This is the second of Little Pup’s letters. I hope one day he’ll be able to look back at these and find all the things I thought were important at the time. This one was written just after the shooting in Sandy Hook, and it prompted me to explain to him part of the reason I believe in parenting gently.
To my Little Pup,
I am amazed by you. The discerning look in your eyes as you examine leaves and rocks on the ground. The wonder you show as you realize throwing the ball to Jak means he will run and get it, bringing it back for you to throw again. Every brave step you take toward something that used to frighten you. I have been remiss in keeping up with the little milestones. What week did you first cut a tooth? It was in the summer, you were barely 6 months old, and the bottom two teeth peeked out together. We ate bananas on the back porch at Wachesaw, and you stared for hours at the man cutting the grass outside next to the water.
You took your first steps into my arms in the middle of September 2012, right at 10 months old. After that, you ran. Everywhere. Usually with a toy in one hand held high in front of you, the flag to your tiny one-man charging cavalry. And now, every day that I come home from work, you storm into the kitchen as you hear my keys in the lock, barely able to contain yourself, and still stop to pick up a toy or a Tupperware lid or a piece of dog food on your way, your gift with which to greet me. You lift up your hand and give to me the only thing you have, whatever it is, and I am truly grateful every time.
You say “Ma-ma-ma.” It’s your word for me. You say “Da!” for your father. You say “Cha!” to call Jak, and you imitate his howls.
I have a big blue yoga ball I used during labor with you. At first you were so afraid of it. It is almost as tall as you, and so I can imagine, intimidating. When you were 7 months old or so, you began to pluck up the courage to confront this, The Big Blue Ball. Daily, you’d get a little closer before scrambling away. And then one day your father peeked into your room to find that you were just inches from touching the ball, his brave boy. From then on, the ball was a game. And in general, anything round, anything that bounces, anything that can be thrown is your favorite toy.
Making sounds is your most recent favorite playtime agenda. Monkey, wolf, owl, dog, car. So far. You point most deliberately at the things that interest you. A picture of a boy in your favorite book. The page that lists all the food eaten by The Hungry Caterpillar on Saturday. You beg to be allowed outside into the backyard so you can listen and look for birds. You are using the signs for bird, milk, music, ball, more, help, and all done, but you understand many more than that. You know what it means to go to the potty, even if it’s not your favorite place to sit. I let you get up as soon as you ask to, as we are only teaching you to be aware of the potty, and don’t expect you to use it of your own accord for some time. But when I sign for potty, sometimes you look down and do it!
Your favorite game is “Chase,” which explains itself. We chase you, you turn around and chase us, the melody of your laughter filling the house and my heart all at once. You are so beautiful.
I want to always be kind to you. My father was not always kind to me, and my mother, out of frustration and sadness perhaps, was not always kind either. I will not spank you, as I was spanked and don’t believe it does anything except teach children that big people are allowed to hit smaller ones, and that violence is an answer to something. I believe that children must be able to trust their parents if they are to gain the confidence and independence necessary to navigate this big world. If I commit violence against you, who will you trust? I think that striking children is an insult to their intelligence, as it assumes they cannot understand any other way of communication. I will never leave you to cry alone. Abandonment is cruel, and you are too small to rightly manage all the enormous emotions you have while at the same time not having the language to express them. I will promise that whenever you cry, your father or I will hold you through it. There are people who think babies can be manipulative, but I think manipulation is reserved for adults who have the benefit of years of life to understand the intricacies of human emotion and behavior, and not for little children who only want to feel love, and who only have a few spare tools in their box with which to communicate. Crying and stomping your feet is your way of saying, “I’m frustrated. I don’t understand. Hold me.” And hold you, I will. I suppose in writing to you over the years I will explain many things, but these have weighed on me in the last week.
Last Friday, there was a man who went into a school full of small children and took their lives. Twenty children and six grown-ups are not in the world anymore because this man was very sad and very sick, and he could not get the right kind of help to make him well again. I have been sad for many days now thinking about those children and their families. People always say to look for the bright side of things. I don’t believe there is any bright side to something like that. Sometimes, things are just what they are, and this thing is sad and terrible. But I will say this: When bad things happen to other people, it makes me think of how lucky I am to be here in this world and to have someone as perfect and as beautiful as you. It makes me think of how fortunate I am to have someone who loves me as much as your father loves me. And it makes me remember that I want to always be kind.
Oh my darling Little, you are the most important person in the whole world. I love you.