Happy New Year, Ari! You rang in the new year by staying up all night for the first time in your life to “see the ball drop because everyone at school has seen it but me!” We kinda saw it. It was disappointing. As it always is. So it was a perfect introduction. And then on the 1st, you sat with Lily and Jack to watch your parents perform for the first time (in a Neo-Futurist benefit performance of old plays from Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.) Mom danced a Fosse number while she made ants on a log. I smashed fruit. We picked these plays because we thought you’d like them. You did. (Fist pump.)
Anyway, in keeping with my recent annual tradition…I wanted to talk about the ways in which you’ve changed since we rang in 2016. And the ways are many. As usual, you’re more you. By that I mean way smarter and way funnier. You can make me laugh hard. And we’ve had a few dinners out as a family where we all cracked each other up on an adult level for the first time, ever. It gave me a picture of the kind of life we might all have together if we manage to keep our bond tight during those teenage years.
Otherwise, here are the top 3 ways you’ve changed since last year:
#3. You’re bored with elementary school. While it’s a fact that Mrs. Kersner is just not as nice or engaging as Mr. Pollard, I also think maybe you’ve matured to point where you’re ready for more challenge. You’ve never been a huge fan of school, but for the first time in your life you’re saying things like “uuhhhhhh….I really, really don’t want to go to school tomorrow!” At first we wondered if something bad was happening to you because of the growing sense of dread you seemed to display. It turns out, you’re just bored as crap. I think you’re ready for Middle School. And while you may not know it, I think you’re ready for new friends, too.
#2. You’re showing a tendency toward obsessive worry. It started on Thanksgiving day, 2016, when we came home from Papa’s house and you noticed that your gerbils had been fighting. Teddy’s belly was scratched up and bloody, Marcus had wounds on his tail and both of them had cuts and scrapes around their necks. You were horribly upset. After some quick research, we simplified their cage and treated their cuts and they both healed up nicely and haven’t fought again. This was a few weeks after Marcus escaped from his cage and I found him while we were watching TV. Both of these events seem to have unglued you a bit. “I’m worried about the gerbils” has become a daily mantra, multiple times a day. The upside of all of this is that you’re really talking about and processing your feelings in ways that feel healthy and adult. The downside…or more accurately the concerning side…is that your gerbil’s well-being is dominating your thoughts at home in an almost phobic way. You check on them, sometimes, every few minutes. You’ve told us that you don’t want to go on a vacation while they’re still alive. When I come in to kiss you good night, you ask me to check on them on my way in and then again on my way out. You wear earplugs made of cotton balls so you don’t wake up worrying about the noises you hear. You tell us, almost daily, that you’re afraid to feed them because…”what if one of them won’t eat?” (Which is legit. They’re 3. They’re old. This will happen. But that certainty seems to provoke more anxiety in you than surrender.) So what does all of this mean? I don’t know. But it’s new and interesting and worth watching.
#1. You’re becoming less of a tom boy. I was sitting having a beer with my friend Halena one night, telling her how much you remind me of her. (She is I guess what you’d call a tom boy if we called adults tom boys.) And then the next day you told us you wanted to get your ears pierced! And then you started buying and collecting all these flavored lip balms (and then later gloss). You dressed up like a grown-up looking vampire punk girl for Halloween and then kept wearing the boots you bought that day! You started putting stuff in your hair a few months ago–some kind of oil that you brush in after you shower. And it’s making your hair look great. You seem to have noticed that your hair looks great. You seem to have noticed your looks. And then you bought a purse! This is all happening fast. And I had no idea how many rights of passage there were for girls. For boys it’s like you get a big-boy bed, you stop playing with toys, then you get a car and leave for college. Girls…I’m already noticing have all these in-between phases that include all kinds of things. It’s crazy! You’re still definitely holding on to your individuality so far. When we bought you the purse, you told me “I like it a lot, but I don’t like the idea of me having a purse.” I can see you wrestling with identity and trying to allow these things in on your own terms.