Tuesday, July 5, 2011

To Play in Piermont

To Play in Piermont

(3 years 1 month)
Dear Trevor,

Sometime last winter when you were about two and a half, it became obvious to us, Mommy first, then me, that Hong was not going to be able to meet your needs much longer. We agonized over taking you away from her; her love for you is so great. But your burgeoning physical capacities demanded a larger forum; we began to contemplate change.

I’ve got to tell you sweetheart, this parenting thing seldom ceases to amaze. Our needs are simple, or so I thought. A place to stash the kid a few hours a week where an adult will see that he’s dry and warm, prevent him from getting clobbered or becoming dehydrated, and to some degree keep him amused. That’s it. Is that so much to ask? Well you would think so after interviewing a dozen groups in as many villages up and down the river. Like if he comes home with his mittens we’re cool. Not a chance. Each little group has a philosophy, a theory, rituals, policy, principals, procedures, methodology for God’s sake. And as a concerned parent one is obliged to listen to it all. This is hard work.

Finally, the Piermont Playgroup won the honor of your company. Piermont is a village about three miles south of Nyack, and is little more than a couple of terraces cut into the high, steep cliffs of the Palisades that rise directly out of the Hudson River. The lower terrace is River Road, a narrow blacktop with a thin row of houses along the inland side, and a brave assemblage hanging off the riverside with their feet in the water. The Playgroup occupies a former grade school, set on a second terrace, which runs along about a hundred feet above the river. The two rooms of the building overlooking the Hudson with polished wooden floors, high ceilings, and tall windows, have been let into one large, gloriously light filled space that presents the stunning illusion of being suspended over the water. I have never been in a more attractive room.

We signed you up. Beginning in September, right after you turn three, you begin a schedule of 12:30 to 3:30, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.This is your first day in any kind of organized, child-focused activity. Mommy has skipped work for this event. We are nervous and hesitant to drop you off. You spend three hours with the Playgroup, while Mommy and I hang out at the Sidewalk Café. We are as wary of this experiment as kittens appraising their first solid food.
Picking you up is a festive event with mommies and staff bustling about, the first intent on capturing their little darlings, the latter focused on the correct allocation of property. It’s going to be nuts when we get to boots and mittens. You are your usual cheerful self and we slowly relax riding home along the River.

We have an early supper and spend the evening hanging out in the living room. Mommy is laid back against the cushions at one end of the couch, and I’m sitting at her feet. You’re walking back and forth across Mommy, sitting on her belly, and being your usual, energetic self. So there we are, just fooling around and chatting, when suddenly, apropos of nothing, you leap off the couch and land on the floor, your feet firmly planted, one arm raised in the air with an index finger pointing to the ceiling. And in a loud, declamatory voice, you say, Get off the table or I'll smack you in the face.

You’re smiling from ear to ear, immensely proud of yourself. Mommy and I look at each other, eyes wide, in total rapport. Our worst fears are realized. You are laughing, we are aghast. We stare at each other while we hesitate to speak, sort of offering each other the courtesy, or the opportunity, to say what we didn't have the least idea how to phrase.

The next day you came home with a fart joke.
Love, Daddy

Friday, July 1, 2011

The PowSessions

The “Pow” Sessions

(3 years 8 months)

Dear Trevor,

You are one proud boy after our daily "Pow" sessions. Today you spoke with your shoulders back and your chest puffed out, "I counted to one hundred."

And indeed you did. With very little help. One interesting thing you did was to follow seventy-nine with seventy-ten, eighty-nine with eighty-ten. Perfectly reasonable, I thought.
You probably won't remember our Pow sessions, so I'll explain them. And I suppose while I'm at it I might as well start at the beginning of numbers for you. And before we begin I think it is only right that we nod in homage to The Count, that great, revolutionary counter of things common and extraordinary, who thrilled and delighted us with his endlessly inventive, and enchanted techniques, proving to a doubting world that good counting form is appropriate always and everywhere.

As you know we live on the fifth floor of a tall building. On each floor on the wall opposite the elevators, is a good-sized black, plastic panel engraved with white that says, "5 Floor.” So one day when you are about eighteen months old we get off the elevator on our floor. You are in my left arm, and the sign just jumps out at me. I step across the hall and point to five. ‘You know what that is?’ I ask. And without waiting for a reply I say, ‘Big five,’ and smack the sign with flat of my palm. You lighted up. You respond to things done with gusto. I held you close to the sign and you gave it a good whack, and sang out, ‘Big five.’

That was the beginning. I found a beautiful graphic on the Museum of Modern Art calendar that features a golden 5, and had it framed and hung it in the vestibule of our apartment. Now when we came home we had two five's to call out.

Next we started in on the lighted numbers above the elevator door, both inside and out. At first I would call them out and you would repeat them. Soon we were calling them together. And then you were calling them, and I was the echo. You loved it. And the reason I think is because we always did it with gusto, both in voice and gesture.

You were so enthusiastic I made up some flash cards. We'd be hysterical counting up to ten. Shouting and laughing like we'd been possessed by the numbers genie. And it was this that led us to the Pow game.

Each morning, after breakfast and woo-wooing, we do teeth. Did I tell you about teeth brushing? There came a time, you were probably about two years old, when you started to resist the idea for no apparent reason. I was concerned that what up to this point had been a lot of fun, might degenerate into a struggle. I was really more than concerned, I was panicked. At that time you were heavily into Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, and Mommy suggested I name the teeth after the engines. That was a stroke of genius, and got our little enterprise chugging right along. We got one of the little advertising sheets out of an engine package and taped it to the wall above the sink. Reading off the sheet I now address each tooth by name, always, of course, beginning with Thomas. Should I recite the names of the engines out of order according to the flyer, you hastily correct me.

First we brush our teeth together, then I brush yours. Lately I have played the role of Sir Toppam Hat who has come to inspect the engines, and we have a dialogue as we make sure the wheels and coupling rods of each engine are spotless and shining.

I forgot to mention that we sing during the part of brushing where we are each doing our own teeth. Usually the same song we use to wash our armpits in the shower.

Anyway, when Sir Toppam Hat is satisfied, we wash your face. Sometimes you have to fill the sink at this point, and I will take the opportunity to put in my lenses. When you let out the water out of the pond, your two frog hands follow the water down the drain while I supply what the frogs may be thinking or saying. So there we are, I'm sitting on the toilet seat with my hands under a towel, and you're standing on the little ladder, wet hands and face. I take your two hands into the towel and help you off the stool. I rest my hands on my thighs, palms up under the towel. Then we do Pows. I say, ‘How many Pows today?’ or, ‘Ten pows.’ You strike the towel briskly, alternating blows with left and right hands, counting the "Pows" as you go. Sometimes we bargain about the number of Pows. I'll ask for twenty, and you'll say, ‘No, ten.’ I'll say, ‘Okay, ten,’ and off we go. I almost forgot, each time you strike the towel I call out POW!
You’re latest accomplishment is counting to one hundred by tens.

So here's my problem. If First grade is only up to introducing lower case letters, you will be bored out of your bean. And boredom is a killer. I’m hoping for divine inspiration.

Love, Daddy

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Pond

(11 months)

Dear Trevor,

We have been to The Pond several times in the last week, and it is always a great time for us both. The Pond is the swimming hole made by damming a stream on the Waldorf School property. There is diving at one end and a great, sandy beach running the length of one side. You love the water and the sand. You don't understand yet about the slope of the bottom, so you go fearlessly in and I have to stop you before the water goes over your head. I'm pleased that you like the water. As a child there was no place I would rather be than at the beach or a swimming pool. You are such a lot of fun to be with on the beach. Everything interests you, even the taste of sand. You are developing fine shoveling skills. This happens during the same period you are exploring the manipulation of a spoon vis-à-vis food on a dish. I think you may have gotten the context confused. This occurs to me when you put a shovelful of sand in your mouth. What a face you make. I carry you into the water to wash your mouth, laughing all the way. You don't complain or cry, but you are happy to get the sand out.

The Pond is also a wonderful place for spotting airplanes. You have developed a habit of pointing at them. You spot them, and then track them across the sky. Smiling all the way. At first I didn’t get it. You point to the sky, I look up, there is nothing there and I look away. I learn pretty quickly that you hear them before anyone else does and before they are visible. You point, look at me and your mom, and pretty soon a plane appears. We are always pleased to be informed there is a plane in the vicinity.

Love, Daddy

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hurt Feelings

(3 years, 7 months)

Dear Trevor,

Night before last Mommy left us and fell asleep on the couch. Usually we sleep, me, mommy, you, and the barrier. So now it’s just me, you, and the barrier. You are unusually restive, or maybe I just don't know how you usually sleep, as your Mommy is always between us. At least until she sprints for work. Anyway, several times during the night I wake up with your feet kicking me in the side. I moved you over to your side and you don't wake up, or you do briefly and snuggled into the barrier and fall quickly asleep. Then, some time in the middle of the night, you crawled up to me, and in a move typical for you, press your head against mine. I adjusted. Then you rose up off the pillow and in repositioning your head bang your skull into mine. You do not seem to mind these head banging encounters, but I, groggy, and a little surly, am annoyed. I lift you none too gently and heave you over to your side again. This time you don't go right to sleep. You toss around a bit before getting up and going to Mommy in the living room. You tell her, ‘Daddy moved me over and he hurt my feelings.’

She says, ‘You'll have to tell him in the morning.’

You wake me up in the morning by saying, ‘Daddy, are you awake?’

You’re kneeling by my head, sitting on your heels when I open my eyes. I smile at you. You say, ‘You hurt my feelings when you moved me over last night.’

I remember the incident, and I remembered my annoyance. It didn't seem to me that I had been that much rougher than the previous times I had moved you, but there it was. You got it. You'd felt my impatience, and your understanding was dead on. It's not easy to be called to account for irritability first thing in the morning. I say, ‘When I moved you over to your side of the bed, I hurt your feelings.’

You say, ‘Yes.’

I say, I'm sorry I hurt your feelings.’

You say, ‘That's okay.’

I say, ‘Come here.’

I lay on my side. You put your head down next to mine, and roll into me, pressing your back against my chest. You grab my upside ear and began to fondle it. You say, ‘I like your ears, all the time.’

Love, Daddy

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


(3 years 6 months)

Dear Trevor,

The other morning you were standing between my knees when you asked where my daddy was. I have no idea what prompted the question. I said, ‘My daddy is dead.’

You said, ‘Oh, I'm sorry.’

I said, ‘Thank you. But you don't have to be sorry. My father was old when he died. Everything dies. If it lives, someday it will die.’

You asked, ‘Will you die?’

I said, ‘Someday.’

You asked, ‘Will Mommy die?’

I said, ‘Yes, someday.’

‘And I'll be all alone,’ you said,

I said, ‘You don't have to be concerned about that now. It won't happen for a long time. And when it does, we think you will be ready and able to take care of yourself. After all, being a child is just one step on a wonderful road of experience and achievement. When that happens, you will be a man. And it is a wonderful thing to be a man. Just as you now see it is a wonderful thing to be a child.’

You nodded.

You walked away and got involved in your trains.

Love, Daddy

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sugar Sugar

(3 years, 7 months)

Dear Trevor,

Jane Broady writes a column in the The New York Times about food and health. In yesterday’s column she wrote that the average teenage boy consumes 34 teaspoons of sugar a day, and a girl consumes 24 teaspoons. That’s amazing.

So in an effort to get ahead of the curve I have told you the story and cut out your added sugar diet. That means no sodas, or cereals with added sugars. If the sugar’s natural to the product, that’s okay.

So I’m standing at the counter putting sugar in my coffee and you say, You’ve got to cut out the sugar, Dad.

Love, Daddy

Thursday, September 23, 2010

End of Days

(3 years 5 months)

Dear Trevor,

Mommy got your Phases of the Moon poster framed. We hung it on the wall in the hallway at Trevor height, and you have become intensely interested in the calendar. You ‘read’ the months and count the days over and over.

I use quotation marks up there because I thought I was helping you with them yesterday, only to realize you have the months just about memorized. Today I’m in the kitchen and you’re lying on the floor in the dinning area, kind of half watching me. In general you are a busy guy. You’ve got your extensive train collections, your Stix, and now you are just getting into Leggos. But there are times when you are like you are now, which seem to me to be pensive. If I referred your current state to myself I’d call it contemplative. And damned if here it doesn’t come. ‘When we get to December,’ you ask, ‘what came next.’

That rocked me a bit, and I answered cautiously. I said, ‘Nothing comes after December, honey. What we do is start all over again with January.’

You come right back at me, ‘But what's the last day of December?’

‘December has thirty-one days, so the last day we call the thirty-first.’

‘And then do we die?’ you ask.

I knew something was coming. I think I have to give you the short answer, though I feel guilty doing it. ‘No,’ I say, ‘we don’t die. Days are just the way we have of keeping track of time. The days go on and on, there's no last day. There is always tomorrow, day after day. ‘Every year you have a birthday in August. So August keeps coming around. If August didn't come around you wouldn't have a birthday, and you'd always be three years old.’

You gave me a look like you weren't buying it. ‘Think of it,’ I said, ‘what would happen if we woke up and there was no more day?’

You looked at me for a few moments, then your face lighted up, ‘We just stay home,’ you said.

Love, Daddy