Dear Owen: a letter at twenty-one months


I write this in a quiet, napping house as another blizzard descends on Minneapolis. You and Elsa are both asleep, and there is space to think, to turn all of these emotions and moments into words.

“You’re a big brother now!” These are the words we spoke to you as you came into the hospital room and met Elsa. For months prior to her birth, we’d read and reread the words to this book, hoping the familiarity of its language would give you some kind of framework to understand all that was about to be. And as you came into the room, at first smiling hugely at us, your long lost parents, then looking completely weirded out, I could see your little brain trying to process it all.

You were gentle with Elsa…giving her a tiny hug, continuing to look at us with confused eyebrows. And then, with the help of your new Elmo and a bunch of M&M’s, you sat on the window ledge in the hospital room with your dad, mostly happy for the rest of the visit. Since then, as you’ve adjusted to having a baby sister, you’ve mostly ignored her. I mean, she sleeps a lot. But just yesterday, we were looking through your very favorite Richard Scarry transportation book, searching for the ever elusive Goldbug. On one page, I jokingly had Elsa’s hand point to Goldbug…and then, for the rest of the book, you held her hand and kept saying, “Find…Goldbug…togEVer!” and my heart melted about a thousand times. You bring her things. You sometimes even sing her “a baby song,” singing the word baby over and over again in a high pitch, just like we practiced before she came. And I see you teaching her, telling her “this is a bird,” and realizing that she is a person, and I can’t wait for you and  “IIlllsa” to know each other better. You’re a big brother now.

You are also a giant.
A couple weeks ago, I was napping with Elsa laying on my chest. You woke up from your nap, and your dad replaced Elsa with you, and you laid down on top of me, your head near mine, but your feet near my knees, and I suddenly felt your kidness. You are no longer a baby. And this is so evident in your words. You speak in sentences of three or four words now all the time. All day long, I hear “Play, Mama, play. Play castle?” and “Sit. Mama sit.” You are learning specific words too – no longer are they just tractors but we point out the backhoes and forklifts and cranes and no cows (snow plows) we see in books and in real life. Additionally, everything is Grandpa…or bumpa. You talk to him on your pretend phone, you want him drawn in your coloring books, every pick up truck in every book is his.

You love to sing. And out of nowhere, you suddenly know the words to the songs we sing. It happened just last week. We were driving home during rush hour, and I’d sing, “Only a boy named….” – And you’d sing out “David!” “Only a little….” –  Sling! You knew every finishing word to that song and so many more (Jesus Loves Me, ABC’s, Twinkle Twinkle, The Wheels on the Bus, Jesus Loves the Little Children, Happy and You Know It, The B-I-B-L-E, and your favorite “Rocko and Roll” from Sesame Street). I couldn’t believe how many words you knew. You can also mostly count to 10, you finally say the S on the end of bus, and once in a while I catch you singing The Farmer in the Dell, Twinkle Twinkle, or Happy Birthday all on your own in this little falsetto. It is the best.

You have become very aware of your posessions. Mine is a popular word around here. You take an unbelievably quick inventory of all your animals at bedtime – asking for the missing one by name before we’re even out the door. (Your current sleeping buddies are White Bear, brown bear, lambie, Lambikins, Bruce, the owl puppet, Elmo, and Monkey). We are constantly looking for “the ‘nother guy” when we play castle. You always know when something’s missing, and your life is in turmoil until it is found.

You’re also super into the backetball hoop we got you, playing “Elmo dunk” endlessly…and then slinging raquetballs all over our house. You play like a maniac when your dad comes home, the two of you chasing each other through the rooms of the house, you screaming with laughter when he pops out from behind a corner, asking him to get you as you “naken run” through the house before and after baths. Watching the two of you play fills me up inside.

Speaking of  naken runs, you apparently decided you were ready to start potty training. I caught you trying to poop as I changed your diaper on January 6, and so I rushed you to the toilet. You pooped so proudly, and we made a tremendous deal of it with M&M’s and a call to dad and everything. You probably use the potty once a day now…and we’re working on making it more regular. You watch as you sit there, cheering yourself on anytime anything comes out, so excited to flush the toilet. It’s kind of hilarious and gross all at the same time.

I turned 31 during these months since your last letter. And one of my favorite stories about you happened on my birthday. Your Grandma Pam was still here taking care of us and had brought a cake to celebrate what I hope is the weirdest, most exhausted birthday of my life. She lit the candles, we sang Happy Birthday to your utter delight, and then I blew them out. As the cake cutting began, you said, “Firefirefirefirefire” for about 90 seconds straight, until finally, your sick and coughing and head-colded dad said, “Owen! Stop! Quiet.” You did stop. And looked straight in his eyes. And then said, one more time, calmly, “Fire.”
It was hilarious. It was as if you were saying, “But I don’t think you understand what I’m trying to say.” You are passionate, my Owen, and determined and persistent, and I love you.

Much of these details will be forgotten. But I think I will forever hold on to the moment we came home, after three days away, from the hospital. I carefully walked into the back door, and there you were, standing in the kitchen. I picked you up, and you hugged me for at least thirty seconds…patting my back, just like I pat yours. Your head rested on my shoulder, your face nuzzled in my neck, and I felt more your mama at that moment than perhaps ever before. I had been missed. I had missed you. And we belong together, you and I. At least for now.

I love you!
Your Mama!

Things You Love: milk, juice, baths, naked runs, videos, Elmo, Sesame Street, playing outside in the snow, our “new car,” tractors and most heavy machinery, snow plows, tunnels in real life as well as our play tunnel, playing with your dad, coloring, books, being tickled, Bear, Monkey, pretending to make a pizza with our placemats and tupperware, puzzles, throwing and rolling balls, your grandparents, visitors, Archie, Estella, climbing on the couch, going for walks, the cow by the bakery, the cat in Ace Hardware down the road, singing, dancing (especially to your Aunt Sara’s songs!), going on the potty, marshmallows, cookies, cake, ice cream, graham crackers, animal crackers

Things You Hate: getting cold and wet outside, when I wont’ sit down and play with you, when I won’t let you go upstairs or in the basement, diaper changes, when we take juice away and force you to eat breakfast, when we say no to jumping on the bed, having cream/lotion put on your face, feta cheese

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