Winter is tough for a wiggly young person such as yourself. You’re an energetic guy, and we do our best to help you get your energy out with dance parties (recent hits: “Billie Jean,” “Uptown Funk,” “All About that Bass”), and you just started basketball. Your dad is your coach, and have been so excited to get started. You’ve only had one practice so far, but you really enjoy wearing special shoes and athletic shorts. You’re looking forward to working on skills beyond dribbling. Your dad told me that after practice last week, you said to him, “I liked playing basketball, but I also liked having time with you.” Things like that make it worth being on my own with the other guys on basketball practice nights.
You are such a kind little boy. I can always count on you to share a treat with Callum, or to give me a hug or a kind word. You’re quick to defend your special people: I was telling you that one of Donald Trump’s worst qualities is that he throws a tantrum every time he gets a little bit upset. Callum was overtired one day and throwing a fit over something small, and I said, “Callum, stop being a Trump.” You got so offended. You hugged him and said, “Callum’s not like Trump. He’s a good boy.” That’s especially impressive considering that Callum loves to grab big handfuls of your hair. Your curls are pretty irresistible.
You’re doing fine at KinderFarm, though I think you’ll be happy when it’s time for kindergarten. We have kindergarten registration coming up in the beginning of March, and you’re excited to go to the same school as Miles. You really want to walk home from school with him, just the two of you. I know you guys could handle it—you have a good sense of direction, and Miles has been doing it for months now. Still, I like walking up the hill to get you, especially on nice days.
You’ll definitely be ready academically. You’ve been doing some good early reading, and you’re really motivated to continue learning math. This is largely because you have your own account on Prodigy, an online math game Miles introduced you to. You’ve been practicing a lot of skills and really, really want a pro account. We’ll see if you’re still interested when your birthday rolls around.
Photo by Gary Clarke
We’re going to Ames for a quick weekend visit, mostly because your dad is going out of town and I am not equipped to handle three squirmy little boys on my own. You and Miles really aren’t too taxing anymore, though your dad and I were just talking about how it will be nice when you can read for pleasure. Now, when we want Miles to do something constructive that doesn’t involve screen time, we can send him off to read one of his many books. Your skills are growing, but you’re not quite at the stage yet where you can just pick up a book and stay happy for an extended time. It will happen, I know, but for the time being, you’re still happiest with a video game or one of those weird YouTube videos of other people playing videos games. What on earth is the appeal of those?
Another of your current obsessions is these two young women who are conjoined twins. We don’t know them or anything, but we’ve been watching a documentary about them, and you can’t get enough. In their particular physical situation, they have what looks mostly like a single body with two necks and heads. Each girl controls an arm and a leg, which can make things like swinging a bat and driving complicated. They have to work hard to coordinate their actions. But as we watched a couple of nights ago, we noticed that they seemed to work in perfect synch in unconscious ways. For example, when one girl gasped, both her hands went simultaneously and instantly to her face. How did her sister know that she wanted to put her hands on her face? We talked a little bit about how their bodies must have some kind of communication that goes beyond the voluntary tasks their brains command. It’s all very interesting, and it gives us opportunities to talk about how they’re two separate people, actual individuals and we should think of them as such, even if they seem very different from the people we know.
This may be an obscure approach, but I try every day to remind you that people (especially women, but all people) are more than things that should be easily dismissed or objectified. It’s something I have to remind myself too. It’s easy to slip into an “us versus them” mentality, and I admit there are times I don’t think I can possibly find common ground with certain factions of the population. But having kids forces a person to be better, because I want you to know that I’m trying and I expect the same of you. I need to model being better, and you help push me there.
You’ve been enjoying games lately, including Uno, Go Fish, and Harry Potter Trivia. You’d think a trivia game would be hard for someone with only rudimentary reading skills, but you have such a great imagination it doesn’t even matter. When it’s your turn to ask me a question, you dutifully take a card out of the box and “read” me a multiple choice question. For some reason my answer is always wrong. I guess that’s what happens when your brain is in charge.
Last weekend I was in a staged reading of Shakespeare’s Richard III, which a group of concerned citizens put on as a fundraiser for the ACLU and an alternative activity for inauguration day. It was a really fun adventure for me, since I love being involved with theater but just don’t have the time to commit to time-intensive projects right now. I was afraid that you kids would be totally bored, but it turned out that two of your friends were also there, so you played with my phone while I shrieked and hollered as Lady Anne. We talked about the play beforehand, and you had a hard time understanding why my character would agree to marry someone who killed her husband and father-in-law. To be honest, I still don’t completely get it. I understand that women’s power was very tenuous in those days, and the opportunity to be a queen might be impossible to decline. Still, I went from cursing Richard to hell to accepting his proposal within one scene. We both agreed that it was a pretty weird thing to do.
Because he kills just about anyone who is inconvenient to him, Richard later kills Anne. We talked about that ahead of time too. The afternoon of the reading, you said to me, “I think I know the answer to this, but…they’re not really going to kill you, are they?” Sweet, sweet boy. I assure you that I would never purposely volunteer for a project that resulted in anyone’s death.
Thank you for being a bright spot in my days, my beautiful Tobin. Winter is hard, and the winter of 2017 is particularly hard, but you are a shining beam of love-light that goes straight into my brain-heart. Even though I know it’s my brain that manages most of what happens in my body, I feel like there has to be something in all my cells and yours that makes you mine. When you fall asleep at night with your curly little head on my arm, our cells mash into each other inextricably.
In case you didn’t know, I love you.