Sometimes it’s hard being the middle brother. You’ve been struggling lately with not being quite to the same level as Miles—he gets to do some things you can’t do yet, and it’s tough. When you’re feeling grumpy that Miles gets to do special, creative homework projects, you can’t seem to remember all the activities you and I do when we’re home together. Miles is jealous that you’ll get to go to Tot Time this summer while he’s at his summer class, but you just wish you were taking computer programming too.
You’re not the baby, either, and your dad and I expect a certain level of behavior and self-control from you. That can be tough too. When we ask you to pick up the socks that you always, always leave in the middle of the living room, you sigh deeply and say “Why do I have to do everything around here?”
You got a beginners’ chemistry set recently, and you were not very interested in the suggested experiments. You preferred to mix the ingredients together willy-nilly. This kind of chafed my first-born brain. I was worried the mixtures you made wouldn’t do anything exciting, and you’d lose your interest in science and the whole thing would have been a waste. Everybody knows that vinegar and baking soda do cool stuff when you mix them together; couldn’t we stick to something with known results? No, you insisted on dumping in half a bottle of vegetable oil.
Honestly, the vinegar + baking soda + vegetable oil turned out a lot cooler than the prescribed experiment I managed to talk you into doing (growing squishy crystals). The oil kept the baking soda and vinegar physically separated for a while, so you got to watch the baking soda slowly make its way through the oil layer. When it hit the vinegar below, it bubbled up through the oil again and looked pretty awesome indeed.
You are a seriously spunky kid. Sometimes your energy can be hard to harness, but other times you get some impressive things done. Your dad picked up a used bike for you, and largely due to your experience on the Strider bike, you can now officially ride a two-wheeler, no training wheels at all. You still need some help stopping and starting, but it’s pretty cool watching such a little guy tool down the path like it’s no big deal. I worry for your physical safety, but I admire your emotional resilience. Your have your moments of tearful frustration, but you’re not a moper. You pick yourself up and move along. I hope you learn to use the brakes someday, both literal (on your bike) and figurative (on your energy levels as you run laps around the house at bedtime), but I’m also glad you live a life of excitement.
When I manage to get a hold of you, you still love snuggles and hugs. One good thing about the coming summer humidity is that your curls will be back in their full glory. Feeling your fluffy little head against my cheek as I cuddle you to sleep at night is one of my favorite things. You’ve even taken an interest in showers lately, not coincidentally because Miles shifted from baths to showers. Your bedtime curls are often damp, whether from shower water or sweat.
You’re very imaginative, which manifests itself in great drawings and stories, but also in some questionable tales you present as fact. I always send you to the bathroom one last time before lights-out, because your dad and I decided that we’re not going to buy Pull-ups anymore. Ninety percent of the time you do great, but the other night, I’m pretty sure you didn’t tell the truth about that final bathroom trip. The whole event seemed suspiciously quiet to me, but when I asked you if you really went, you swore that you did and that you just hadn’t flushed. That night you had an accident. The next morning your dad and I debriefed the incident, and he said he saw you walk past the bathroom but not go in. Suspicious. I’m not sure why you would lie about that. Maybe it’s just about asserting independence and control over your own body. I hope you figured out that there are better options.
Your current favorites: playing computer and video games of all sorts with Miles (Minecraft, Mario, King’s Quest), riding your bike to Heyn’s for ice cream, swinging on the monkey bars, our botany walks home from school (you know all about the various flowering plants of the neighborhood and the difference between deciduous trees and conifers), and playing with friends. You make friends where ever you go, and I’m not worried one bit about you feeling lonely in this world. We went to Dubuque last weekend to see cousins Max and Foster in The Music Man, and before the show, we had some hangout time with extended family. You jumped right into the the Capture the Flag game like you’d been playing for years. Sometimes I think you’re more socially adept than I am.
Stay brave and smiling and sweet, my little Tobin. Some of the best things happen when you ditch the instructions and get a little willy-nilly.