Dear Owen: a letter at 3.5 years

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I wrote this when you were technically a month or so past your three and a half-year mark, but these past months have been marked by attempts at survival by your mother, as your sibling inside has made me so sick that only the necessary has been done, and all else has had to wait – including this letter.

But here we are, just past Christmas of 2015, and we are on an epic road journey from Williams Bay to Alexandria, and now I finally have the time and energy to write. And there is so much to say. Six months since your last letter, and you’re turning into more of a kindergartener every day, your toddler days long behind you.

You’re into so many little boy things now: superheroes and baseball, letters and numbers, playing swords and shields and spears. You love stories and movies of Superman and Batman and Spiderman, but your favorite is the Hulk, and I can often hear you fake wrestling your pillows, making Hulk sounds and stomping around your room like a giant. Probably ten times a day, you ask me to play a pretend game with you – Peter Pan & Captain Hook, Tarzan & Jane, Anna & Elsa. These games usually involve fighting some kind of monster and then fleeing to your dark cave (under your loft bed), sneaking and whispering, or rescuing some stuffed animal – or Elsa – who is in peril. You love these kinds of games. David and Goliath are (somehow) still regulars in our living room, as are Jack and the Giant. For a time, everything was a beanstalk to you – the grape vines in our backyard, the telephone poles along 28th Avenue, the mechanical pencil on the dining room table.

You love stories of underdogs. Your movies of choice have been the Penguins movie, Tarzan, Mickey, and of course, Superheroes. Despite your love of soldiers and fighting, you also have a soft spot for the Disney princesses – both rescuing them and pretending to be them. You prefer Anna & Elsa, Belle, and weirdly, Rapunzel, a story you’ve never read or seen. You love the Disney princess books at the library, and you take stacks of those and the Marvel superhero books home – it’s a weird mixture of interests, and we’re not totally sure how to respond to your “Princess phase.”

You love a good story in general. Your bedtimes are marked by requests for one more story, and you often want to tell us one – it usually involves a knight, the defeat of some dragon or giant, and an ending celebration that involves birthday cake. You love books, and you will sit and look at books for 30 minutes or more, sometimes telling the story in your own words. When you draw, you draw stories. Lately, your drawings start with a pirate ship, and you add rooms upon rooms, and then Captain Hook and his sword, and then Peter and Tink, and a sea dragon…your mouth never stops moving as you add more and more details and parts to the story. Your love for the Bible is still strong – you know so many of the stories, the characters by name. You memorize verses so easily, and take such pride in reciting them. You ask such good questions about Jesus and sin and salvation, and we can tell you’re starting to understand those big concepts.

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And baseball. It is one of your true loves in life. This summer, you and your dad spent countless hours in the backyard, pitching and hitting wiffle balls. Over the summer, you’d swing the orange bat, the skinny bat, and eventually your first t-ball bat, and towards September, you were nailing balls over the fence, over the garage, into the alley. Most mornings, I’d come out into the living room to find you and your dad snuggled on the couch, watching highlights from the previous day. You know the names and teams of countless baseball cards, which you are ever re-arranging into piles and scattering around our house. You and your dad went on a special boys-only trip to the Twins game this summer, taking the train, and you were beyond excited about it. I love that you two share that.

This past half year has shown us more and more of who you are. You are boisterous and loud; you like things done right, and a true first-born, with your own way of doing things, that you definitely thin is the best and only way. You often act like a third parent for Elsa. You go from calm to tantrum in an instant, squawking and screaming your displeasure, or throwing Frozen “ice hands” at us when you’re mad. We are ever telling you to go take a break in your bed to calm down as you scream in anger or throw something in rage or do your panicked breathing when things don’t go your way. You get nervous in large social settings…and have a strangely hard time saying “hello” to someone when we ask you to.

And seasons, Owen. Your body and clothing choices do not understand seasons. At the start of summer, you were the only kid running around the park in sweatpants and a winter hat. And now, mid-winter, your outfit of choice is your black basketball shorts and a  t-shirt, no socks. We had about a week of epic battles in November; each time we left the house, you’d insist on wearing shorts in the 20* weather, throwing major fits when you were told no, including one incident where we went to Target and left without buying anything because you were lying on the entrance rug to the store, crying about shorts in an enraged voice. We both cried on the way home.

In the past months, one new strategy to help you has been to learn the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” When you’re having a hard time around friends, or a hard time obeying, or are fearful about something, we say this together, and we pray and ask Jesus to give you strength…and so often, this calms you down, and you do the difficult thing. It has been so beautiful to see you grow in this.

The emotions of your threenage year are not all negative. You are quick to be excited. You’ll often say, “I’m so happy about this,” as we sit around a fire or get new books from the library or make cookies together. Your energy knows no bounds as you bounce around couch cushions or run down the sidewalk or sprint into the pool or beach.

We’ve said this for so long about you, Owen – your highs are high, and your lows are low. You are passionate – in all the best and worst of ways that a three-year-old can be. It’s definitely been a learning process for me the hard parts of you as you…to learn how to parent and guide the things about you that are so intrinsically you, the parts that will probably always be there, the parts that could be strengths if managed well. I find myself asking the Lord for wisdom all throughout our days, to give me guidance as I guide you.

We still find ourselves commenting on how smart you are. You talk non-stop, even when you’re by yourself, you’re telling elaborate stories. You work words like hydrated and consequence easily into your sentences, and you make very few vocabulary errors, other than mershicom for commercial and yogurt for ogre. You’ll say, No, I amn’t, and just the other day, you asked me to read you the story of Ikea – you know when Ikea climbs up in the tree to see Jesus.   You also think – based on our frequent trips to the Baker’s Wife –  that all donuts are samples, and you frequently request a sample from the church basement each Sunday.

You know all your letter names and their sounds – though you struggle with the sounds for u and x. You’re learning the lower-case letters. You read your first word this fall, and you are getting better at sounding out simple words – pig, bat, Pam, ten. Your dad is starting to teach you sight words – no, I, the. You can write your name, though you still mix up W & M, and often give your letter E seven “legs”. You are always asking what words say or how to spell words or what the beginning sounds of a word are, and I feel like you are on the cusp of reading. You like numbers and counting, and puzzles – you are a puzzle maniac. We feel like you are pretty observant for your age. A couple weeks ago, we were listening to Christmas music, and Iggy Azalea came on, singing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Midway through the song, you said, “Hey, Mom! That sounds like Elsa!” – and she sings the voice of Elsa in Frozen. I was amazed and tell the braggy story to anyone who I think will care. You clean up like you are your mother’s son, wanting it done thoroughly and not stopping until the living room floor is completely clean. A few times, you’ve even taken it upon yourself to clean up, piling all the toys high in the corner of the room and proudly announcing your efforts.

You got to do some cool things this summer – an airplane ride to Colorado for a family reunion, a hike in the Rocky’s, a small-town 4th of July, and a legit rodeo (you liked feeding grass to the penned sheep the best).  In the early fall, you did you first park-league soccer class. There was some kicking and stoping the ball, but more flower picking and asking for snacks. You and Elsa and I did a music class at Bethelehem Baptist – I love watching you boisterously bang out rhythms and sing the words to the songs in the car. We went camping as a family, and though you later claimed you loved it and want to do it again, it was honestly kind of a failure of a trip, as camping with young kids can be. (You and Elsa both climbed into your carseats on your own and waited as your Dad and I packed up the tent.) Your Grandpa Ron bought you a camel ride at the Minnesota zoo. We spent the summer at the pool and beach, and you love the water and building sand castles. You are mostly over your fear of heights at the park.

Fun facts: you are still a great eater and will eat almost anything, or at least try everything with an open mind. You have an irrational fear of dogs, especially the big ones,, but you love cats, especially Bolt the Cat at Ace Hardware and chasing the elusive Mayberry at your Grandma Karen and Grandpa Ron’s. You have mastered the preschool art of bedtime delays – insisting on going to the bathroom or that you’re hungry or thirsty as soon as we turn the lights out.

And this baby that started the letter. When I was pregnant with Elsa, you just weren’t really aware. But this time, we told the two of you, and you got it. You really wanted a brother from the get-go. We jokingly call him Baby Ping Pong together (you love ping pong…and treadmills at your grandparents’ houses). We took you and Elsa to our first seven-week ultrasound. And while our baby was still in the stage of looking like Mr. Peanut, you watched the screen intently, delighted to recognize a head and the baby’s waving hand. And when you heard the words “It’s a boy!” at our most recent ultrasound, you talked in an excited high-pitched voice for 5 minutes afterwards.

No doubt, you’ll struggle with my attention being stretched a third way when this baby comes. But I think you will also be a great protector, a great defender. You will rush to get me wipes and save the day by finding pacifiers, even as you do now with Elsa. And I am hoping that you and this baby will make each other laugh as I see you starting to do more and more with Elsa. The two of you actually play together – sometimes for even ten minutes at a time without tears. I love that, and I pray that this addition will only multiply those moments.

Owen, there is so much good in you. And for now, as you are midway through being three, some of that good is masked by screaming and tantrums and a desire to be the boss. But I see in you a desire for rightness, a desire to fight what is bigger than you. I often pray that the Lord will fuel that desire, that you will slay the giants of injustice in this world, using the gifts of passion and intelligence and verbal prowess that I believe he’s given you. I pray you will always want to rescue the helpless, and mostly, that you will always turn to God as the source of your strength – especially in your moments of weakness.

I love you so much. I love what you’re becoming.

You Mom

(Other) Things you love: Milo, Thea Belle, Archie, Eleanor, Torii Hunter card, Mike Trout, wrestling with your dad, running from the kitchen to the living room and sliding, pretending to be Tarzan and insisting I be Jane, Monkey Dance with Elsa (crazy pre-bedtime dancing that ends in multiple falls), jumping on beds yelling “Cow, Cow, Duck…Pirate!,” Bolt the Cat, the bakery, popcorn from the hardware store, playing in snow, climbing large rocks,

(Other) Things you hate: being told no, getting your hair washed, wearing pants/socks/long-sleeved shirts/any appropriate winter wear, trimming your toenails, haircuts, getting lotion put on your face, shots, drinking post-sleep milk out of a non-spout sippy cup, getting read to go anywhere (though you’re usually fine once we’re there – it’s an anxiety thing; you always say you’d rather stay home)

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