You’ve moved! You live in Syracuse now. And last week, your mother was able to come join us all, so we’re all together again.
This has been a difficult transition for all of us, but I think you’re having the hardest time with it so far. You’re refusing to stay in bed — which is unusual for you. We’ve had to put you back to bed several times a night. We’ve tried just about everything we can think of, including getting you involved in the solution (which is the recommended method these days), but it hasn’t worked. Part of the issue with getting you involved is that you have an incredibly active imagination and when we ask you why something is happening or how, you’re coming up with answers that are much better stories than actual reasons. And when we try to extrapolate from those stories… well, it turns out they’ve become stories, and instead of thinking about the real issue we’re trying to address, you start adding details.
Here’s what I mean. We ask why you’re not sleeping. You don’t know. We ask if there’s something you’re thinking about keeping you awake. You say no. We ask if you’re feeling sad or scared. You say no — but your doll, Blue Baby, is. Assuming you’re projecting, we ask what’s bothering Blue Baby. Turns out she’s scared. Scared of what? Scared of shadows and ghosts and witches. What can we do to help Blue Baby? …And all of a sudden we’re off on an epic adventure idea, where your hands are waving in the air as you tell us about how Blue Baby needs to find a princess who has a potion that if you pour it on a rock the rock wakes up and becomes a dragon, and she could ride the dragon and it would breathe fire to scare away the witches, but the dragon doesn’t have any fire and so it has to go get fire from the castle but the princess doesn’t remember where the castle is and…
As much as I love your imagination, it definitely is not helping us figure out how to keep you in bed.
You’ve told us a number of times about people in Indiana that you miss. We know that they miss you too, and it breaks our hearts to hear you cry about it. You’ve told me over and over that you don’t want things to change.
I think part of the problem is that we haven’t had much chance to find kids around here for you to play with regularly. You’ve had a couple times to play with my cousin’s kids, Abel and Abby, but not often yet. You’ve met a few kids at places like the playground and the apple orchard, but they have been the type who are friends for an hour and then you may never see them again. We’re working on that. We want to get you back to having friends you get to see almost every day.
You are having fun, too. I don’t want to make it sound like it’s all been miserable. You had a blast at that apple orchard. We picked apples and pumpkins, you rode a “cow train” (carts painted like cows pulled in a tenth-mile circuit by a tractor going slower than a walking adult, but you thought it was “WEALLY FAST!!!”), we snacked on apple cider donuts and listened to a sort-of bluegrass band… you had a lot of fun. You’ve helped make supper, you’ve helped clean up, you’ve helped with all sorts of stuff, and that makes you really proud of yourself (as it should)!
Today (a couple days late again, I’m sorry, I know), we had a very special moment. You wanted to read one particular book before bed — “The B Book.” Almost every word in the book begins with the letter B, and they add on to a single run-on sentence from page to page. (“Big brown…” “Big brown bear.” “Big brown bear, blue bull.” “Big brown bear, blue bull, beautiful baboon.” “Big brown bear, blue bull, beautiful baboon blowing bubbles.” etc)
You know most of the book by heart. You were cheerfully “reading” pages to me until I turned to a page with just one word on it, and you said, “I might need help with dis one. I don’t wemembuh it.”
I asked you what the letters were.
“B, A, M.”
“Do you remember what those letters say?”
“B says buh. A says aah. M says mmm.”
“So if you say them in order, what do you get?”
“Buhaahmmmm. Bam! BAM!”
“Sage — do you know what you just did?”
“You just read that word, all by yourself. You sounded it out. You read it without my help.”
“But I’ve BEEN weading widout your help.”
“You’ve been telling me what you remembered. You didn’t remember this one, but you listened to what each letter says, you put them together, and you figured out the word. Honey, that’s what reading is.”
(…you weren’t as impressed as I was.)
Things are new and different here. I know. There are going to be tough times, getting used to things. We’re doing everything we can to make those times easier — for you and for us, too. I’m so sorry that you’re not as happy with everything these days as you have been, but I know it’s temporary.
(Your mother just walked past me to head to your room because you’re singing. It’s after 10 p.m.; we put you to bed over two hours ago.)
Sage, this month, I want to remind you again to be who you are; and I’m going to give you two pieces of advice, not just one.
First: remember that people change. I was hesitant to come back to Syracuse, in part because I had changed a lot in twenty years and I wasn’t sure who would still be around that might expect me to be the person that I was. To my surprise, there’s not a single person that I’ve reunited with that I would say is the same person they were. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. So I tell you to remember: people change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but it happens, and you can’t try to stop it.
Second: SLEEP WHILE YOU CAN. OH MY GOODNESS, CHILD, YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SLEEP A WHOLE BUNCH, AND BY THE TIME YOU’RE A TEENAGER YOU’RE GOING TO BE PRAYING FOR MORE. SHUT YOUR EYES, GO TO SLEEP, HELP US ALL OUT.
…but seriously, for your own sake, learn that naps and bedtime should not be taken for granted.
I love you so much, Sage. Your mother and I both do. I’m so happy to have you near me again; it put an end to one of the longest difficult stretches of my life.