Happy Halloween!


Three-year-old boy

My big boy Finn —

I had no idea that by three you’d be so complicated, so full of complexity, so interested in what works, lurks, swims, spins outside and beyond you. You don’t just want to know and to label, but to animate, to interact, to link the unknown world to yours.

In recent months, you’ve become fascinated with the ocean and everything alive within it. You enact scenes in which your toy tiger shark tries to eat your toy squid, who then sprays ink at him. Or the squid may try to eat your triggerfish, or, as you call it (by its Hawaiian name), humuhumunukunukuapuaa — but then, due to some trick of camouflage, special “lotion,” a bad smell, or perhaps just conversational agreement, the two end up on friendly terms. Although you’re very interested in who eats what, you prefer that all ends well. In fact, you generally insist upon it.

This seems to be a new trend. Several days after you learned about the solar system and space, and asked if a black hole could suck up the table you were sitting at (of course we said no!), you drew a picture of some planets and a black hole. “This planet has special lotion on it that protects it from the black hole,” you explained. “The black hole can’t smell it.” You were not only applying your knowledge of both the clownfish’s protective slime and the parrotfish’s nightly “smell-proof” mucous cocoon to a new scenario; you were, I think, using what you already knew to make things better in your own way — to lessen your fears about the unknown.

Yet it’s interesting to me that two of your more recent interests, the ocean and space, are so deep and dark and mysterious. Mystery holds pull, doesn’t it? Why else would you lie awake at night asking questions like “are aliens nocturnal?” You have a newly heightened awareness that the universe is vast yet still connected, moving yet not always visible and tangible, and that’s making it scarier, my Finch. You have fears now that you never had before, all of them stemming from your own imagination. You pretended to run from wolves in the house with Daddy once  — laughing all the time — but then later lay awake asking me if there were wolves outside, and if not outside our house, then where? Could they come to Florida? On another occasion, you wouldn’t sleep until I pulled from the bookshelf and actually removed from your room a book with a lion character in it. You acknowledged that it was “only a book,” and “just pretend,” but you still felt its pull. Everything around you is so very much alive.

In three-year-old fashion, you animate the inanimate, too. I’ve watched you organize the simple cars and trucks you’ve always played with into a perfect little circle to “share some healthy fruits and vegetables,” and line them up to head to a movie or the symphony. On the way home, they may encounter difficulties — a shaky bridge, a flat tire — but they get the help they need and return home safely and happily. You see the value in comfort, safety, and happiness — and most importantly, you’re beginning to see that you can play a role in interacting with and shaping that kind of world. I see this in your constant pretending and role-playing… and also in real life. You’re now more willing to forge friendly conversations with people, more likely to ask someone who was sick if he or she is feeling better, even more interested in asking me questions about the life I lead outside of home. Recently, as I held your hand after lights were out, you sat up in bed in the dark, asking, “Mommy? Do YOU like practical life? What do YOU do?” You were trying to link your Montessori “practical life” lessons to my life — the part that isn’t visible to you. You were reaching out and connecting, bridging the known and the unknown.

Still, despite your increased eagerness to positively connect, your (inherited?) love for drama and disruption often takes over. Sometimes you just lose your temper, but sometimes — many times — I see that you like to disagree, to challenge, to test limits, to exert control. Yesterday morning at music class, while Ms. Ashlee sang the closing “sleepyhead” song in a sweet, soft voice and everyone else pretended to sleep, you ran in circles shouting, “I’m nocturnal!” I secretly laughed, but still wondered why, when you love music and the act of musical collaboration so much, you tried to disrupt instead of connect.

I suppose it’s an exercise in testing those connections, in interacting with and playing some kind of role in the dynamic, complex world in which we live.

Don’t worry, you’ve definitely changed my universe — in only three years that feel like they’ve always been. Happy Birthday to my tester, explorer, inventor, creator. I love the world with you in it, complex as it is.