One of the cooler things about being a parent is I get to say things like, “I knew you when…” and that “when” can be pretty much any point in your life. No one else gets to say that except me and your mother.
We know you, Blue. It’s something I think about every time I sit down and write to you. Someday you’ll read this and learn something about yourself and your family. There will come a day when you’re searching to find who you are, and I consider it a parent’s sacred duty to help their child figure this out, even if at the time you’ll probably be in full-blown adolescence and won’t want to talk to us.
So, assuming that…listen up, kid. We knew you since you came into the world, and if there is ever a time you’re confused about the person you are, here’s what we know about you.
You are sweet and kind.
Gentle, but not dull.
Reserved, but sharp and observant.
Quiet, but forceful when you have something to say.
Easy going, but aggressively determined to have things go easily your way.
Cautious in new situations, but fearless when you know what you want.
We saw all of this in full clarity when you found The Slide.
It was just past the petting zoo and the bounce houses. We tried putting you into one of the bounce houses, one of the ones meant for toddlers, and you were not having it. You stood there at the gates and refused to enter, crying when I lifted you over the edge and sit you down on the encapsulating air bubbles.
“Nope. Nope. Nope,” you said, and I picked you up, walked you back to the stroller to go back and buy some more tacos. But then, you saw The Slide.
It is duly noted here that the bounce house in question was the residence of Hello Kitty. You made it abundantly clear you were not a Hello Kitty man. You are, however, a Cars man, which clearly explained why you were dragging me to the 10-foot tall balloon of Lightning McQueen, perched over The Slide like a spider ready to devour its prey.
At least, that’s what The Slide looked like to two anxious parents. To you, it looked like a party.
I still don’t know how this happened, but somehow there you were, with your shoes off and scrambling towards the ramp that led to the top of the slide. I don’t know what we were thinking. I guess, maybe, the thinking was that a good way to raise your kid to not be fearful is to let go of fear yourself.
Or maybe I’ll just chalk this one up to fatigue. Just complete and utter exhaustion at the neverending torturescape that is raising a toddler.
We had plenty of fears. The Slide was twenty feet tall balloon. To get to the top, you had to climb a steep ladder that ducked under Lightning McQueen. We would not be able to ascertain your fate on the ascent until you reached the top. And to think, up until this point in your life, you had never climbed anything without one of us holding your hand. Clearly, that was more for us than it was for you.
We figured you had made it since we hadn’t seen you come tumbling down the ramp, but what did shock us was how aggressively fearless you were in scooting right up to the edge, and then plunging down like it was no big deal. No crying, conflict or hesitation. Down you came, smiling, and then you went back to do it again.
I made the moment into a gif, and I watch it whenever I need a little brightness in my day.
It was one of the most thrilling moments of being your parent, because in that moment we saw one of your best qualities start to manifest, Blue. Nobody could have predicted what you would have done, because nobody, not even us, knew you well enough. I don’t even think you knew yourself well enough, because ‘yourself’ is still this nebulous mix of personality, experience and bumbling guidance from two well-intentioned but often ignorant parents. I think…I hope…something began to crystallize in that first time on The Slide, though. Something that will forever be a part of your fabric.
You became brave.
Or maybe not…Just a few weeks ago, you cried when we tried to ride ‘It’s a Small World’ at Disneyland. Nobody becomes brave, and certainly no one becomes brave after one time doing one brave thing. Bravery is a virtue, a trait that knits itself into a person over time and continued practice. Nevertheless, bravery is something you exhibited at a very young age, and whenever you have doubts about whether or not you can face a situation, I’ll remind you of The Slide.