You had another birthday yesterday, and I won’t even try to pretend that I’m not totally freaked out by the fact that you’re six all of a sudden. As your mother has been saying (and I concur), your sixth birthday is far more jarring to her and me than were our own recent 39th birthdays.
When I wrote the headline for this letter, I initially wrote “Zan: 5 years” … and it is not the first time in recent days that I have, for a brief moment, inadvertently thought to myself that you would be turning five this year … because, like, no freakin’ way can six years already have passed.
I mean, how is it possible that we already have gone from this …
You are headed into your final days of kindergarten, and I am happy to report that you have loved school ever since the first day you set foot in your classroom. On more than one holiday or weekend, you have lamented the fact that you couldn’t go to school that day. If you can keep that attitude up for the next 16-or-so years, I’ll be thrilled (assuming you get a scholarship, that is).
Over the course of the school year, you have hit some significant milestones, the most exciting of which, in my opinion, is the fact that you now are able to read.
A few months ago at bedtime, we were reading The Daddy Book—and may I just say that I love it when you request this one? Yes, it’s pretty lightweight for your age at this point, but I know when you ask for it, you’re doing so because you’re in an “I love my Daddy” kind of a mood, and you won’t ever get any objection from me about that. (Favorite parts: When I read, “Some daddies work from home,” you always react with, “Like you!” And, when we get to “Some daddies sing to you,” and “Some daddies sing in the shower,” we both sing the “La la!” and “La la la!” that are drawn leaving the mouths of the daddies on those respective pages … and we both think this is a very funny thing to do.)
So, yeah, anyway, we were reading The Daddy Book, and you were doing most of the reading, showing off your new skills. When we finished, I told you what a great job you had done, and how proud I was of you.
“And do you know why I’m especially excited that you can read?” I asked you.
“Well, what do I do for work?”
Yes, it’s very exciting to me that you can read—not only because I have been an avid reader since I was very young, and think that reading books is one of the greatest joys ever, but also because you one day will be able to read things that I have written, to include this blog and all of your life’s history contained therein.
And, um, about that? When I started blogging, you weren’t even three years old yet, and I knew at the time that the day would come when you would be able to read what I’d written about you and about our family, but what I didn’t know was that the day would come so soon. No, you haven’t yet expressed an interest in checking out this blog, but the mere fact that you now can read, and are getting better and better at it everyday, means the clock is ticking … and I have no clue how I will handle it when that time comes. I guess my main strategy right now is to keep you from laying eyes on it for as long as possible … but I suppose I had better start putting together a more forward-looking plan than that.
OK, I’m freaking out just thinking about that whole dynamic. Let’s move on.
Baseball! Yes, let’s talk about baseball. In the letter marking your fifth birthday, I wrote at length about what a positive effect your (and my) participation in tee-ball had on you, and you have been just as interested in it this season, if not more so. In fact, our final game of this season is tomorrow morning, and it occurs to me that never once, neither this season nor last, have you ever said you didn’t want to go to one of your games. On the contrary, you are inclined to remain on the field after the game and practice some more.
You started asking Mommy and me to play baseball with you before you were even three years old, and it seems not that long ago that I was standing just a couple of feet away, “pitching” to you a big plastic ball—meaning I basically threw it at your outstretched, oversized, plastic bat. Eventually, we graduated to your first little glove, and played catch using a soft, pseudo-baseball. By last year, we regularly were playing catch with a standard baseball (or slightly softer tee-ball version), though you still had a lot of difficulty catching anything that wasn’t softly tossed in a huge arc and catchable via holding your glove out like a basket.
And then, this spring, from the first day you asked me to play catch, you have been flashing some serious leather, my friend. As the coach of your tee-ball team, I’ve played a fair amount of catch with you and all your teammates, and you are the only one to whom I can throw a hard ball in a fairly straight line and count on you to catch it by turning your glove to whatever angle the catch requires, which is a feat I think I have seen only you and one other player in our league accomplish.
A few games ago, you were playing first base, which meant you were getting a lot of balls thrown to you. A combination of poor throwing and inexperience with catching under the pressure of a game situation makes it a rare thing that you, or anyone else playing first, are able to make a clean catch, but several games ago, one of your teammates—who, like you, shows a lot of skill for his age—threw to you from halfway across the diamond, and managed to do so on target. It was one of the best throws I, or any of the parents looking on, had seen all season … and the only thing more impressive was seeing you reach out and snare it in your glove for what was definitely the best catch that I or any of the parents looking on had seen all season. I’m pretty sure that, in the moments that followed, I looked like a 175-pound peacock.
As if all the baseball action wasn’t enough, you’ve also been playing soccer every Sunday for the past few weeks, and, again, you always are enthusiastic about going, and have never once asked to skip out. I, quite simply, am impressed. (I also am suspicious as to whether you actually came from my loins, because you certainly didn’t get your athleticism and enthusiasm for team sports from your old man, whose own friends, in the context of any sports-related situation, referred to him as “the special kid.”)
To celebrate your birthday this year, you decided you wanted to combine your love of baseball and soccer, so we rented out an indoor field where you and two-dozen of your friends played both sports before devouring a birthday cake emblazoned with a baseball-playing Mario and Luigi.
Of course, we never go with just one birthday celebration ’round these parts (though, thankfully, we didn’t have to endure three separate events this time around), so the baseball/soccer party took place the day before your actual birthday. To mark the day itself, you asked that we have a family dinner at The Rainforest Cafe—which, coincidentally, also is where you had us celebrate Mommy’s birthday in April. I’m noticing a trend here.
(That picture up near the beginning of this letter, of you in your Red Sox shirt, sandwiched between Daddy and Mommy? Uncle Jason took that while he, Aunt Jamie, Uncle Peter, Nana, Jayna, Mommy, me and you were at the restaurant last night.)
I could go on and on, Zan. You are just growing up so fast. It’s a bittersweet experience; on the one hand, it hurts to know that you will never again be that adorable little toddler … but, on the other hand, it is so rewarding to be able to do more and more things with you the older you get. (Let’s face it: toddlers and babies are certainly entertaining, but the entertainment-to-work ratio is insanely unbalanced.)
Last night, before I went to bed, I sat down beside you and watched you sleep. My eyes filled up as I thought about how, at the same time six years ago, Mommy and I were in a hospital room with our new son. I remember watching you while you slept that night, too, and marveling at this little miracle that Mommy and I had created. We had no idea what we were doing, and could only imagine what you might be like in the years to come.
If, back then, someone had shown me the 2009 version of you, and said to me, “This is who he’ll be six years from now,” I’m pretty sure I’d have spilled a few tears of joy and relief.
And, actually, that’s just what I did last night.
I love you, Buddy Boy. I hope you know how much.