Monday, April 25, 2011

A Letter to Desmond and Zoe

I’m sitting in a parking lot facing a green diamond. There are shouts and smacks as balls hit mitts. Children are grunting, adult men are praising. The world is green and the air wet and fresh. Desmond you are giving this physical activity all you’ve got. This is our first foray into competitive sports and it’s a great outlet for your bounteous 7yearold energy levels. You are a boy who loves to move his body – you hop, you twist, you endlessly swing your limbs, exercising all their functions. It makes me proud to have a boy like you – I interpret your kinetic motion as demonstrations of your absolute enthusiasm for life.

As I attempt to help you channel and bridle this zeal in your being, I am careful, as careful as I can be, because I want your childhood to be what you want it to be. The spheres of childhood and adulthood orbit each other constantly and I feel the conflict of each on a regular basis, especially as I try and fit you for society, for the adult sphere, and all the manners and expectations we have for each other there. I know it’s my responsibility to teach you these things, and I do – exhaustively – but I also try so very hard to honor your sphere and create free spaces for you to be a child in – you know? Places where you can be loud and active and express yourself in the intuitive ways you need too.

I was trying to explain this to Auntie Heidi today. I was telling her how grateful I was this Easter weekend that our friends who were visiting, had two little boys just like you. The four of you (because Zoe is often willing) whipped yourselves up into regular frenzies of child-joy. You were loud, you were physical, you were inhabiting all available spheres and spaces. You were happy.

We often think of our past. Today, Zoe, you reminisced about trains. How you loved taking those days-long rides through the Kazakhstan, sleeping on the narrow top bunk with me, eating hot noodles and fresh bread from the platform vendors, watching movies with daddy, playing with the other children up and down the hallway, and getting treats from people in neighboring coupes. You remembered how Des had to go peep in a bottle when the bathrooms were locked as we passed through villages and towns. In your case, we were often able to convince the conductors to let us use the bathroom or they directed us to the nearest woods if we had stopped to pick up passengers.

Since babyhood in NYC, you have made your first friends here in Vermont. Girls! Girls! Girls! You have been so excited to be around girls who can speak your language! Your social calendar has quickly exceeded Desmond’s. It’s funny to think about how the quiet little sister who agreeably went along with whatever big brother had going on, played with the boys, etc., is now pulling us into her girl trajectory. You set the precedent because Des is now just as excited about teaming up with your playdates and birthday parties as he is with his own.

I’ve been working very hard to teach you the value of kindness. You have surprised me with your more discerning approach to people. You don’t readily say hello or smile or talk to adults or peers you know. Lately you’ve been growling at what I think you think is a cute attempt at playing hard-to-get. You’ve spurned young men at church who once thought you were their chase and tickle playmates. Also, at school, you’ve told me stories of collaborating with others girls to “turn your head” from other children you “don’t like anymore”. You demonstrated this for me by raising your nose and chin high and flipping it from side to side in a manner that can only be described as snotty. WOE! I had a friend here ask me if you were always, “like this”. Like this, implying mean. HEARTBREAK! I could only weakly say no because I was so perplexed that we were talking about you, MY DAUGHTER, and indeed you were manifesting in every way meanness at that moment. You are not this way around us, your family. You are sweet&helpful&joyful&talkative&kissy&cuddly&silly&precious. You can be stubborn, sure, I’ve always felt your fierce streak running through most things you are determined to do or not do. Desi will confirm lovingly that you shriek mighty shrieks at him daily for the misdeeds he does. BUT you are largely and mostly and generally and unabashedly DELIGHTFUL!

Everyday I thank my Father in Heaven for motherhood – specifically for the opportunity to mother you two. It can overcome me multiple times a day how blessed these moments are with you, at this particular age, at this particular time. Sometimes I worry about how things will change, if I will be as happy, so I want to mark every day of this childhood, your childhood, and my intimate proximity to it. What a great way to live ones life. Thank you.




Michael and Heidi Southworth said...
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Michael and Heidi Southworth said...

Oh boy!:) These two kids! Beautifully written. They are really going to appreciate these letters later! I'm happy for Desmond and his enthusiasm in his new found sport! I bet he is fun to watch! What are we going to do with the dear sweet kind Zoe we all know and love! How do you rid snotty, mean girl behavior from a 5 year old? YIKES!