Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dear Tate,

Dear Tate,

Wow.  You're 8 years old. I'm baffled.  I feel like you were my tiny (to me.  You were nearly 9 pounds but you felt tiny to me) little baby boy, snuggled into my shoulder with teensy dimples in your squishy cheeks.  And then I just blinked and now you're 8 years old.  You're a tall, silly second grade boy and while I really wish I could watch you grow again, I think you're a really fun boy and I know that the next year will be a new kind of wonderful.  Different from the previous 8 but just as great.

Oh my Tate, you are one of a kind.  You've got this love that almost glows from your skin.  When you're excited about something everyone knows.  You can talk about a new show you like, book you've read, lego set you built, or fact you learned incessantly.  Sometimes it gets a little difficult to listen to and we're trying to learn where boundaries are of how much content to share in conversation before you let the other person have a turn.  But it's hard for you because you are absolutely lit up by things you love and the thought of not talking about them or sharing them with those around you feels like putting a damper on a flame.  

It's fun to watch you really get in to certain subjects and watch your brain soak it all in like a sponge.  Lately it's dinosaurs.  You come home with books about dinosaurs from the library and can spout facts about an enormous array of dinosaurs and it seems like you just memorize everything you've read about them.  Right now you want to be a paleontologist.  But I'm pretty sure you're convinced that paleontology the way you would do it, means bringing dinosaurs back to life Jurassic park style.

 Your brain is a remarkable thing.  You remember the tiniest from years and years ago, like the color of the snow cone you had when we went to the circus when you were three, that came up a few weeks ago...like, what?!  You can quote movies and books in detail, that's always been a talent of yours.  We do little presentations on different things we're going to see in our trips and you're getting very good at finding interesting facts to memorize and share in a composed, professional manner.  It's really darling.

You are patient and kind with your little brother and sisters.  You and Finn are such good buddies.  I hope that never changes.  Once you're done with your after school work you can disappear into your room building legos or playing with toys, or head outside to ride bikes with him for hours.  You get along really well and seldom fight.  It's SO nice as a mom to see you be a good big brother.  Being the first in our family is a lot of responsibility because you're doing everything for the first time and it's so nice to have such a kind boy leading the pack.

At the end of last year you seemed to be a little stuck on math.  We worked over the summer on helping you become more fluent with addition and subtraction but honestly, I think something just clicked for you in second grade.  Math isn't as hard for you to understand anymore.  Your teacher, Mr. Bremmer, gave you your highest grade in math last trimester.  You're still an excellent reader and sometimes we have to get you to slow down a little bit and work on how to retell what you've just read but you can read really quickly and love getting in to a new story or series.  The latest you finished was the Spiderwick Chronicles series.  You got the set for Christmas, and read the last one on the way home from Disney World in January.  You still love Harry Potter and we're reading the fourth book together at night when we get to bed on time.  Your only challenge in school is keeping your quick mind in check and staying really focused on what your teacher is saying.  It's hard for you to stay focused all day long but you're aware and working on it.

You love legos and mini-figures.  You're riding your bike without training wheels but I think you still favor your scooter.  You're getting better every day at the piano.  You play very well and are getting better at figuring out notes and rhythms in new songs.  It's really cool to see things click in your brain and watch you work on a tricky spot until you get it right.  You like having a little more distance from me during practicing so I made you a little technic checklist so you can do it by yourself and check it off while I'm in the other room and then I help you with songs.  But even then, I can help you with a step or a spot and tell you, "Okay, now you practice it a few more times" and leave you to do it and you will.  You're really enjoying having a little more responsibility and independence and once in a while you'll stop me to let me know, "Mom, I can do that."  Right.  Of course you can.  You're 8 now!

You're still a pretty picky eater.  Your favorite foods are hot dogs, pizza, mac and cheese, and all breakfast foods.  You eat some sort of sandwich every day for lunch because we just have to make sure you're fed before you go back to school.  Dinner is the meal you still eat the least because it's usually a lot of vegetables but this year you've made huge strides in being willing to try a couple of bites of everything.  That was not a possibility last year.  Now we can ask you to take a certain number of bites before you can be finished with dinner and, while it's not easy for you, you'll oblige without too much fuss.

You have a tendency to get stressed out by being timed or feeling rushed and you leap into panic mode right away when you feel pushed to be faster than your normal speed.  You recover and backpedal sooner and more automatically than you used to and I can see your little brain trying to figure out how to match your feelings to the real size of the problems.  It's a tricky balance but you're trying to figure it out and it's getting easier.

This past fall you did a basketball clinic every Saturday for a while and we added soccer in there once a week too.  Neither we a deep love for you, but you went without complaining and tried your best.   We think its important for you to keep trying different sports because you can learn a lot from being physical and playing on a team so we're glad you're giving it your best. You still love to swim and you can run too when you want to.  We went on a few training runs for your Disney World race, that didn't end up happening because of lightening, and you could keep up for a whole mile without complaining and still have steam left.

You're getting to a great age to be able to discuss more serious topics with us.  It's a cool thing to see as a parent when you are able to have discussions about the gospel or friendships or cultures with your kids.  It's like I have more in common with you every day as you grow closer to being an adult.  Which scares the daylights out of me, but it's pretty cool too.  You're a cool kid.  You seem to really love visiting new places.  It's exhausting, but you don't complain much when we're out adventuring, which is SO helpful since we've got three younger than you and at least one of them usually is complaining!  In your 8th year we've been to Spain, the UAE, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Austria and all over the US, most recently Disney World.  It's unreal the places you've seen in just a couple of years living abroad.  Your dad and I love being able to share this life with you and your little brother and sisters.  But you might be the most fun to watch as you take in the sights and new food and new art and stories because you can understand them and appreciate them more than your little siblings.  Disney World was wonderful and tough.  We were tired and jet lagged and your three siblings kept randomly throwing up.  But you were a trooper.  You rode some really big rides and liked them.  Some of them still made you a little bit nervous but it was, again, really fun to be able to ride rides that I really like with my kiddo who really likes them too!

Tate, I love you.  I've said it every year, but you and I share something special on your birthday.  You're my first little one.  Your big day is my big day too.  I hope you remember that as you get older and the years get trickier.  I'm only as old as a momma as you are.  I'm trying to figure out how to do my job just like you are.  And I'm going to make a lot of mistakes but behind them all is so so much love for you.  I am so glad you're the big brother.  You're a great example and you think with your heart.  You see people who are sad and lonely and you reach out.  You try to make the world better and happier.  You're starting to recognize the spirit and be conscious of your actions.  You're a gift and I'm so grateful that we get to figure this whole being a kid/being a parent thing out together.  I love you, kid.

Happy Birthday!  The world is yours.

Love,

Mom