Dear Jack: For the 2nd Year in a Row Now, You Received the Certificate of Excellence in Mathematics Award

7 years, 6 months.

A year ago for the 2016-2017 school year, out of all the other students in your class, your teacher chose you for the Certificate of Excellence in Mathematics Award. And a year later, as you finished up 1st grade, you won the same award again; this time for the 2017-2018 school year!

I find this quite impressive. Only one student per class can win this award- and you’ve won it both times since you’ve been in school.

Yeah, this is amazing, actually.

It’s interesting because my brain doesn’t work that way. I am horrible at math. I got my college degree in English, by default; as doing so required the least number of math courses possible.

I am so happy for you. You have so much potential. You have many options for a career.

Something I’ve mentioned over the past couple of years is my understanding that I have a very smart boy for a son. I realize I am responsible for guiding you in this talent you have.

I am totally aware that the next decade ahead will determine your decisions for college; as well as your career goals. I take this very seriously.

At the same time, I also place a high value on you getting to be a kid. It’s important to me that you have a well-balanced childhood.

It’s that perfect mix of doing your best in your academics as well as your social development.

As your father, I am responsible for help training a future man. I’m taking all that my own dad taught me, and combining it with what I’ve additionally learned from my own manhood so far.

And from there, I add all that information on top of your own interests and talents, to build on top of your own identity.

My son, the math whiz. I am so proud.

Love,

Daddy

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Dear Holly: Your Brother Taught You a New Word… “Sarted”

2 years, 1 month.

Dear Holly,

It’s so great that you are now able to begin repeating and remembering words. Your speech abilities are getting better and better everyday. I love that even if you can’t express certain things to me, you are usually able to understand the general message I am trying to convey to you.

It definitely makes life a bit easier when you are able to communicate your wants and needs, so I don’t have to learn by instant trial and error.

But… you do have an older brother, who happens to be 7 and a half, who happens to like teaching you some of his own favorite words. And he likes to use words that I don’t use with you.

So more than once now, I have walked into the room, sensing that your brother was teaching you something sneaky. And each time, my senses have been correct.

This past weekend, after the two of you got buckled up in my car, I had to run back in the house real quick to take care of something.

When I returned to the car, it was as if your brother had prepared you for you to do a presentation:

You looked up at me with a proud look on your face, and you announced to me, “Daddy sarted!”

At that point your brother immediately began chuckling, giving away that he had coached you on what to say.

It was difficult not to laugh, but with a straight face, I reminded your brother, “We use the word pop, instead.”

I suppose if it truly bothered me that you were using your brother’s default word for passing gas, I’d stop it. But really, it’s pretty adorable to hear a little innocent 2 year-old girl mispronounce such a stinky word!

And you’re just so proud to say it; not necessarily knowing what it means, just knowing your brother thinks it’s funny.

I’m just waiting for you to say, “Daddy sarted!” in public. Because even though you are randomly saying it, unconnected to any action of mine, who are they going to believe?

Probably the cute little girl. Not her Daddy.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Slumber Party at Your Cousins’ House!

7 years, 6 months. 

Dear Jack,

During your first week of summer vacation, which you spent in Alabama at Nonna and Papa’s, you asked your Aunt Dana if you could spend the night at her house one night.

Not only did you get to hang out with your two cousins, but you were specifically excited about getting to sleep on the floor. You saw it as a “slumber party”.

And because a storm was coming through the Friday night that Mommy and I were planning to pick you up, we weren’t able to arrive from Tennessee until the next morning.

So for your final extra night, you chose to stay with your cousins again and sleep on the floor.

I think it’s great that you’re getting to the age where you think it’s fun to spend the night with your aunt and uncle and cousins.

It’s good for your growing sense of independence. I think to some degree, it actually challenges you, as you have to adjust to a slightly different family culture; as each individual family has their own, though the differences may not be noticeable from the outside looking in.

After all, I wasn’t there with my many rules. Hopefully you didn’t keep everyone in the house up too late.

So you were proud to sleep on the floor, among pink kittens and unicorns.

Now I am wondering at what point your sister will be old enough to join in on the “Cousins’ Slumber Party”. I’m sure that would be a lot of fun! As long as I’m not there, with all my many Daddy rules, of course!

Because if I were in charge, it would be, “Okay, light’s out at 8:00. Don’t get up for anything. Just go straight to sleep!”

It’s obvious I’m reflecting my constant need for sleep onto you.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Being the Youngest of the Cousins, You Just Have to Go Along With Whatever’s Going On!

2 years, 1 month.

Dear Holly,

After your brother spent his first week of summer vacation in Alabama with Nonna and Papa, you rode back with Mommy and me to go pick your brother up, as we spent Memorial Day weekend there.

Once reunited with your brother and your two cousins on my side of the family, the four of you quickly formulated into your own version of The Little Rascals.

It’s funny because often when this happens, as long as there’s another adult somewhere near you, I’m okay with just learning in hindsight the ways you had fun.

So when I saw this picture of your steering Papa’s homemade racecar, while your brother and older cousins rode along, I simply thought to myself, “Yep, that sounds about right!”

Out of the four of you, your brother is the oldest and the only boy, and therefore, the boss. And you are the youngest, and therefore, the littlest rascal.

As you all grow up, these dynamics will remain the same. It’s quite similar to the way that a child’s birth order among their siblings typically helps have a major role in shaping their own personality.

But to reinforce this concept further for both you and your brother, your “birth order” among the cousins remains the same; whether as my own children or among your cousins.

You will always be the baby. Your brother will always be the oldest.

I can already see how you have a sense of fearlessness because of your role: You’ve already been able to see three other kids who are older than you test some limits out first.

From there, you get to build on top of their experiences.

So while you are the baby, you are also brave.

Even just the way you are able to scarf down salt and vinegar potato chips without flinching is probably proof of this.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Catching a Snake, Learning to Ride a Bike and Tie Your Shoes on Your 1st Week of Summer Break

7 years, 6 months.

Dear Jack,

It only took 24 hours into your first week of summer break, which you’re spending at Nonna and Papa’s, to accomplish the two main goals I had for you to be able to do before you start 2nd grade:

To learn how to ride a bicycle without training wheels and to learn how to tie your shoes.

Papa was the one who taught me to do those same things exactly 30 years ago in the summer of 1988. So I’m not surprised he was able to teach you so quickly.

As for you, though, you had some goals of your own, which you revealed to me before you even left for Alabama:

To catch lots of bugs… and a snake.

Yep. You were able to do those things as well, in your first 24 hours of summer break.

What’s funny is, I don’t exactly know all the details yet, as Nonna is very good about sending lots of pictures. But this weekend when we come pick you up, I’ll get a better understanding of how you and Papa conveniently were able to find and catch a non-poisonous snake.

In addition to the snake, you are also very proud of your pet snail, who you went swimming with in the pool in the backyard.

And even your new pet centipede has been quite exciting for you, as Papa let you use his power drill to make breathing holes in the bucket that you’re using for the centipede’s temporary home.

It’s amazing how much you’re able to accomplish in such a short amount of time when you’re at Nonna and Papa’s house.

I think you’re pretty lucky to have such a perfect place to go for summer camp. The rest of the summer will be hard to beat at this point.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: You’re Missing Your Brother This Week While He’s in Alabama

2 years, 1 months.

Dear Holly,

With your brother finishing 1st grade last week, Mommy and I decided it would be a nice change of pace for him to spend this week at Nonna and Papa’s house. It’s only been a few days now, but you’ve made it very clear you miss him.

You ask me each morning, “Where’s Jackie?”

However, it didn’t take long for you to jump up in his bed and play with his toys in his room. It was your way of not only showing you were thinking about him, but that you might as well take advantage of the situation if wasn’t there to stop you.

For me, it’s a strange concept to just have one child in our house this week.

It’s a glimpse of what life could have been like had you been born first, instead of your brother. In particular, it reminds me that your brother had 5 and a half years as an only child, before you were born.

This week serves as one of the few times in your life where you’ve known what it was like to be an only child. You’re used to being the younger, baby sister. That’s how your brother sees you and treats you; so to a large degree, you adopt that title as your identity.

Granted, the two of you will always be in different stages of childhood; so you’re never really having to compete in the same way that siblings who are closer in age might experience.

In a way, both you and your brother get to be an “only child” to some degree.

In just a few days though, you’ll be reunited with Jackie. I can see you don’t quite feel complete without him. I imagine it’s difficult to feel like a little baby sister when your older brother isn’t right there next to you.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Now I Finally Believe That Little Girls Really Do Instinctively Love Tea Parties

2 years.

Dear Holly,

Until now, I always thought the idea of little girls wanting to play “tea party” was just a concept invented by toy marketers to sell more product. And for all I know, perhaps it is. But if so, hey… it works!

Because for your 2nd birthday last month, our good friends Lena and Mohamad got you a tea set, and not only did you immediately want to play with it, but you instinctively knew what to do with it!

In fact, having our tea parties together has become a bit of a ritual. Your tea party set is getting a lot of use!

I will say though, for me, you change it from tea to coffee. That’s because for the past 6 months, with me working from home, you have observed me making my organic instant coffee twice a day.

Whenever you think it’s getting near the right time of the day for it, you always ask, “Daddy, coffee?”

My favorite story so far with this tea set was a few weeks ago when I was finishing up cleaning the bathroom upstairs, as part of my weekend routine. I had been up there for a solid 15 minutes.

Then you stood at the bottom of the stairs, and announced to me, “Daddy, coffee!”

Mommy helped explain that you had just made coffee downstairs for me and you wanted me to come down and take a break.

So I gladly did.

It was one of those precious moments that I just wasn’t expecting.

In your mind, you thought, “Daddy’s been up there a while. I bet he’d like some coffee right about now. I’ll go ahead and make him some…”

You are such a sweet little girl. How can I not be completely in love with my little sweetie?

Love,

Daddy