Dear Owen: a letter at five years




I’ll be honest; having a five-year-old makes me feel old. Like I’ve been at this a while and can’t really blame things on being a new mom anymore. I look at your long, lanky body. Sometimes your arms are so skinny, you look a little malnourished; despite the trough-like amounts of food you eat, I can count your ribs. Your legs are long and lean, and your body is just one little skinny muscle. Your feet stretched out sometime this last spring, and suddenly they feel almost as long as mine. Your eyes are still big and bright and hazel, your blonde hair countered by your long, dark eyelashes.

There is so much of you that is still just you. Your highs are high. You regularly exlaim, loudly, “This is the best meal ever!” or say things like, ‘This watermelon is fantastic.” You jump up and down with excitement at plans for an adventure like camping, or that time when we ambushed your dad with water balloons when he came home from work. Your whole body gets excited, your voice is always loud, and you are always moving, bubbling somewhere between excitement and aggression and the movements of a rabbit. Your lows are low. With five years of age has come an ability to reason with you (hallelujah!) but you still have your moments – the way you rage over what you perceive to be unfair, or when you need help looking for a certain lego and we won’t help you immediately, where you rage and cry and a sense of injustice takes over your entire body. But you are quicker to talk about things now. To snap out of it quicker. To say sorry. I have to admit…I like five a lot more than three or four so far.

Your Berget-genetic pattern of obsession over one thing at a time continues:

David and Goliath…Jack and the Beanstalk…a brief stint with the Jolly Green Giant…Tarzan…Volcanoes. And while we still regularly have between 1-3 volcano books at our house at any given time, you also, this spring, got super into the body, particularly the digestive system, and this summer, have loved catching the hundreds of toads around our house. You keep them in a bucket for a few days, giving them names like Nocko, before letting them go. You’ve also gotten really into bugs and spiders, catching grasshoppers in our neighbor Cece’s garden, checking out endless books about bugs from the library. It has been, let’s say…a stretching experience for me to not pass on my bug phobia to you. Each time you show me some many-legged creature, I take a deep breath, and exhale: Isn’t God amazing to make something so weird and creative? as I slowly back away. I’m praying that this is a quick phase and that you don’t end up a entomologist, or we will have very little to talk about when you come home for Christmas as an adult. (Though…that said, more and more, I sense that you will be some variety of -ologist…you love science!)

Owen, you are by all means the only five-year-old I know who confidently talks about the chyme, duodenum, and good and bad bacteria. You love the natural world, and we regularly praise God for the amazing way he designed things. It’s stretching to me because I am not a science person by any stretch of the imagination, but you have taught me to stop and observe. I’ve even allowed a giant orb web to live outside our kitchen window, and daily we check in on the spider who seems to be doubling in size daily.  You notice hawks hovering above the highway, and somehow your eyes see the tiniest bugs on the sidewalk as you scooter by. You take great delight in the birds that make their way into our yard and the butterflies and moths and caterpillars and roly-polies. You turn over rocks and dig in the dirt and overturn logs, exclaiming over every find. You bring all of this to our family, you know, and I thank God for the love of his creation that he’s put inside of you and for what it’s teaching all of us.

When not exploring the natural world, you have been building legos. So many legos. You got your first set for Christmas, and in the middle of my entire family, you threw the box down, and said, and I quote, I HATE THIS PRESENT! You stormed off. As I cornered you in a bedroom, I got it out of you that you were expecting a model volcano – something you’d been asking about for months, and thought that present was going to be it.

But it turns out, as I suspected, that you don’t hate legos…in fact, you kind of love them more than most things. You got many lego sets for your fifth birthday, and I even made you a lego cake (with a batman logo hidden inside). You love to follow the directions and make somethings step-by-step, though your rule-following mind is stymied when you can’t find a particular piece. But you also have been building ships and houses and rockets of your own imagination. They are always, always symmetrical, and it frustrates you to no end when they’re not. I tried to play a game with you this spring, where we’d take turns adding pieces and see what we came up with. You were doing everything in your power to contain your frustration when I’d do something non-symmetrical, telling me over and over again why what I was doing was not right and how it needed to match. I hid my smiles because you were genuinely exhausted by my spatial ignorance.

You love legos and typically have some container of “special” legos that you carry all over our house (despite our would-be strict legos on the lego table rule). You are always searching for the ones you can’t find, which is totally infuriating, but you are so imaginative, so creative, so smart with the balance and structure of your creations. Probably you will be an engineer or something of the like and you will wonder at how poorly I do math/if you’re really my son.

You and Elsa have just become the best of buddies. You rope her into your elaborate stories and “road-trips” you’re taking. You play legos together, and I watch you build your symmetrical machines while she builds Dr. Suess-like structures and has all the lego guys getting together for a party or talking to each other on the phone. You love catching bugs together and racing around on your scooters together and playing at the beach together or in the pool, jumping off 50 times in a row. And Lewis – he just adores you, and you seem to genuinely enjoy him too. No one else can make him laugh like you, and he makes you giggle this high-pitched giggle that I almost never hear otherwise. You like to faux-wrestle with him, or drag him up onto the couch or window seat. You’ve rescued him when stuck, or dragged him away from danger in a moment when my hands have been full with something else. Both Elsa and Lewis just love you so much; they want to be part of what you’re doing. You and Elsa had a phase this spring where you would parody lines from a song…you’d sit in the back seat, and take turns singing:
“Like a bridge over troubled….” …lava, pencils, pizza….and inevitably one of you would offer poop as the lyric, and you’d both dissolve into laughter. (Likewise, with “Humpty Dumpty had a great….bed, blanket, monkey, carrot…poop.)

You have this captivating energy about you…I see it on the playground too. It starts with one kid, or two, and soon you’ve got the whole playground running from imaginary volanco lava…or robbers, or you’re the bad guy, chasing a group of giggling kids, or you’ll enlist a crew to help build a large volcano in the sand. You’re loud and enthusiastic and people are drawn to that. But you’re also very anxious heading into large groups. It’s like when playmates form organically, you start quietly but slowly find your element. But when it’s organized – preschool, a birthday party, children’s church…the anticipating of these events leaves you nervous, high strung. You cling to my side, and little things cause big reactions…like your socks don’t feel right, or maybe it’s your underwear, or your shoes cannot be fastened tightly enough.

It’s an interesting part of your personality. You are so talkative, so engaging. But can get so, so nervous around large groups of people, especially new people. I can identify…you and I share anxiety, but we’re anxious about such different things. But I get it…a month or so ago, we were watching The Secret Life of Pets – a generally happy animated movie. But the music got intense when 2 dogs were in a van headed to the pound…and out of nowhere, you cried out, “I don’t like this! I don’t like this!” I get that. It’s funny because I’m learning about anxiety as a 34-year-old, and I’m praying that as I learn, I can guide you into truth: that you have power over your mind, by God’s grace, you can mediate on Him and all that is lovely and not let anxiety control you. I pray for you as I pray for myself.

You are just so smart and such a good thinker. I’m so eager to see where God takes you in this life. Your desire to be God’s continues to grow. On July 18, 2017, you asked him to be king of your life again. We were on our way to Aldi, passing a cemetery, and you started talking about Great Grandpa Kurtz…and then when we got home, you started asking about how you could be in heaven forever. I set the groceries aside, and while Lewis rifled through them, and Elsa wreaked havoc elsewhere, you and I sat amidst the half-opened grocery bags in the dining room corner. You sat in my lap, and we prayed together that Jesus would be King of your life, acknowledging that He’s saved you from your sins, asking him to help you believe and live for him. These moments we’ve shared are so special. I close my eyes and see the light in the dining room, I feel the whir of the kitchen ceiling fan behind us, I remember the gray of the gloomy sky outside. We were just surrounded by mess and chaos, but you jumped with excitement when I told you that angels in heaven rejoice when another person asks Jesus to rule their heart. I know, I know, this isn’t the end of your journey towards Jesus and your true home and personhood, but I keep on praying that these tiny stolen moments amidst the chaos will stick, will guide the rest of the moments.

Your vocabulary continues to border on ridiculous. Which is why we don’t correct the things  you do say incorrectly. They just sound so funny coming from a mouth that regularly says words like terrifying, fantastic, small intestines, digestive juices, kidneys, magma, lava, volcanologist, entomologist, tarantula, thorax, antennae. So here they are:

Constructions instead of “intstructions”
-“Hey guys, do I have acid reflux?” – 5th birthday
-Speaking of which….
-Ready to scooter….
-With a knick-knack patty-waack, leave your dog alone
-Calling a traffic round-a-bout a merry-go-round (Elsa calls it a loop-de-loop)
-“May you please…” as in May you please wipe me? May you please give me an applesauce?
-No, I amn’t
-Let’s play hide and ZEKE 

and my personal favrotie…
-We were at Hiawatha Playground. You were pretending the different playground areas were part of a giant digestive system (like a Magic School Bus episode), when you shouted to me, across the playground, for all to hear: “WE’RE GETTING CLOSE TO THE RECTUM.”

Cue our departure.

You’ve made good friends of our neighbors this summer – especially Junah, who matches your zest (and aggression) for life, as well as Addi from up the street. You are excited to be going back to preschool this fall 2/3 same days as your school-bff Addison. We still hang out with Archie and Milo, and we continue to miss Estella.

You love to swim and go to the beach and pool, though you DO NOT LIKE going out deep enough for your feet to not touch, even with floaties. You’re just starting to try to kick your feet up, but it’s really hard for you. You love playgrounds and hitting balls your dad pitches and wrestling your dad when he comes home. You love to read with me, and sometimes our afternoons are swallowed up in book after book while your siblings sleep. I can’t stop either.

You love so many foods, and recently gave avocados and hummus another try and now like those too. You love to cook with me and are always wanting to try new things – you recently asked if we could try roasting and grinding up different kinds of nuts to make “different kinds of peanut butters.” Yes. Resounding yes. You want to visit the world, see the jungles, see volcanoes, see tarantulas in person. Yes, we hope. You are curious about geography and where we live and about how far it takes to get places. You wonder what other parts of the world are like, what people eat. We love that this is part of you. Part of us.

You love your grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles. You love the Twins and scooter rides around the pond and Como Zoo.

Owen – you made me a mom when I first pulled you into my arms five years ago. Your eyes were wide with wonder as you looked and listened. And I love how much I know you now, five years later, as you still observe the world around you with wonder. We love you and wouldn’t be the same without you. You were made for us and we for you, and we are so thankful for who you’re becoming, Owen.

With so much love,

Your Mom



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