We’ve had a busy few weeks.
Your new cousin Macie was born, and we went back to Indianapolis to visit her over the 4th of July weekend. You practiced holding your baby dolls for two weeks leading up to that visit so that you’d feel confident holding Macie. You were so proud, and we were so proud of you, too.
You spent the next weekend with Grandma and Grandpa (and a little bit with cousins Mason and Lucy) while your mother and I went to the Adirondacks to celebrate our 18th anniversary.
We spent the next weekend in Buffalo and Rochester, for ComedySportz and the Strong Museum of Play.
And this past weekend, we went to Indianapolis again, where you got to play with all of your cousins on your mother’s side — Maggie, Mollie, Raven, and Macie. It was the first time the five of you were all together in the same place; I hope that’s something we can make happen over and over throughout your life.
We’ve had some ups and downs this month. Since you’ve been traveling so much, you’ve been tired, and that has led to some unexpected meltdowns. We took you to see “The Secret Life of Pets,” and it was too scary for you; Mom had to take you out of the theatre while I stayed with Mason and Lucy. You were too scared to sleep alone.
On the other hand, when we were in Indiana this last weekend, we went to the Johnson County Fair (you misheard it as the Dachshund County Fair and were a little disappointed that it wasn’t a huge land of weiner dogs), and for days ahead of time you talked about how much you wanted to go on the Ferris wheel. That day, when you were talking to me about it ahead of time, I could tell by the motion of your hands (in a circle parallel to the ground) that you didn’t know what a Ferris wheel actually was. I pointed it out to you. You insisted that you wanted to go on it. You’d been scared of some other rides, but you were sure you wanted to go. I sat next to you and put my arm around you, and told you what it was going to be like.
And you LOVED it. You begged to go on it again. We were so proud of you for being brave!
I will admit to occasionally being a little bit worried about how much you worry. You remind me of me, a lot. Earlier this month, you suddenly asked me who would take care of you if I died. I said that Mommy would. You asked who would take care of you if she died. I told you I would. You said, “No, what if both of you got dead?” I was concerned that you were even thinking about this, but I calmly reminded you that you have lots of aunts and uncles and grandparents and even friends of Mommy and Daddy who would make sure that you were taken care of. You burst out sobbing: “But if you got dead, how would they know?” I realized you were worried about being left alone, and not knowing how to contact anyone.
No child your age should have to worry about that. I don’t know what age kids normally start thinking about that, but it breaks my heart to see you burst out in tears about imaginary situations like that. We have a hard time stopping you from worrying — about being left alone, about scary movies, about situations you’ve made up in your own head where you don’t like the “rules” of the imaginary game you’ve made.
I’ve also noticed that you’re concerned with being pretty. It’s tough, because almost everyone I know has issues with how they look, and even when you’re a grown-up like me and Mommy and we know that what’s on the inside is more important, we still have days where we look in the mirror and get sad that we aren’t more physically attractive. And those things that people will start to tell you that it only matters if you decide to like yourself… well, that may be true, but your sense of aesthetics won’t magically change. You just have to change how much you care about it, and that’s much easier to say than it is to do. I’ll be honest — I’ve never liked the way that I look, and it makes it hard for me to accept any compliment I get about my appearance.
That being said, I like myself. I like my creativity, my passion, my intelligence. I like that I fight for equality and that I stand against bigotry. I like that people I love and respect also love and respect me; that tells me I’m doing something right.
As your parent, I’ll try to give you this lesson throughout your life (and this is my advice this month): it’s okay to be pretty. It’s okay to want to be pretty. But it’s not okay to dislike yourself for not being as pretty as you want to be. You wouldn’t dislike your best friend if they were less attractive. You wouldn’t dislike your favorite people if an accident left them disfigured. You have no right to hold yourself to a higher standard than you would hold anyone else. This is an easy lesson to learn, but a very hard one to believe. I know; I have to remind myself of this often.
And, of course, my usual advice: Be who you are.
Be yourself. That’s also a difficult lesson to learn. It’s why I tell you every month. Don’t lose sight of that. I hope… I sincerely hope… that some day, you’ll come to me and tell me that you were faced with a difficult decision, but you did the right thing because you knew who you were. And I hope that as I strive to be the best father I can be that I can lead by example. (I also hope that when I fail at leading by example, you’ll also see another trait that is necessary: resilience. Some day you’ll make a decision that you’ll regret, because you aren’t being true to yourself. I hope that you then determine that the right thing to do is to stand up, brush yourself off, and move forward with being yourself.)
I love you, Sage! Your mother and I both do, with all our hearts.