I have been writing you open letters on your birthday for four years now (and private notes the first two years before that!), but none of them have been written during such a time as this…
Happy Birthday my wonderful six year old. I love you so much and can’t believe how much you have learned this year. When you turned five, you told me that one of the things you were most excited about was going to Kindergarten so that you would be in school five days a week. You loved your school and classmates this year and it has been a huge challenge the past few months that you didn’t get to finish the year in the classroom each day thanks to “social distancing” requiring us to do “distance learning” through zoom and through worksheets sent by your teacher. Still, you had a great first 3/4 of the year and learned like crazy. Your brain has been truly sponge-like and you came home curious and excited pretty much every day of school. This year sparked an interest in the bigger world as you learned about different countries in social studies. You love learning to read and have started showing interest in writing your own stories as well. Your actor parents were extra proud to see you in your first school play this year, in one of the “lead roles” of Stone Soup. You continue to love crafts and making new things. You have learned a few hard lessons too- like just how long your parents can ground you thanks to a particularly dramatic episode where you cut your sister’s hair, or that sometimes your “experimenting” with new ideas leads to a lot of unfixable toys that you are trying to “improve”- I hope you keep your inquisitive, creative spirit in this next year… but hopefully break a little less… and maybe never touch your sister’s hair again…
These last few months of your past year have been difficult: as the world faces a pandemic and we’ve had to shelter in place, we have had to adjust to going the longest stretch of time without seeing friends that any of us have ever faced. This has been especially hard on you, my affable extrovert. You miss friends, extended family, and everyone from your school like CRAZY. You have such a big heart and are worried for people who might be alone right now and for those who may be getting sick. But there are two really sweet things to come out of this hard time. The first is watching you discover a love of drawing. Back when we thought you might only miss a few weeks of school, Mo Willems created a series of “lunchtime doodles” that taught some doodling ideas and how to draw some of his book characters. You fell in love with the series and have watched it several times. You got a drawing pad for Easter and filled it up incredibly fast, drawing many pages a day every single day. We can’t give you paper and notebooks fast enough to satisfy your urge to draw and experiment more and it is so interesting to watch you find a style you like, characters you want to write about, and just a fearless approach to creativity that is re-teaching me something about my own creative work.
The second silver lining to all this social distance is getting plenty of time to observe how much you love your family. You are so proud of being a “Big Brother x2” and it is such a joy to watch you become even closer with your sisters. You and your three year old sister are partners in crime and creativity. You finish each others sentences… and sandwiches… and if we have to spend so much time stuck at home, I’m sure glad that we all love the people we share that home with…. (and I’m also glad for our big backyard which you LOVE for having adventures, helping me garden, digging in the dirt, and drawing in sidewalk chalk.)
Sweet boy, you remain a deeply empathetic and thoughtful person and you often ask me how we can be good neighbors and good friends to others. Your end of year Kindergarten questionnaire asked what you want to be when you grow up and your answer, for the third year in a row, was “firefighter” but you added this time “because they are helpers and the world needs more helpers”
This birthday is so different- no party or big group of friends signing you happy birthday. I hope it helps that we’ll still have your favorite foods, lots of singing and laughing, and you’ll still have this letter to look back on during what I hope will be many more “normal” birthdays in years to come. I hope the world changes a great deal from this time, but I also hope your kindness and longing to help others remains the same.
I love you forever,