Dear Jack: Your Pet Millipede That Miraculously (and Secretly) Survived a Week Somewhere Inside Our House

7 and a half years old!

Dear Jack,

Something I enjoy about writing these letters to you each week is that it’s my way of preserving memories of you at whatever age you are at the time. As of this week, you are now 7 and a half years old. I feel this story perfectly illustrates who you are right now, as a 7 and a half year-old boy in his last week of 1st grade.

As the school year is coming to a close, your teacher has been doing some extra special, extra fun things for your class. For example, she let you bring home (and keep) the class pet:

A millipede.

Nonna and Papa just happened to be in town that weekend. You loved showing off your millipede friend to them.

But then, the next today, Mommy shared this as her status update on Facebook:

The pet millipede escaped. #enoughsaid

That’s because the millipede amazingly escaped through the “breathing hole” that you punched into the plastic wrap covering the Rice Krispies bowl. This meant your pet was able to crawl upside-down along the plastic in order to escape.

I assured Mommy that if your pet millipede was smart enough to escape your homemade aquarium, it would be smart enough to find its way out of our house.

Fortunately, I was partially right, because a week later, Mommy shared this update:

Millipede update– he was found!! Alive and well 6 days after his disappearance. He was spotted hanging out by the front door, so we let him free and we bid him a nice farewell with some cilantro and celery leaves  So glad I never stepped on him 

When I say sometimes how you are a well-balanced kid, this is what I mean.

You’re a smart kid. You’re a well behaved kid.

And you love playing with bugs.

Perfect for a 7 and a half year-old boy, if you ask me!

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Jack: You Chose “Poop” as Your Theme for Dress Up Day at School… and Totally Got Away with It!

7 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

Last Friday your class unlocked a special day at school due to your collective good behavior. Your whole class got to participate in “Dress Up Day”, meaning you could have worn pajamas or a hat, or something a little out of the ordinary like that.

As I got you ready for the bus last Friday morning, I saw that on your own, you decided to adopt the theme of “poop” for your special day with your friends.

You pulled out your poop emoji hat from your closet, the one you bought from a street vendor; as a souvenir at the Monster Jam truck show in Nashville last year.

Then you found the “pooping moose” key chain I got you as a souvenir several years ago when GM flew me up to Detroit.

It was clear: You saw “Dress Up Day” as the perfect subtle opportunity to promote poop awareness at school.

Just like the week before when you took it upon yourself to craft a real cobra head necklace to wear to school, you had used your own creativity once again; and never needed to ask Mommy or me what you should wear for this special event.

As I hugged you goodbye right before you hopped on the bus, I thought to myself, “Is there a chance he’s going to be sent home for wearing this to school? Or best case scenario, will he have to take off the hat and necklace as soon as his teacher sees what he’s wearing?”

Fortunately, that was not the case at all.

When you got home that day from school, one of my first questions for you was, “So what did your teacher think of what you wore for Dress Up Day?”

You smiled and announced to me, “She told me she liked it.”

Okay, then. Well, that’s that.

You went to school wearing a poop emoji hat and a pooping moose necklace and it was no big deal.

Good for you. You’re a creative kid!

Love,

Daddy

 

Dear Jack: You Finally Saved (and Spent) 100 Loot at Your School

7 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

I assume it’s the norm these days for elementary schools to have some sort of faux-money merit system for their students. You often come home from school saying, “I earned some loot today!”

Based on last year in Kindergarten, as you spent it pretty much the moment you earned it, I figured you were doing the same this year; immediately spending it on erasers or bouncy balls or something.

But when you came home from school this Tuesday, you immediately announced to Mommy and me:
“I’ve got 100 loot now!”

You went on to explain there is a stuffed animal you were going to spend it on at the school store the next day.

And that’s exactly what you did.

Apparently, it’s not so common for most of the students in your class to save up 100 or more loot. But you did it!

So things were extra special when you were able to show us your new prize, and then on the same day, Mommy happened to receive some Pokemon-themed gifts from a co-worker who recently traveled to Japan.

You made it sound like that blue dog was the most expense thing you cared about in the school store. Now that you have obtained it, and you still have a few more months left of 1st grade, I wonder what will be the tangible motivation for saving up more loot.

Of course, the fundamental psychological part of this story is not that you got earned a stuffed animal at your school.

Instead, it’s that at your school, you have done a consistently great job of behaving and getting your work done.

The blue dog reinforces that fact. The blue dog serves as a trophy for you being a good citizen in your class.

I am very proud of you.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Let Me Just Savor You at This Age for a Moment, Age 7

7 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

I am taking a moment to deliberately freeze this moment in time; as if to keep you this age long enough for me to process the concept.

It is clear to me that you are in a transition between two different stages of boyhood.

You’re old enough to recognize that “Sesame Street is for babies”, yet you will happily watch it alongside your sister, while giving critical yet intelligent commentary on the plot line.

You’re old enough to finally stop spending all your birthday and Christmas money on stuffed animals, yet you genuinely celebrate receiving a new one as a gift.

You’re old enough to walk across the street to catch the bus every morning to school, yet you still can’t tie your own shoes.

Speaking of shoes, it’s as if you’ve still got one foot in the world of Young Boyhood but now have the other foot in the land of Middle Boyhood.

I feel like I’m even catching a glimpse of your early teen years, when it will no longer be cool to be seen in public with your dad.

I keep that in mind, even now, knowing there are times when I need to give you space; yet the very next day you may be very needy of my attention.

It’s obvious to me that you have gained a sense of your own identity at a much younger age than I did. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I feel you’ve already formed the confidence in yourself that I didn’t gain until junior high.

Perhaps I feel that this is one of those fleeting stages in your life, where if I’m not careful, it will already be gone before I had a chance to acknowledge it.

So I’m acknowledging it.

Before too long, you’ll be openly mocking Elmo and tying your own shoes.

Love,

Daddy

 

Dear Jack: Listening is Just Harder to Do When You’re a 1st Grader

6 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack,

Just a few weeks ago during Parent-Teacher Orientation, your teacher was very specific in reminding us parents that our child’s ability to listen to instructions at home will reflect how the child listens in the classroom.

Sure enough, I’ve been noticing since you’ve started 1st grade, it’s like it’s been fundamentally more challenging these days for you to listen to, and then follow, simple instructions.

“Jack, please don’t touch your sister while she’s trying to walk. Just give her space.”

Ten seconds later…

“Jack, I just got finished telling you not to touch her- and that’s the first thing you did. Now she fell down on the hardwood floor…”

Your response: “Oh, sorry! Sorry, Daddy. I forgot.”

I don’t blame for you for your impulses as an almost 7 year-old. I have to imagine that while the wiring in your brain has caused you to comprehend read and math skills like never before, the trade-off is that it’s difficult for you to follow through after hearing simple, specific instructions.

Yet still, I’m your parent. I have to hold you accountable. I have to teach and motivate you to listen to instructions the first time.

So let’s just say it’s never been more challenging for you to be able to watch or play anything on the Kindle. You have to earn that right on a daily basis.

Right now it’s especially difficult for you because you sincerely want to play with your sister and help her… but because she’s so quick to wobble as she’s still getting the hang of walking, your attempt to play and help often leads to her falling down; and in the process, it actually prohibits her being able to get practice.

You just want to help, I know.  You’ll eventually learn the right balance between helping her and knocking her down.

Until then, it’s just going to be a challenge as you learn to listen, as a 1st grader.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Your 1st Soccer Game as a 1st Grader

6 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack,

Now that the summer has come to an end, so have violin lessons. And you decided you wanted to go straight into playing soccer now that the school year has begun.  It helps that you and your best friend Duncan, from your Kindergarten class last year, were able to get on the same soccer team.

So this past Saturday, our family drove out to the YMCA field in Spring Hill and watched you place your first game. It was amazing to see the difference, compared to when you played soccer 2 years ago in Pre-K.

You actually chase and kick the ball now! Wow!

And not just you, but all the other kids actually play the game too. Two years ago, it wasn’t this way at all. Back then, it was just a bunch of almost 5 year-olds standing on the field, looking at the feet in the grass.

But now, there’s actually something for your parents to watch you and your teammates do!

You actually gave Mommy and me a reason to keep yelling, “Go Jack! Kick it!” I felt like a legitimate soccer dad.

This was your sister Holly’s first time getting to see a soccer game. Since her skin is so fair, and since there was no shade, Mommy had me stand up and block the sun, casting a shadow on Holly as she watched the game from Mommy’s chair.

I definitely saw a little bit of irony in that; as if I were a big guy, which I am not. Oh well, the plan worked anyway. By the end of the game, your sister wasn’t quite as pink she would have been otherwise.

We enjoyed watching you play your first soccer game as a 1st grader.

Plus, I love the fact you’re getting to not only burn off all that energy you have on Saturday mornings, but also you’re getting to use your brain.

The game is pretty simple, though; for a bunch of 1st graders. Really, the main thing is just knowing which way to kick the ball. That’s all you really have to worry about right now.

Love,

Daddy

 

Dear Jack: Today was Your 1st Day of 1st Grade and You Were More Than Prepared!

6 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack,

It was exactly 30 years ago in 1987 that I started 1st grade, with my spikey mullet haircut and my neon shorts and shoes. Meanwhile, you had much better style this morning as Mommy and I sent you off for your first day of 1st grade.

You literally just got back last night after spending 10 days with Nonna and Papa in Alabama. And the very next morning, it was time to start 1st grade. You didn’t even meet your teacher yet, though Mommy and I did earlier this week.

As you and I were in the car this morning, I attempted to help explain where your classroom is in the 1st grade hallway, but you stopped me, “Daddy, I already know where it is.”

And I thought, “But how? How could you know where to go and what to do and what to expect?”

It simply serves as another reminder that you are one confident little boy. I feel like most of my boyhood consisted of me not knowing what to do, no matter where I was or what was going on.

No. Not you.

Even when I dropped you off today, I hugged you and said a little prayer with you, then you smiled and waved. You then immediately joined the other kids in the class.

I sort of walked away backwards to make sure you weren’t looking back for another wave from me.

Nope.

This doesn’t make me sad. This makes me proud.

I love the confidence you have. I have a feeling that years from now when you begin Junior High, it won’t be that awkward for you, the way it definitely was for me.

Here you’ve spent the past 10 days in a different state, then came back only to immediately begin a new school year.

You are one cool kid.

Love,

Daddy