Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Dear Munchkin,

Your second birthday included an accidental party. We hadn't planned on having a real party — just your Nana, and Grandma and Grandpa Murphy, and us, with a trip to the zoo. Then we decided you might like your friends Charlie and Luke to join us with their parents, and your buddy Pamela (she is among your favorite grown-ups in the universe). Add a cookout, and suddenly it was a party! Unfortunately, I was unable to go to the zoo with you (although everyone else in Columbus was there, apparently), but your daddy took videos and I got to hear stories about all the animals you saw. Once you got home, you had a wonderful time opening presents: musical instruments from Charlie and Luke, a laptop and tool belt from Nana, gardening tools and a book from Grandma and Grandpa. I made you cupcakes decorated to look like Oscar the Grouch, and you seemed to approve of the design, even though you identified them as frogs first. For the next week or so, any time anybody mentioned the word "birthday," you'd announce it was your birthday and ask for a cupcake.

You go to school on weekdays during the school year, a few days each week during the summer, and you love it. It was tremendously hard for me to start sending you to daycare at five months old, but finishing my MA was important to me, and at the time I was pretty sure I wanted my PhD too. Now I am close to done with the MA, and not at all sure about continuing with a doctorate, because I'd much rather stay home with you. The same guilt I had at the beginning now pushes the other direction; if I were to pull you out of school (whether to save money or to spend more time with you or whatever reason), I'd be depriving you of your friends and of a social network in which you, little extrovert that you are, thrive, and which I cannot provide. This summer, you will be back to part-time at school again, and we'll need to decide how to proceed with the next few years. I hope we choose right.

You have begun to catch my outdoorsy-gardening-tree-hugger bug, which is both a thrill and a relief. The last two summers, you have only been willing to venture into the yard if you could be on a blanket, in no danger of contact with actual grass. This year you are steadier on your feet, and while you still aren't wild about the feel of grass on your bare skin, you no longer have any fear of running about and exploring, as long as you know where we are. You are starting to enjoy digging around in our vegetable garden, and will happily announce any animal, from bird to squirrel to deer, that comes within visual range. Your only real fears anymore are the big hill on Yauger Road (which, from the vantage point of your car seat, looks like a drive off a cliff), and the swings. It will probably be a while before you get over the swings. You were this close yesterday, and as we walked over a child fell off his swing and, while he wasn't hurt, he was shaken up and so were you. As for the scary hill, we warn that it's coming you each time, take it slow, and at the end you are all smiles, proud of yourself for doing it. "Not scared anymore!" you announce. It's kind of amazing.

With your father, you share a love of anything electronic that has buttons (OK, I have that gene too), and you may be destined to become a bit of a clothes horse like him, too. Although I usually give you limited choices on what to wear, every now and again I give you free rein. This photo will probably humiliate you in front of a prom date some day, but believe me when I tell you that this particular ensemble is not the most spectacularly awesome thing you've ever wanted to wear. I especially like the striped socks worn as opera-length gloves, by the way. You choose your clothes the same way you dance, the same way you make up songs, the same way you combine foods: completely confident, and totally unconcerned what anyone else thinks. In this way, you are probably the bravest person I know, and I envy you this fearlessness.

There are many things I wonder about you, but will probably never truly know. Every now and then I try to ask, but you never answer — at least not in any way I understand. When you are chattering away at night (you actually talk yourself to sleep sometimes, and your teachers have been known to pull your blanket up over your head at naptime, like a parrot, to quiet you down) are you re-living events that happened that day? Or are you inventing possible future scenarios in your head?

How is it possible that you can be so fastidious and so messy at the same time?

Do you really remember being a tiny baby?

Why do you nearly always cry when you wake up in the morning?

How am I doing so far?

Anyhow, happy belated birthday, Munchkin. I'm looking forward to more of everything. More trips to the zoo, more stories, more morning nosh time, more gardening, more baseball games, more picnic dinners on the porch. All the new things too. A psychology professor your daddy knows told him, when you were very tiny, that kids go through a zillion different stages and they are all fantastic in some way. So far she's batting 1000.

Love always,