Dear Max,

Wow. Today, you’re eight years old.

Hard to believe.

I know all mothers say this, but c’mon. It seems like not long ago that I was surfing and doing yoga in Hawaii, praying for a baby, and you turned out to be gestating inside me the whole time, as a perfect birthday present.

Surfing USA

Surfing USA

And then you were out and drinking like a champ and sleeping in my arms.


Newborn Max, my dad, and my mom

Newborn Max, my dad, and my mom

Soon you could talk (you always liked to talk, even as a one-month-old, “Ba ba ba,” startling our family doctor’s nurse, who said, “He’s talking like a two month old!” to which I replied, “Oh, he’s been talking like that since he was two weeks old.” When Beatrice visited and you were a few months old, you interrupted to babble at length for a few minutes, before you conked out with the effort of conversation).

I know I look awkward. I think he was heavy. Me. Beatrice/Alex/Tanya, and Olo.

I know I look awkward. I think he was heavy. Me, Beatrice/Alex/Tanya, and Olo.

You took what seemed like a very long time to walk, because you liked to be carried or have someone suspend you as you walked, and you didn’t care if it meant that we were hunching over you or walking on our knees.

In general, as long as we carried you and fed you, you were a happy baby.

Our extended family on my mother's side, including Max's great-grandmother

Our extended family on my mother’s side, including Max’s great-grandmother

You started growing up. I’ve got to say that, between you and me, I was dumbfounded when you said, in your teeny voice, “Flowers first appeared during the Cretaceous period,” and I had to Google it. You could count to fifty-nine before you started junior kindergarten, but not only that, before you were five years old, we would converse about infinity and negative numbers. You just seemed to understand, intuitively.

And now?

Grand Central station

Grand Central Station

My friends tend to shake their heads and warn me about my heartbreaker in the making. Still happy and kind. “Doux comme un agneau,” said Mme. Claire and Mme. Gigi, surprising me, until I looked at you and realized, that’s right. You’ll yell and complain about Anastasia, but up until this year, you would never raise a hand to defend yourself, even if she was poking your eye (now you do push her, at least a little. Sigh. More yelling). I actually used to worry about you, how easygoing you were, how patiently you’d wait, so that you were almost always the last kid to get your sticker after sitting in Chinese school for two hours, but your daddy pointed out, “You’re thinking of Max before going to school,” and sure enough, once you plunged into full-time school, I watched, open-mouthed, as you pushed another kid out of the way to get your sticker ahead of him, before I stopped you.

A truce

A truce

I know you’re not perfect, and neither am I. For you, I’d say, it’s very frustrating to me that you’d rather just watch TV and play video games for the rest of your life, plus you’re the worst loser I know (“Doesn’t count.” “I wasn’t ready!” “Awwwwww!” Bawling). For me, I’m always pushing you, always trying to mold you into a harder-working, sports-loving, resilient boy (except I’m so involved with my own stuff, I don’t get around to signing you up for half the stuff I mean to, but I do drag you off the computer).

Must take more pictures of Max and Roxy, and not only because Vince has specially requested them.

Must take more pictures of Max and Roxy, and not only because Vince has specially requested them.

One thing that makes me happy is how good you are with our new dog, Roxy. You wanted the snow to melt so that we’d go to the SPCA and adopt a dog. I was touched that you set your alarm, got up early, and took her for a walk the day after we got her. Then she jerked you on to your face, but you still walk her occasionally, although now, again, you’re still more in love with the TV. But you’re genuinely affectionate with her. “Roxy. I love you, Roxy. You’re a good girl.” You pet her. You get her water and you used to be very concerned about her food. You wipe goop out of her eyes. You were concerned when we drove to Toronto, and would periodically cry out, “I miss Roxy!” You’re a loving boy.

My two little jelly beans

My two little jelly beans

You’re also good with Anastasia most of the time. You still avoid her diapers as much as possible, but you’ll sometimes get her breakfast and play with her, and you guys (sigh) often watch TV together. You both love to jump on your Daddy.

And I love that you’re still my affectionate boy, still wanting a bedtime story and a hug and a kiss and a handshake before bed. Now you even read stories without pictures.

I love that you’ll occasionally try new foods and new things, even though you usually yell that you hate it.

I love that you have best friends at school who hug you hello. This year, you started calling them on the phone and answering the phone at other times!

Max and Liam have the same birthday. Happy birthday, Liam!

Max and Liam have the same birthday. Happy birthday, Liam!

I love that you’ve grown above my collarbone (“the bottom of you neck,” you pointed out), even though you’re only turning eight tomorrow.

I love that you’re better at skating after giving it a go, and that Liam gave you a skating tip at his winter party.

I love that you loved New York and Florida, but your favourite things were the little things like the dogs on the street and the hotel room.

At the hotel in New Jersey

I love that you helped plan your own birthday party, because you hate surprises. So you chose a water fight, an ice cream cake, a piñata shaped like the number eight (I needed more notice on that one—this is going to be the lamest piñata ever), shooting marshmallows with a cross bow, and even the presents from me and your dad: Lego Star Wars from me and Lego Harry Potter from Daddy. (Note to anyone else: Lego is #^^#!#%ing expensive. I asked Max if he’d rather have a big Christmas present or a big birthday present, and he chose birthday. I guess birthdays are more fun because his friends don’t come around for Christmas.)

So happy birthday, my big boy. I miss the baby you were, but I love the boy you are and the man you’re becoming.

Max and his Mother's Day creations, along with Anastasia's flower hands

Max and his Mother’s Day creations, along with Anastasia’s flower hands