Running too fast

Dear Spoon,

We played hooky from school yesterday. We’ve never done that before. But a too-late visit with your grandparents at the airport and too much exhaustion and stress in our house made for a decent excuse. Besides, I missed you.

We slept late, all of us. Then you and Connor and I went out to breakfast and for a hike. I don’t remember the last time we did that. Maybe not since before Connor was born. You’re still the best person in the world to hang out with. And each day I see less and less of the baby and toddler you were as more of who you will be shows through in ungainly long arms and legs, a thinning face, and grin nearly completely absent of front teeth. There is no other word for it — you are gangly, in that wonderful way that elementary kids can be. But so much more than that: you are witty, and goofy, and vibrant. You are sensitive, and sometimes mercurial, and you are oh so hard on yourself. We talked about that a lot yesterday. I wish you could see you as I see you, and know how really amazing you are.

You raced down the trail ahead of me, laughing as the dog followed at your heels, and I caught myself shouting, “Slow down!” as you reached the rocky bend near the river. It occurred to me how that one phrase is becoming a mantra when I think of you. You are so, so smart. You are often bored at school, and race through your math homework, often making a silly mistake, for which you berate yourself. Or you read one of your chapter books in an hour, but can’t really tell us what it’s about. “Slow down. There’s no extra points for finishing first.” I tell you over and over when you cry over missing a question on your math test. “Be gentle with yourself. There’s no such thing as perfect.” You are already one grade level ahead in school, and based on your most recent tests, you should skip the next one, too. But I won’t let you. Conversely, the school district has a silly rule about birthdates, which causes them to insist that you repeat first grade next year, even though you are testing at the end of second grade. To me this seems purely cruel. Slow down, but don’t go backwards. Consequently, we are wrestling with what to do for you next year.

Among our options, I am considering homeschooling you. The premise of this is overwhelming, because I am finishing my own schoolwork to return to work full time, and I’m certain I’ll still freelance here and there, and take care of you and Connor and the house, and grow our food, and… teach you? I’m not sure I have it in me, but I know I’d pull the sun from the sky if you needed me to. On the other hand, maybe homeschooling would help? No more rushing to get you out the door in the morning, and arguing with you because you don’t want to go. No more driving, driving, driving, every day. And maybe you would learn even more if you weren’t in a room with 25 other voices, some of whom you have told me that you are afraid of? Is this, perhaps, how we slow down?

Looking back over this, I realize I am writing this letter more for myself than for you. I may not show this one to you. Maybe I’ll just tell you that I want to encapsulate this time with you, because I feel you tugging farther and farther away, and I know it scares you too sometimes. I’ll just tell you that I love you, and you’re the coolest person I know, and I want you to forgive yourself for being a kid sometimes. I want you to see yourself as I see you, because at six years old, you are already your worst critic. I want to put your laughter in a bottle that I can take off the shelf and open one day when one of us needs to hear it and remember the important things, like sun and butterflies, and wading in the muddy edges of the river. When we need to stop running so fast.

I love you.

Mama

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