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Newsletter, Olivia

Month 94 & 95

Dear Olivia,

I find it odd that you don’t know how to play with toys. I watch you sit in front of your toys and arrange them in lovely displays but you don’t really interact with them. You love Legos but you build the sets and then place them on top of your shelf where they continue to stay until the dust overwhelms them or your brother becomes too heavy handed with them. In a time where the neighborhood social circle is dwindling and you find yourself once again as the only girl in the neighborhood, you have a lot of down time. These moments would be great if you knew how to interact with a toy.

Perhaps toys aren’t your thing or perhaps they don’t give you enough stimulation. Although, how sad it is that your imagination is lacking that you can’t pick up a toy and create a world for it. Or perhaps your imagination is too great for these random overly-commercialized plastic products. Have I entertained you too much? Have I not given you the opportunity to be a true kid and understand the joy it is to hold a toy in your hand and provide a complete dialogue for it? I watch Miles spend hours in his room having full battles between army men and Pikachu. That boy can entertain himself with ease and you on the opposite side, struggle with this basic childhood rite of passage.

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I mentioned the changing dynamics in our neighborhood. Well, not changing per se. Perhaps evolving is a better word. You certainly struggle to find your place in a court full of boys who engage in typical boy behavior. The boys are getting older, as are you, and interests, relationships, and views change. You’re very well aware that you are the odd-man out in these situations and often feel you have to over-compensate in your behavior in order to fit in or get attention. This behavior has turned violent towards Miles. In acts of older-sibling dominance, your behavior has turned bullish in the form of physical harm and verbal threats. As a result, you’ve had your beloved iPhone turned mp3 player taken away and outdoor play has to be supervised now. This means my quiet time has been disturbed. This is not ok.

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Your constant bickering is making my beer taste bad

I’m repeatedly told that some sibling rivalry and fighting is perfectly normal and even healthy. I don’t understand this. I see the constant teasing and pestering and for the most part, I’ll intervene when I’m annoyed and can no longer hear another, MMMOOOOOOOMMMM! I hate the physical altercations and I refuse to allow this as normal sibling behavior. If you want to fight, we’ll do this the right way with a backyard octagon and punching gloves. Throwing sticks at each other’s faces is so thirty years ago when your dad threw the infamous tree trunk at the face of your uncle. Don’t revisit the past–write your own story. Be creative if you’re going to torment your brother. Watch your brother spend hours upon hours building a Lego rocket ship and then throw that at him. Or at least be smart about it and do it when I’m not around. Nothings bums me out more than witnessing blatant rule-breaking in front of me.

You and your brother are supposed to be friends. You’re supposed to protect each other. You two are supposed to build this impenetrable sibling bond that will glue you for life and give you the security and sense of home and family when Dad and I are long gone. I need you two to cooperate so you find me a good home in my old age, complete with pampering and 5 star amenities. What shit hole will I find myself in if you two decide you hate each other and ultimately, all family members and I’m left to fend for myself? No, no. I won’t let that happen. Play nice and love each other, dammit. My comfort and well-being in my golden years depends on it.

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Sibling love or sibling disdain?

Dad has been fried lately with work so we’ve been trying to find new activities for the weekends where we can escape and enjoy the fleeting time with you and your brother before you deem time spent with your parents boring and uncool. We recently discovered that Del Valle offers stand-up paddle board and kayak rentals. I love SUP and have been wanting to do it again. I saw that a friend had gone with her two daughters whom are both around your age and seeing how much they loved it, was hopeful that you would too and we could have this awesome bonding experience. You pretty much zoned out during your brief lesson which I assumed would happen. You paddled out with ease but couldn’t figure out the paddling portion which is pretty crucial to the whole stand-up paddling event. You were just girl standing on a board going in a circle. You became frustrated and asked to be pulled to shore where you stomped off and deemed the whole activity worthless. I decided to be selfish and went back out by myself because I love it. It’s so peaceful and wonderful and in that moment, I didn’t care that you were throwing a fit on the shore because you hate physical activity and deemed it too hard.

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Pre-paddling excitement

I spent about an hour alone on the lake and upon my return, found you waving to me on the shore. I guess an hour was enough time for you to work things out with yourself because you asked if you could give it another try. Big thanks to your dad who upon seeing you upset with yourself for not getting the hang of things the first time around, spent some time with you in shallow water, getting you comfortable with the board and paddle. I have enough teachable moments with you and have no problem letting your dad step in every now and then.

You were visibly more confident and ready to conquer SUP and that’s exactly what you did. You paddled out on your knees and when you sensed you had it, you stood up and I was so proud. Not because you balanced on a paddle board but because you didn’t quit. It was hard and a little scary and you pushed through. For fifteen minutes, you and I were out there paddling together. It would have been longer but remember I was out there for an hour before you decided to join me again and my stick arms were screaming at me. It’s true, my steady diet of caffeine and sugar doesn’t nourish muscles very well. Being on the lake with you was a perfect moment that I’ll hold on to dearly for as long as I can. Or until the slow crippling aging process swallows my memory whole.

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Those two glorious dots are us

I love that we’re an active family that engages with nature and is constantly finding ways to see the world around us. I can’t sit still which is apparent when I’m home. Perhaps you’ve developed this inherent trait as well. To sit seems like a waste. With so much world to see and so little time to do it in, it seems every moment is precious and should be used wisely. It’s not always easy to force kids to engage in physical activity and sometimes our plans for the day are greeted with groans. We went kayaking recently and after realizing how hard it is to paddle, you essentially put your feet up and enjoyed the two-hour trek down the length of Del Valle and back while your dad and I paddled our arms into a pile of muscle goo. We decided that an upper body workout wasn’t enough so we embarked on a 5-mile hike through Brushy Peak where again, you dragged your feet with every inch of the incline and verbally announced your disapproval and misfortune for having active parents. Of course, once you have a couple snacks in you, all is right in the world again and suddenly the angst you were feeling is dissolved. Plus, you remember that I typically like to indulge in soft serve ice cream after I do anything remotely physical.

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Sometimes I feel like your slave

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I can feel the excitement

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Post-ice cream isn’t bad the first time…

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or the second time

You’re almost 8 years old and are becoming more and more awkward with each passing day. It’s nothing to be ashamed of–most kids are awkward at this age. Teeth grow in crooked, limbs grow at strange speeds and personalities evolve and mature becoming refined and complicated. You are awkward in every way and I love it. There’s something so disastrous and beautiful watching a child find one’s place in this world. Watching you learn sarcasm and discover your humor is painful and hilarious and sometimes lands you in great trouble when you don’t quite get the hang of comedic-timing or the appropriateness of the comments you’re making. You’re finding your identity whether that be in the form of black-framed glasses or a sleeve of temporary tattoos. You’re different and special and your imperfections make you human even though you despise them. You’re wonderful in every awkward way and it’s truly a joy watching you find your path even if it’s a messy one. I promise you, sometimes the beauty lies in the mess.

Love,

Momma

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