Dear Jack: You are Now 9 and a Half Years Old

9 years, 6 months.

Dear Jack,

You turned 9 and a half this week, during the time which was supposed to be your last week of 3rd grade.

It was sad yesterday as I drove to your school to pick up all your belongings from your teachers. The closest thing to closure you had for finishing 3rd grade was some Zoom calls with your class.

The tragedy is that, as I predicted last fall, 3rd grade would be your favorite by far. It is unfortunate it had to be cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But we still have each other and we still have our health. And we continue to still make life fun!



Dear Jack: You’re Becoming Aware of a Sense of Fashion

9 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

As you’re now in the 2nd half of your 3rd grade school year, I am noticing the acute progression of how you are starting to care more about what you wear… and your hair.

I am sensing that halfway into 3rd grade, part of the culture is to start trying to stand out with what you wear to school.

So when you proudly wore your new WWE wrestling shirt to school, I knew to immediately ask you when I got home, “Did anyone notice your new shirt?”

I see this is as the beginning of you discovering the fine line between presenting yourself as an individual, while at the same time between aware of what is current and trending.



Dear Jack: Your New Converse All Star Shoes, with Flames

9 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

You’re at the age where you are constantly wearing out your shoes, as well as outgrowing them.

For your “2nd half of 3rd grade” shoes, you decided it was time for a new pair of Chuck Taylors; like I have.

However, when we went to Kohl’s, we learned that Chuck Taylors are not made is size 4 for boys.

Instead, we had to buy you the slightly more cushioned upgrade:

Converse All Stars.

You got some really cool black ones with flames on the bottom.

And, they aren’t designed to lace up all the way, so they look extra cool!



Dear Jack: Your 1st Week of 3rd Grade

8 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack,

You have now completed your first full week of 3rd grade. I told you going in to it, that this would be a very fun year.

I remember how I specifically liked 3rd grade the most out of every year in Elementary school. I truly think it will be the same way for you.

Last week when we went to the school to meet your teacher, you immediately were cool, calm, and collected.

She even said to Mommy and Me, “Yeah, didn’t you know? They automatically become cool the moment they walk through their 3rd grade classroom.”

Over the past three school years, you have really formed your identity, and therefore, your confidence.

Not to mention, Mommy and I can’t help but notice, you suddenly started looking like a pre-teen!



Dr. Deja Vu: Before and After

There is something magic, mysterious, and forgiving about the past. Like a black hole it just absorbs our former stupidity and ignorance. As long as others can see we’ve put enough time between the present and the past, then much can be dismissed. Learning from the past is the respectable thing to do. It’s current and constant immaturity that people have a problem with.

In 1989 in 3rd grade the snack my mom always packed for me for the designated “snack time” was a Kudos bar. If I opened the healthy candy bar a certain way, the wrapper would stay intact so that it looked like there was still the Kudos bar inside. So everyday, I would offer an empty Kudos wrapper to one of my friends. They would anxiously grab the bait, and it was funny to both the giver and receiver every time.

After a few months I had done this trick to literally the entire class, so I tried it out on the teacher, but with a twist: After she realized there was no Kudos bar inside, I would actually give her the Kudos. (I carefully took it out of the wrapper and placed the bar inside my cold metal desk.) She laughed when I pranked her. Then I reached into my desk, pulled out the naked Kudos bar, and said, “I’m just joking. Here it is.”

The look on her face said enough. But she simply just said, “Oh no, you keep it. I’ve already got a snack. Thank you though.”

Who wants to eat a chocolate covered granola bar that an 8 year-old boy touched and sat in his desk that hasn’t been cleaned out in six months? I realized it was a faux pas right away. It was awkward and I hoped she would forget about it as soon as possible.

By the time I got to 4th grade, I was able to say to myself, “Okay, that Kudos bar incident was a year ago. It’s a new year, you’re a new person, time to prove you’re not immature anymore.” But year after year I would do things that embarrassed myself, and each time, I would hope that the next year I would finally “get mature”. But 20 years since the Kudos incident, I still haven’t reached that perfection I’m looking for.

And in the last 20 years, I’ve buried not only socially awkward events, but also personal offenses. Times when I’ve insulted and hurt people I care about. Of course I didn’t mean to. But I did the crime, each time. And after the sincere apology, and the sincere forgiveness, there’s still the sincere “let enough time go by so that hopefully both of us pretty much have forgotten about it” issue. Easier to forgive than to forget, no doubt about it.

We know that time is a healer, but how much time?

To the familiar proverb, “we hurt those we love the most” I add “and embarrass ourselves in front of those we don’t know as well”. I’ve tried, and I just can’t embarrass myself in front of those who really know me. Because they really know me. They’ve seen me do enough goofy stuff that it’s no big deal anymore.

But it’s interesting that it takes love being mishandled or abused to cause real hurt. And also that part of growing up and becoming mature is learning from mistakes involving hurting those I really care about. Whether it’s training for the norm of social behavior, or whether it’s learning “how to love” another person, it takes spilling the milk and cracking a few eggs.

Making mistakes and not learning from them reveals a fool. But turning around in a new direction shows repentance and maturity.

The irony is that while it takes someone that I love to truly hurt them, it’s their returned love that helps heal the wound faster, the way a Band-Aid and Neosporin do. I can insult a stranger or acquaintance, but I can’t truly deeply hurt them. So there is no love needed to heal a wound in that case.

Weird how that works.

“I can’t wait to figure out what’s wrong with me, so I can say this is the way that I used to be- there’s no substitute for time.” –John Mayer (“Split Screen Sadness”)