Dear Solo, (a letter to my almost eleven-year-old son),

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Dear Solo,

You will be eleven this month.

Let’s not forget you, India baby, walked on the shores of the Arabian sea. Born during the monsoon, when the water streamed down the windows and I held my face in the cardamom jar every morning because I couldn’t bear the mildew stench. You were so loved.

Little baby Solomon, King Solomon we called you.

You cried in the coconut grove and I walked you under the stars, step by step in the humid night air.

You learned to walk in the mountains, toddling at great heights, teeth first, while Nepali friends carried you back and forth and fed you sweets. You ran away from me in the Pokhara markets while I vainly tried to follow, trailing three young children and holding many bags. You tucked yourself away in sari shops or gold stores, hiding behind counters, hiding in boats, hiding under your blankets on your bed. You were always laughing when we found you. You were covered in sand, shining with stars, swimming like a fish.

We moved to Thailand and you leaned on the arms of Thai grandmothers, grinning up at them, you played with soi dogs, charmed monks.

And then you turned inward very suddenly, became quiet, scowled your way around. It was an abrupt shift. You were working something out, deep inside there somewhere. Any way we leaned, you leaned the other way. No, you said. No, no, no.

Just as abruptly, the sunshine came back, and with it, the dancing. You have danced in many countries. Sometimes your dancing makes me feel like I could fly if I tried hard enough. I think it makes you feel that way too.

You cried when we moved out of our house. But you out of anyone need the starry skies. You are mighty, young son. Sometimes you wonder if you look okay.

“You are so beautiful,” you told me the other day. “And Dad is so beautiful. But me?”

I don’t know what it is that blocks you from seeing it, but son, you are stunning.

You protect people that you feel are being shamed or mocked.

You draw for hours and spend your money and time making gifts for people.

You are Wookie’s great friend. The only time you seem to stay still is when you are reading somewhere with Wookie curled up beside you. You always look out for animals and every kind of creature. You are fierce and sometimes anxious, artistic and a boy of great feeling.

There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you.

I love you and love you and love you. Your dad does too. Sometimes we talk about how we feel about you. We can barely stand it.

I’m writing this birthday letter early just because I’m feeling it now. Because I can hear your laugh in my head and it is so sweet to me.

My son.

My wild son, in perpetual motion.

I love you.

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Don't Let Your Wildness Go.

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We went to the park (the new playground, a dream come true) and I sat under a tree with my books. Isaac and Solo played, but Solo had a hard time enjoying himself.

He wanted to make sure Isaac was playing well, not being unfair, that everyone had a chance at the slide. He kept running back to me to report on the slide situation.

He was taking on all the weight again. It’s a bit too much for a ten-year-old boy.

Oh, Solo.

I want to tell you this:

Try to stop worrying.
Let the others mess up their own fun and then figure it out. Only step in if someone is in danger.
Swing as high as you can.
Go and watch ants in the grass.
Dream your own dream.
Be a kid.
Learn it now,
before it becomes a habit written in the lines in your forehead,
before you can’t let it go
before you have to unlearn decades of trying to control outcomes,
and people
and whether anyone gets their feelings hurt,
and whether anyone is unhappy,
before you have built the entirely wrong idea of your role in the world,
Wise, beautiful artist son,
Wild One,
don’t let your wildness go.
Go and watch the clouds drift by.
You’re allowed.

Trust me.

***

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Dear Solomon, (A letter to my ten-year-old son)

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My love, you are ten. Ten years ago, you were born during the monsoon in India, during stormy, dark, wet rain. A long labor and then there you were, a little piece of sunshine. 

This has been a good year for you. Friendships are deepening, your confidence is growing, and you’ve grown stronger in reading and writing. You started gymnastics and we were all a little shocked by your headstands and ability to do the worm all the way across the floor. Or fall back into a bridge. 

You’ve grown so tall. You’re all arms and legs and knees and elbows. You’re most often moving. Whirling, jumping, climbing, hopping.

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You love to cook, to dream, to listen to music. You love to dance wildly. You love playing the piano and drawing. The way to your truest heart is through beauty. You are transformed by a sunset or a perfect music score. Your favorite movie is Song of the Sea, and you are a little heartbroken that you will never be a Selkie. Or have a Night Fury like Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. It hurts you that fantasy isn’t real. (It is, though we can’t see it in regular life.)

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You are very kind. From a rough little three year old, you turned into a boy who I couldn’t imagine purposely hurting another kid. (Besides perhaps your siblings because let’s be honest, siblings are like a pack of feral puppies.) You hate injustice and you are sensible and empathetic when it comes to treating people well. You have a longing to connect well with other people. It is beautiful to see.

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You climb into my lap at any opportunity. I keep you there as long as I can, and then I have to tip you out because you are gigantic and my legs fall asleep. I love that you love to cuddle. Part of your identity comes from being different from any other person, and I love that about you! Sometimes things get too conventional, and you handle it by shouting loud non-sequiteurs that help you feel the balance of weird with normal. We take them in short chunks, and then tell you to stop when it becomes too much. 

What would I do without your wild music running all through my life? You are a strand of something unconventional; pure art and dancing. You give me courage. You are most at home in a dreamy world, and it churns with life. I can’t wait to see what you will create.

I love you at ten. I’ve loved you all your life. I will love you forever,

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Love.

Mama

***

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Dear Solo, A Letter to my Eight-Year-Old Son.

Dear Solo,

Now you are eight. Let me just say that if I had known that the person who was the wildest baby/toddler of the family would become the most sensible one day… well, I wouldn’t have done anything different, because I’ve enjoyed you in all your different forms. Even walking the coconut grove at night with you when you were an infant. 

You are such a wonder, my son. Your dad and I marvel over you at night, when you are asleep. Your sweetness, your handsome face, your love for your siblings. We have to be careful with what we tell you, as you’ll take it very seriously. Suggest that as Isaac’s older brother you can gently guide him? YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF HIM ALL THE TIME FOR INFINITY DAYS, NO MOM, DAD SAID HE HAS TO LISTEN TO ME. With ideas, you’re like a dog who gets a bone in his teeth. Not a flattering image? Okay, you’re like Einstein, or any once misunderstood genius who pressed on forever until he finally found the perfect way to express himself.

We’ve always known that you prefer to teach yourself, ever since you were three and we first tried to teach you your colors and you were so certain that yellow was actually blue. And maybe that’s why the whole world seems to be breaking open for you, fourth, beloved child. Because you can teach yourself music, you can teach yourself to cook things, you can climb anything, you can watch videos to teach yourself contact juggling. You don’t have to wait for people to tell you things you wish you already knew.

Let’s talk about music for a second. You love music, and the best thing is, you love making music. As soon as you saw your dad’s new trumpet, you said, “I want a trumpet!” And then you tried it, and you could play it. So we got you one for your birthday, and you picked it up after you unwrapped it and played everyone Happy Birthday. Like a little trumpet genius. (I know, I know, I’m your mom, but it's true!)

I’m just so proud of the way you persevere, Solomon, my monsoon baby. You laugh off being the only one on your own team, you fight back when you’re feeling stepped on, you get up in the morning and pull out your school books to work because you prefer to do things without being told. I can see it taking you far, kid. You dance with crazy abandon, you make little kids laugh with your crazy sense of humor, and your mind is full of intricate, wonderful things. 

I have this one memory of you from your birthday party. Well, many, including each time you had pure delight in your face with each present that people gave you… unedited delight. But then you opened the present that was the big teddy bear your dad for you. I’d had words with him earlier. I knew you asked for it but I wasn’t sure whether you would be embarrassed to open it in front of everyone. He didn’t think so, and he was right, because you said, “Yes!!” and then you turned to the room at large and said, “Leafy’s not very snuggly, so I need something to snuggle with at night.” 

I love you, kid. Never stop being you. 

Love, Mama

 

The Long Labor

The Long Labor- Oil on Canvas Board-  See it on Etsy

The Long Labor- Oil on Canvas Board- See it on Etsy

My fourth child was born in a monsoon after a long labor. Somewhere after the 35th hour of walking, I rested and my husband took a photo of me. I felt that I would be walking forever, waiting forever. Not knowing when it would end, I somehow had to get up and keep walking.

It reminds me of the long endurance of life with God- When I don't feel like I'm changing. When I am lost in my own tricksy mind. When I cannot love myself, from my heart comes a prayer for endurance, for the ability to get up and keep walking. 

In birthing Solomon, what carried me through was the memory of how precious the first moments with a new baby are. I thought about when we would meet and I would kiss him all over his face. Love, in other words, and rarely do we get to have a love as pure as between a newborn and a mother, but it is truly love that will carry us through the long labor of life. Love, the ability to soothe, to illuminate all the best things in someone else, to take great joy in seeing the best in one another, to look forward to the days to come. We are surrounded by love and the great love will carry us through.