Dear Grady, 

Today you are seven. 

I’m not quite sure how that happened. One minute I was rocking you to sleep in your nursery and the next minute I was listening to you read Charlotte’s Web to Poppy.  

You love to draw. You spend hours drawing every day. You fill page after page with superheroes and knights and Ninja Turtles. One day I was admiring your artwork and I remarked that maybe you would be an artist when you grew up. “I’m already an artist,” you corrected me.  

You have a sweet, gentle heart. You care deeply about fairness and being kind. I’m always cringing as you pick up other people’s garbage in the park (“it’s my job to keep the earth tidy!”) and wishing you cared as deeply about the state of your bedroom floor as you do the playground.  

Your favourite band is still the Foo Fighters but you’ve branched out to other music too. When “No Roots” by Alice Merton comes on the radio when we’re driving you tell me to turn it up, “it’s our jam!” You’re king of the car dance, and somehow we always end up in a pile of giggles. Your enthusiasm and your belly laugh are infectious. Nothing makes me happier than hearing your laugh, Grady. Nothing in this world.  

You’re an amazing big brother to Poppy. You look out for her and worry about her and take pride in teaching her new things. I know as long as you two have each other, you’re going to be okay.  

Happy birthday, Grady. I love you bunches.  




Dear Grady,

Today you turned six. 

The last year has wiped out any remaining traces of your babyhood. Your chubby cheeks and sweet baby smell have been replaced by gangly limbs and a lisp-inducing gap where your front teeth used to be. Your wrist and thigh rolls have been replaced by eye rolls. You are a kid, not my baby. 

You are the coolest kid I know. You are creative and imaginative and I love seeing how your brain works. You want to be a musician (like daddy, or the Foo Fighters, but better than the Foo Fighters, in fact, last week you told us when you grow up your band will be called the Foo Fighters Red Dragon). You want to be a history teacher so you can talk about knights all day and help kids. You are happiest when you're sitting in front of your sketchbook, filling page after page with Ninja Turtles and knights in castles. 

You talk all the time. Like, all the time. You ask questions and you try to figure stuff out and you don't let me get away with explaining things away with "that's just the way it is!" ("But there has to be a reason," you insist.) You are consumed with fairness and I'm doing my best to protect your sweet conviction (while not beating my head against the wall when you ask for the fiftieth time why you have to go to bed hours before me).

You are the best big brother to Poppy. You are loving and kind, and the best part of my day is when she sees you after waking up. She goes from grumbly-half-asleep to pure sunshine when she sees her Guh-guh. You're the only one who can calm her down when she's feeling squirrelly. You sing "Poppy Doodle" and she goes from unmanageable honey badger to a slightly more manageable honey badger. You've taught her to laugh at burps and farts. You share your toys and your food and your Mama and Daddy. Witnessing the ferocity and depth with which you love your little sister is my greatest joy. 

Grady, life is not always shiny and bright. As you grow into your own person, we've had challenges. We are both stubborn and sassy and sometimes it feels like we are going in circles. I'm doing my best to stay patient and embrace the person you're becoming. Some days this is easier than others. 

Six years ago you were born and made me a mama. Every day since, I have felt like the luckiest person alive. Thank you. I love you. Happy sixth birthday, Grady Bug.  



You're Not My Buddy

I check in with Grady every night as we're doing his bedtime routine. We talk about his day. What he did at school. Who he played with. What he ate. What he'd like to eat tomorrow. It's mostly small-talk but I want him to be in the habit of talking to me so when he's faced with bigger stuff down the line he'll know I'm always ready to listen.

Last week he was giving me the rundown of his day (liked the cheese sandwich in his lunchbox, did not like the crackers I gave him for recess, read a couple books at school, tooted about 20 times,) and he told me that a kid on the playground told him he couldn't play with him.

I saw red.

Grady wasn't even upset, he was just relaying the information like all the other tidbits he'd already delivered. I kept my cool in front of him but after he was asleep, I was livid. I was crafting emails to the teacher in my head. I was ranting on Twitter. I was full on mama bear.

And then I took a breath. I decided that if Grady wasn't upset, I wasn't upset. I'd keep an eye on the situation and continue to check in with Grady, but I wouldn't make it a thing.

And it wasn't a thing. It was one random comment from one random kid on the playground.

Yesterday I dropped Grady off at school. He lined up with his class. He waved to a couple friends. And then a classmate said good morning to him. Grady looked him straight in the eye and said, "you're not my buddy."

My heart sunk but the bell rang and the kids filed into the school before I could do anything.

I stewed all day. I asked friends for help. I asked Twitter for book recommendations on friendship and kindness. I carefully thought out what I would say to Grady and how I would approach the situation. He doesn't have to be friends with every kid at school but he does have to be kind. I'm not interested in forcing him to be friends with anyone he doesn't want to be friends with but I will drill kindness into him every day until I die.

Last night I casually asked why he had told that boy he wasn't his buddy. I was expecting tears and defensive stories about rude behaviour (the biggest transgression you can make in Grady's eyes). Grady nonchalantly answered, "because I don't know his name."

The kid isn't Grady's buddy because Grady doesn't know his name. There was no malice in his comment, just pure 5-year-old logic.

Our conversation turned out to be completely different than the one I was expecting to have with him. Which is a good thing. Keeps me on my toes. (And reminds me to stop jumping to conclusions.)

And now Grady knows how to introduce himself to kids he doesn't know. And I now know that I need to take a step back from schoolyard politics before I get an ulcer.

Four Years Ten Months Minus One Day

The age difference between Grady and Poppy is four years, ten months, minus one day.  

I knew, after Grady was born, that I wanted to have at least one more child but I didn't have a plan. Shawn and I weren't aiming for two under two. We didn't have a specific timeframe in mind. We were just trying to survive Grady's newborn days. 

And then life happened. I was diagnosed with cancer when Grady was one. I had a partial molar pregnancy (tl;dr: not a viable pregnancy) when he was three. And now here we are. Poppy was born when Grady was four years, ten months, less a day old. 

I was worried that the age gap would be problematic. Grady has been an only child (an indulged only child) for so long and he was the only grandchild (an indulged grandchild) on Shawn's side of the family. I was concerned that he would resent Poppy. That he would hate sharing the spotlight. 

I was wrong.  

The age gap we ended up with has been wonderful. Grady is so verbal, and understands so much, that we were able to address his questions and worries as they came up during the pregnancy. He asked a lot of questions, we answered them the best we could, and we didn't experience any anxiety or much emotional turmoil from him. We were able to explain to him why I had to stay in the hospital longer than we expected (we kept the explanation short and age appropriate but didn't sugarcoat it) and he was able to understand that things weren't going exactly to plan but that he was safe and secure.  

Grady's in kindergarten now, which means he's gone for six hours every day. The separation is tough (I genuinely miss him when he's at school) but I love that it's giving me the opportunity to have chunks of one-on-one time with Poppy. It's not the same as when Grady was born (you can never replicate the seemingly unlimited time you have to give to a firstborn) but it's a taste. 

The separation is good for Grady and Poppy too. It gives him a chance to miss her. Newborns are so needy and Poppy was not what you'd call a "low maintenance" newborn. We're just now moving into a delightful happy baby stage but for a long time it felt like it was Angry Baby Maintenance 24/7. School gives Grady the opportunity to be with kids his own age and get away from the all-baby-all-the-time scene. 

Poppy was having a hard time settling last night. She was fussy and mad and when I started to change her diaper, she exploded in furious cries. Grady ran into the room and climbed up beside her on the bed. He held her hand and stroked her forehead and told her to "think about us walking on a rainbow."  

If given a choice, I don't think I would have picked an age gap of four years, ten months minus one day. But now that I've got it? I wouldn't change it for the world.