the craziness, to kick back, to run around when you weren’t supposed to. But that isn’t you. As a mother it is hard to watch your child get kicked or treated unkindly, but watching you really showed me how strong you are.
Afterwards I took you out for some chocolate milk and a muffin. It was so lovely to sit down with you and talk to you. And to tell you how proud I am of you. Not just that day, but every day.
One day last week, when I picked you up from school, I talked to one of your teachers and she described you as kind and intelligent. And that is you. You are nothing but kind. Not once have I seen you push or hit another child – other than your brother. He is the exception in every way, as it should be.
You’re a quiet observer. You had the subway map memorized when you were 2 1/2. You knew which stop was next, and still today you love the world of trains. The sounds they make, all the announcements. You have it all down.
You have an incredible memory. The things you remember blow me away. I think you get that from your Uncle Brian. Maybe one day you two can have a contest to see who remembers what the best. You might just win. You remember the craziest details and things that I had long forgotten.
You are sensitive. You are very in touch with other people’s feelings, and you feel everything very strongly yourself. For a while you always said you were “tired” when you were feeling off. It was before you had the vocabulary for different emotions. You were sad, angry, scared…”Mama, ich bin müde.” But now you can tell me how you feel, and I can see it on your face and feel it by the grip of your hand in mine. I can tell by taking one glance at your face. I know you through and through, kid.
Yet this has been a year of letting you go a little bit. You stay in school longer now for a few days a week, and you love it so much. You come home full of stories and songs. It still blows my mind that you are having adventures that I am not a part of, but I am so happy to see you spread your wings. And I love nothing more than hearing all your stories when you come home.
I love to watch you make friends. You are particular in who you seem to like and feel comfortable with, but once you make a friend, you love that friend. You’re a lot like your mama in that way. I’ve never been much of a social butterfly myself.
You’re a great big brother and always have been. There was never any jealousy to speak of. There was a phase of annoying pushing once Arthur started getting into your business, but that too went away. Now you two are truly the best of friends. You do everything together. At lunch time I ask Arthur if he’s ready to jump on the train and pick you up from school, and his face lights up. “Ja ja ja ja!” he says. Being the bigger brother you may never understand the kind of adoration your younger brother feels for you. But you adore your little brother in your own way. You look out for him. When he rides his scooter too fast or too close to the street, you yell “Stop Arthur!” You have not once complained about not being able to eat a cookie or another treat because of Arthur’s allergy. I explain it to you, and you simply say ok. And sometimes, when you’re feeling sad, you will come to Arthur for a hug, and he always obliges. It’s so beautiful to see.
Every morning you come into our room at 7am, once your alarm clock light goes on. You come to my side of the bed and kiss my face. You say, “My light went on! It’s time to get up. Get up!” Sometimes you’ll let me pull you into bed with me for a few minutes.
And every night I put you to bed. Some nights I rock with you for a minute, and some nights you just jump straight into bed. “One, two, three, hop in my bed.” You want your comforter with the button side up, which drives me crazy because THAT’S THE WRONG WAY! but I oblige, because it’s your comforter, your thing, your buttons. You need a flashlight, a book, one toy, your water, and your light up clock next to your bed. Your bunny Hoppel in your arms. And a kiss and a hug from me.
You’re not perfect. You can drive me crazy. You talk all day long. Sometimes you take stuff away from your brother for no reason. Sometimes you won’t stop running back and forth in our apartment while yelling at the top of your lungs – usually a good indicator that we need to go outside. Sometimes you act all around three, which is not a compliment. But usually, most days, you are good. You are great. You are a joy to be with, to watch, to teach, to love. You don’t make it easy, but you make it all so worth it.