Last One.

To My Youngest Daughter and Last Child,

It’s been an entire year since you first decided to join us Earthside. On one hand that’s nearly impossible to comprehend, but on the other hand it’s exactly where you’re supposed to be. You’re walking now. WALKING. Ever so eager to join your siblings in their fun, but also because you’re so keen on exploring everything about your world! Even though I’ve been through these developmental stages twice before, your approach to things is so different that it’s almost like a brand new experience. And since it is a brand new experience for you I’m amazed and delighted as you discover all the things. As ravenous as you are to move about and find your place here you are also balanced with a sense of joy and contentment. It’s as if you’re telling us “Things are okay here. I am safe and loved here and that’s all I need.” And given the absolute chaos that surrounds the walls of our home it’s nice to have a soothing reminder that at least we are okay. I can’t think of a better way to experience my last firsts with you, proving once again that you are the exact right person to come into our lives at precisely the right time.

I love you.

Three.

To My Bold and Daring Eldest Daughter,

Today you are three years old!! It hardly seems like it’s been that long since you crashed into our life like a wrecking ball in the best way possible, but here we are. Despite the circumstances around us you’ve had one hell of a year. It’s been nothing short of awe-inspiring to see you grow in so many ways, everything from your vocabulary to your emotions to your fearlessness to your infectious energy when you experience joy. You proclaim loudly to the world “I’m here and I matter!” I absolutely burst with pride when I see you succeed knowing how hard you’ve worked, how much you’ve fought, how immensely driven you are to make your place in the world.

At the same time I am so humbled as your father. I’ve had to learn and grow so much to see you, to connect with you, to ride the enormous waves of emotion and help steer the boat in which we are traveling safely to shore. I see so much of my inner child in you that as I’m learning how to parent you I’m also learning how to nurture myself. You have given me the rarest of gifts in the opportunity to become someone I didn’t know I could, and I shall cherish it forever.

Today will be a day for cake, for singing songs, for being with family, and for unrestrained joy. Basically some of the things you enjoy most in life. Let us celebrate in the best of ways and continue to bring a wrecking ball to a world that desperately needs more of what you have to offer.

I love you.

Eight.

To My Darling Son,

You’re eight years old today. It’s really happened in the blink of an eye but when I sit long enough and think, it’s truly been an amazing time. Because you are an amazing human. This last year I’ve seen your heart grow immensely as you’ve become a big brother yet again, and the love and care you show for both of your sisters is so touching and amazing. You’ve weathered another year of this pandemic, doing the hard things because you know they’re the right things to do to keep you, us, and everyone else safe. It’s way more than any kid should need to handle and yet you do because you care. You’ve become an incredible pianist. I’m spellbound by your uncanny ability to write songs and play fearlessly with such an open heart.

As I reflect not only on the last year but the last 8 years I’m seeing one common thread, one force that seems to be driving you: your heart. It’s so carefree, full of love, hope, ambition, caring, grace, forgiveness, happiness, and joy. That you can find the silver lining in nearly everything isn’t an accident; it’s who you are. And I want you to remember that no one – absolutely no one – can take that away from you.  You are the amazing, wonderful, beautiful manifestation of every tender emotion of humanity. And everyone is better after experiencing the joy of you. Don’t ever change.

I love you.

Two.

My Daring, Darling Daughter,

Today you are two years old. TWO!! And what a wonderful two years it has been. You have worked so, so hard to be seen and heard in this world. We are all the better for it because this world is and always will be better having seen and heard you. You are strong. Bold. Focused. Determined. Self-assured. Uncompromising. Fierce. Kind. Caring. Loving. A truly remarkable whirlwind of a human set on accomplishing things in your own way and on your own time. That’s the way it’s always been for you, and it’s been such an unexplainable joy watching you push through so much chaos and adversity only to be victorious Every. Single. Time. 

I can see so much potential in you; I stand in awe every time I think about it. The world truly isn’t ready for you and may never be. Because the world as it stands now does not know what to do with a light as bright and strong as yours. And that’s perfectly fine, because it will never be about what the world does to you, but what you do to and for the world

Go forth, my daughter, and conquer in the name of love and light. Be the person this world cannot tame. Bend reality to your will for the betterment of all humanity. Demand to be seen and heard, never backing down from what you know is right. But first, let’s have some cake and celebrate.

I love you.

Seven.

My Darling Son,

Today you are seven years old. The past year has brought challenges that no one could have foreseen and that you certainly do not deserve, but yet you stand tall, bright, and proud. A shining example of what humanity can and should be, you are kind, caring, loving, creative, intelligent, imaginative, empathetic, sincere, determined, hopeful, and happy. The list goes on longer than eternity but the fact remains that I am SO proud of you and SO honored to be your father.

I have watched you grow into someone who will make this world far better for everyone than I would have ever thought possible. I know this because you already have such an enormous impact on the small scale of our family. You are unquestionably the best and most perfect big brother that your sister could ever ask for. Your mere presence lights up the hearts and minds of everyone you meet, instantly making the room brighter. And your unflinching optimism in the face of the darkness of the present moment reveals glimpses of your softness and strength.

Even though I know the world will not always be kind to you – and in many ways it has already shown this – I know you have what it takes to persevere while cherishing and nurturing the softness and light within you that makes you whole. And if you ever start to feel that light dim or that softness grow cold, just know all you have to do is turn back toward me. I will hold you in my arms and remind you of who you truly are. 

If you keep one thing with you always please let it be this: Never EVER lose these parts of yourself. They are the foundations of love for yourself and for all of humanity, and you hold them in such vast and rare amounts that will carry you to the highest of places and be your guiding lights when you think you’ve lost your way. Be you, and be no one else.

I love you.

One By Two

To My Beautiful Baby Daughter,

You are officially One Year Old today. And if there is anyone who deserves the absolute happiest of first birthdays it is you. The most underrated statement I will ever utter is that your first year of existence has been ONE. HELL. OF. A. YEAR. A year that has defined you, or more accurately a year in which you have defined yourself to us and to the world. Your personality is so unique, so vibrant, so incredibly full of fire. You are first and foremost a fighter, starting from as early as in the womb. You have proven time and time again that this world bends to your will, not the other way around. You rise up, wide-eyed and full of wonder, staring knowingly into the chaos before you and boldly proclaim “I AM HERE!!!!” with the fire, energy, and vitality of the brightest star in the universe. And that energy, that light, leads the way through the chaos as long as we are willing to listen. All is right, all is well, all will become one with the universe with you leading the way.

Let’s have one hell of a celebration today, jubilation to blind out the chaos and uncertainty surrounding us. I have no doubt this day will be glorious. You’ve earned it, that’s for damn sure. On this day we celebrate!

Happy Birthday.

I love you.

Six.

My Darling Son,

I honestly still cannot fathom that you are now six years old. In many ways it has gone way too fast and I still see in you the infant that I can protect and shelter from the harms of the world. But I also know you are destined for great things in this world and out in it you must venture. 

And venture you have as the past year has been a complete whirlwind of life. You’ve started and finished preschool, moved to an entirely new city and started the challenge of kindergarten, and experienced first-hand the birth of your baby sister. You’ve lived in hotels and Airbnbs for weeks at a time, felt the uncertainty of displacement as we navigated the fog of life’s gigantic changes this year, and all while being the brightest of shining starts imaginable. You have carried more water than any 5-year-old should ever have to, and you’ve done it all remarkably.

You are so kind, so gentle, so full of love, pure of heart, and absolutely incredibly brilliant. I truly am at a loss for words to describe how beautiful of a human you are. I knew this of you from the moment I first held you but somehow you just keep raising the bar higher at every turn. My heart somehow manages to grow three sizes every single day. You give me more faith in the innate goodness of humanity than anything or anyone else I’ve ever encountered.

So shine on. The world needs your light and your love, and I am beyond proud that you are so willing to share that light and love with us all.

I love you.

Five.

My Darling Boy,

What. A. Year. Honestly I can’t even being to describe in words what an awe-inspiring year it’s been watching you grow, but this humble letter will at least attempt to capture it as best I can. There have been so many new and wonderful developments that’s not possible to remember them all, but you’ve blossomed into this capable, confident, curious, courageous, and compassionate young human. You lead with an incredibly strong desire to learn, to understand, and most importantly, to feel. And not just feel for yourself, but feel for others. To be with others. If you ever read this, please, please don’t lose that. Or if you’ve lost it by the time you read this, please do whatever it takes to get it back. I will do everything I possibly can to nurture that empathy as it will be one of the most valuable guiding forces in your life. That force combined with your innate curiosity and love of learning will be nearly all you need to achieve great things. And make no mistake, you are destined for greatness, whatever that looks like to you.

So many wonderful moments this year. Too many to count. From your vivid imagination (stuffed animal characters) to your inventor’s drive (LEGO, recyclable materials, sock puppets, literally anything you can get your hands on) to your musical heartbeat (writing songs, your beautiful voice, the rhythm of your soul), to the persistent hard work of learning new skills like ballet, climbing trees, hiking mountains, and swimming; there hasn’t been a single thing you’ve wanted to do that you couldn’t do.

And the selflessness! Together you and I have put in so much work to make our community a better place. You’ve rung doorbells in the searing summer heat for some of the best political candidates I’ve ever met. You’ve marched in solidarity with our LBGTQIA+ friends. You’ve stood with me in the pouring rain to ensure that immigrant families stay together. You’ve literally faced down an anti-choice protester, proudly proclaiming with conviction that you “stand with Planned Parenthood”. And all of this at FOUR. YEARS. OLD. I cannot adequately capture the deep well of gratitude, humility, pride, and joy that I feel knowing that I could share these experiences with you and also see how they’ve added so much knowledge and depth to your character. You’re not only building your own world; you’re making it so much better for everyone else.

And through all of it you’ve never once lost sight of humility and gratitude. And you captured that perfectly in our last exchange just before bed on the eve of your birthday:

Me: “When you wake up you’re going to be five!”
You: “I can’t thank you enough.”

No, my son, I can’t thank you enough.

I love you.

Four.

My Baby Boy,

What a year. I know every year is different, but this year has been an indescribable ride. You’ve grown and changed so much it’s nearly impossible to put to words, but I’ll try and at least cover the highlights. You’ve rolled with me on some very big life changes – living half the year in the Netherlands, starting pre-school TWICE (once in Dutch even!!), seeing some of your Swedish cousins for the very first time, riding your bike everywhere, creating and singing your very first song, earning your “stripes” in the bathroom (including stops on the side of the highway in Switzerland, Italy, and the Netherlands!), and my personal favorite – communication. You are so articulate in telling me what you want and what you don’t want. And sometimes that leads to battles.

Oh, the battles, my son. Things haven’t been all roses, and there’s been a lot of tears shed this past year by both you and me. We’re learning in this together, and I know I still have a lot of work to do, so thank you for growing with me, being patient with me, and forgiving me for my mistakes. There are few things better than a post-battle hug through a light fog of tears. Promise me that no matter what happens we will always come back together like this. Your spirit is so strong, bright, and resilent that in a few ways I’m envious. I absolutely want you to carry that spirit with you for your entire life, and from what I can see the fire in your heart grows bigger every day.

You really are going to do great things one day, Trenton. It’s impossible to know right now what those things are, but with the pure joy and passion you have for life your possibilities are endless.

Happy Birthday, and I love you.

Goliath.

[Preface: My family and I are living in the Netherlands for the next 6 months due to my work assignment. I haven’t written anything about it here, but I hope to soon.]

Big day yesterday. Big, big day. The first day of preschool, sort of, anyway. While living here in Eindhoven it was critical that we found ways to expose our son to as much of the culture as possible. So as serendipity would have it there is a preschool/daycare less than a 5 minute walk from where we’re living. So for 3 days a week, 4 hours a day, Trenton goes to Kinderdagverblif’t Parelbosch to play with other children his age and absorb as much of the Dutch culture, language, and education as he can. By the end of this it’s very likely that he’ll speak Dutch better than we will after studying it daily for over a year.

My mind was racing with worry the night before and the morning of. Other than babysitters and family this is the first time he’s been left without us for so long. And having to do it in an unfamiliar space in a foreign country where he doesn’t speak the language? For 4 hours??? Did he eat enough for breakfast? Will the 1 snack they feed him be enough? What will the snack be? How well will he play with the other children? Have we as parents prepared him enough for this? Will he melt down from the tremendous pressure and separation anxiety?

I cooked him a special breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese, and Mandarin oranges. He ate some of it, but I fretted internally about him not eating enough protein. We made the short walk from the house to Parelbosch mostly with Trenton being carried in mom’s arms. We walked up the stairs and through the door together holding hands. We walked into the room and he made a beeline right for the cars and trucks, us parents only a minor inconvenience sharing the same space while he went straight to the work of play. A quick kiss goodbye, some “I love yous”, and poof, we were gone. No tears, no hugging of legs, nothing. Anticlimactic to say the least. A walk home with no child in tow provided a very surreal feeling.

Kids have a way of surprising you in the most incredible of ways. Aside from some minor struggles from being hungry (not enough breakfast) and a little separation anxiety, he said he had fun! Played with cars and trucks, ate apples for a snack, and went outside with the group to play. We as parents didn’t do him any favors there by forgetting to leave his coat there so he had to borrow one from someone else (hey, we’re rookies at this too). All in all a great day and a huge sigh of relief from me.

I know my job is to prepare him as best I can for all the challenges he will face in the world so he can fearlessly knock them down head on. Even then, he’s doing the heavy lifting here and I am unfathomably proud of him for that. He’s been so brave and resilient for all the struggles of being here – from the 20-hour travel day here to the jet lag and 9-hour time difference to having to endure Daylight Savings Time twice in 3 weeks. This child has proven he is built to slay giants and the next one comes tomorrow.

Go get ’em, kid.