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Monday, April 21, 2008

Letter to My Son: On Your Diligence

Dear Son,

Yesterday, you spent over an hour in the front yard with Daddy hitting pitched balls and practicing your catching and throwing. I know you are only using a hollow plastic bat that's bright red and nearly the circumference of your head at the sweet spot. And you know that real baseball bats are somehow different from these. But your sense is that the real ones are more "fragile," and that's why you're not allowed to have one. Although we have explained that one good reason for not getting you a metal bat is your tendency not to look around you in the slightest before you swing, you remain convinced that "fragile" is the real reason. Even when the most resounding swack! of the day was the sound of your bat hitting your little sister on the side of the head as you tried to manage the complexity of tossing up a ball and then hitting it yourself, you still seemed unconvinced that metal was a good reason not to give you a "real" baseball bat. And while it's true that Daughter didn't get seriously hurt, and it's true that the look of tremendous pride (and a little surprise) on your face when you send a ball flying across the yard is priceless, it would be nice if you would check your surroundings briefly before swinging. Just indulge me.

Your throwing and catching are coming along nicely, though, and it has been a delight to watch you and Daddy playing so intently, being so joyful together. You very proudly take a giant step with one foot in order to be able to lean into your throw. I even heard you confidently explaining to Daddy, when he muffed a throw, "that's because you need to put your body into it." To catch, you use your glove, and Daddy still has to toss you gentle underhand balls from a short distance away. But you are learning. And, seriously, your throws are getting very good. Today there were several balls that went twenty feet or more. I was impressed. "That's because I've been practicing really a lot," you told me.

Indeed, you have a tremendous diligence at many tasks. Your focus and attention span have been remarkable since you were an infant: the day you first found your thumb, I watched you. Lying on your back, you bent your left elbow and brought your thumb right into your mouth. You gave a satisfactory suck or two, then pulled it out, straightened your arm, and tried again. Bingo! On the mark. Out again. Another practice. You did this over and over and over again for a solid five minutes until you were quite sure that thumb would connect with mouth every time and that you knew just how those motions should feel. I am positive that this perseverance will stand you in excellent stead for a lifetime.

I am seeing another manifestation of this self-imposed practicing lately. All of a sudden in the last week, you have realized that you need to work on your pronunciation of "th." You still say "den it will be time to go" or "what is dat?" or "I want free cookies, not only two." But when you make those mistakes, you generally pause now and correct them. Were it not for the fact that you were speaking, I would call it a "silent" correction in the sense that you offer no explanation or discussion. You just repeat the word, or sometimes the sentence, with the correct pronunciation. But, more and more, you don't make the mistake at all. I have heard you correctly enunciate "them" and "that" and "there" and so many other words in the last few days. Very deliberately and carefully you speak THese THings, with a little emphasis on those opening letters. I have praised you for this, telling you that I see you have been working on saying that sound. I asked you if your teachers told you to do so. "No," you responded, looking a little confused. "No one telled me it. I just thought of it in my mind." I am so proud that you have figured this out all on your own.

I will admit, though, that I feel a little pang when I hear you speak a beautiful sentence full of nicely-articulated "th." Oh, my heart seems to say with a tug, the baby speech is melting away. He is getting older. When I tucked you in bed last night, and you told me, "You are THe best Mama in de whole wide world," I was warmed by the words and bolstered a little by the baby speech. As proud as I am of you, it is hard, so hard, to see that my first baby has become a really truly little boy.

Would you do me two small favors, then, in this headlong rush to get bigger? Don't grow up too fast. And please, look around you before you swing that bat.

Your ever-loving,


MultiplesMommy said...

What a lovely post! And yes, I too feel the pang of them getting older. As exhausting and frustrating and painful as it is sometimes to be a parent of a preschooler, I have to say that nothing quite warms the heart as hearing, "I yuv you tooo much!" and "You da best mama in da whole wrld" :-)

Betsy Bird said...

A sweet, sweet post. One day you'll realize that suddenly the little kid voice is gone, and in its place is a man's. Make sure you've got plenty of examples of the kid voice on DVD, and then lock them in a safe deposit box, cause when it's gone, it's gone. A part of your heart will go with it.

Kimmylyn said...

Ugh.. this hit home.. esp because I have two boys and my oldest has turned from little boy to little man over night..

mommypie said...

Oh, you nailed this one. Each time a mispronounced word goes away I get a little sad. :(


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