From the category archives:

Letters to baby

Your 1st birthday party!

by Milton on Mon, May 16th, 2011

in Letters to baby,Year 1

Dear Axelrod,

Here are some pictures from your 1st birthday party yesterday:

I have to say, I am feeling rather overwhelmed with love and gratitude for you, Esther, and the group of friends and family who celebrated your 1st birthday today (whether they could make it to our rainy house or not). I mean, really, the universe dealt you some pretty dang amazing cards when it comes to the people who love you right off the bat without even having to do much yet.

And then you went ahead and took your first real solid steps and sealed the deal. At your own party. Well played!

Of course, the cheering scared you so much that you crumpled into a ball and started crying, but I think that’s just because you can’t quite tell the difference between people cheering FOR you and people jeering AT you. I promise it was the former. We all are quite taken with your every step, literally.

You got a cape with the first letter of your name on it, which you should never take off.

You got a ukulele. And Jenny helped tune it and play you the first dozen or so lovely songs on it. I have some uke practice cut out for me.

You hung out with your baby friends Owen, and Lilia, and Tavi. They are gonna give you a run for your cute money, you better watch your back.

And one of the most amazing gifts of the day was from your urban family member Carinna, who compiled all the letters we wrote to you before you were born, and all the letters your urban family members wrote to you at Esther’s baby shower for you. It’s a lovely book filled with love for you, and it brought tears to our eyes to read the things within.

Here’s to a long tradition of letters to you from the people who love you.

Love,
Papa

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Had someone told me during all of those years that I spent being my own selfish self that I would love a baby as much as I love you, I probably would have laughed them off.  If I could have felt even a tenth of that love, like watching a preview for a fantastic movie, I might have called all my own selfishness off and gone ahead with The Parent Agenda a bit too soon.

I don’t regret having gotten around to my parent agenda a bit late in the game.  I got to spend many years becoming my own person, operating by my own whim, and cultivating my own character.  That’s a pretty awesome thing and I consider myself very fortunate to live in a modern age where women even have the option of becoming 100% of their possibility before offering some of that possibility up to the whim of a little baby.

Now that you are here, while I look back on the years before you with some nostalgia, I would never go back to a time when you weren’t a part of my life.  Rather, I want to take every magical thing that I learned during my time before you and show you just how wonderful life can be.

I hope that you have all the opportunities that I did, and more.  I want to help you feel free enough to experience every emotion, free to trod down any path, and free enough to try your hand at any craft that will help you develop your own special brand of person.

I spent a lot of time getting to know myself, but it wasn’t until I started getting to know you that I felt all of my experiences close in full circle.  The best way I know how to thank you for that is to be the best parent I can possibly be for you.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to be that parent if you had come into my life a decade sooner.

I’m glad we both waited.  I’m glad you’re here now.  I know that I’m happy.  So far, you seem pretty happy, too.

Love,

Your Mom

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Ready to the max

by Milton on Fri, May 7th, 2010

in Letters to baby,Week 39

Dear Axelrod,

Tomorrow is your due date.  That’s pretty crazy.  And awesome.  Every night, we go to sleep with a little thought in the back of our minds that maybe you’ll decide to enter the world during that night while we sleep.  Why do babies tend to start their entrances into the world at night?  Can you even tell what time it is in there? Sounds like another fishy myth to me.

Yesterday, when Esther and I were walking around, we started talking about things that we wish we had learned when we were kids.  As people who have recently grown up in the same world that you’re about to enter, we’ve often noted that there are certain things that we feel slipped through the cracks in our education.  Things that we all do sort of end up learning in a Lord of the Flies kind of way, but never had formal or even intentional training in.  A few of the things we mentioned were:

  1. How to imagine ourselves in other peoples’ shoes (empathy)
  2. How to have confidence without being overconfident
  3. How to enjoy delayed gratification, work and have long term goals
  4. How to balance being independent with accepting and appreciating help from teachers, mentors and parents
  5. How to handle ambiguity, how to make it up and make it happen
  6. How to be curious about things, try new things, explore the unknown
  7. How to determine your own likes and dislikes, tastes, and preferences
  8. How to trust people
  9. How to make decisions, how to balance risks, how to plan for consequences
  10. How to manage money
  11. How to be healthy

The shocking thing to us is that these are things that we, as your parents, are still learning after all this time.  It’s amazing to me that we’ve even made it this far with having learned so little about the things that we want to teach you before your 10th birthday.

Still, we’ll do whatever we can to make sure that we give your the right environment to learn about these things, and may even put together our own little supplementary educational system to go along with your formal education.  And of course, that’s the charge of every parent, and I’m surprised that we weren’t all given more training ourselves on how to guide our children in their early lives.

So much learning in life is left to our own devices, and while we’re still devising our own learning we’re excited to also help give you the devices to help you learn about stuff as well.  Onward and upward with each new generation, right?

In the meantime, just keep your head down and just go in the direction that gravity pulls you.  That’s all you need to know for now.

I’m really looking forward to seeing you take your first breath.

Milton

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It seems weird to refer to you as Axelrod, considering how we’ve been calling  you by your real name for months by now.  But your father has some idea of us keeping up with our code names in this journal, and I’m not going to argue with him.  I’ll admit that our code names are pretty funny.  (Your father is currently doing the dishes after cooking dinner, isn’t that awesome?)

Currently, you are making me very pregnant.  I’d post a photo of my bare belly right here for you, but I’m afraid it might be scary.  Rest assured, kid, the belly I keep you in is BIG.  Your very big personality is making for a very big globe in my middle where my whole world rests within.  Or most of my whole world, anyhow.  You are the evolution of all those generations that led to your father and I growing up, finding each other, and getting together to create whatever you are to become.  I find this fascinating.

There will soon be three of us.  I can’t imagine you not enjoying your time with us, frankly.  Tonight, I’ve been looking nostalgically through some photos of your dad and me.  I gotta say, we are a fun bunch.  This is what we looked like on the night we met in person on a fateful New Years Eve that we didn’t realize was fateful for some months:

All wrapped up

That was a good time.  I think that must have been at about 1am, which is an hour we should be seeing a lot of with you, very soon.  During those days in our shared, imminent future- I can guarantee you that we will not be as well dressed or have as much champagne in our bellies.  I am quite sure that we will, however, still be having a good time.  We do that very well.

Here is a little story in photos about your immediate family and how you came about…

Your father and I fell quickly and immediately in love about 3 years and 1 month before your due date.  This is a photo of us from our second date:

Look at his turquoise hair!

Yes.  Your dad had turquoise hair.  I had significantly less hair.  This will happen again!.  In my dreams, you have rainbow colored hair that matches your father’s rainbow colored hair.  It will be a travesty if you grow up to have conservative tastes in hair, son.  Luckily, you live in downtown Seattle and have a mother who works at a crazy hair salon.  I can’t imagine that your hair tastes will run bland for any great extent of time.

Anyhow, back to the story…

By the time the above photo was taken in the summer of 2007, your father and I already pretty much knew that we were going to spend the rest of our lives together.  We couldn’t tell anyone, though.  Not quite yet!  People wouldn’t have taken us seriously, and we didn’t want to have to argue.  It was fun to keep the secret to ourselves for a while, anyhow.  It was the beginning days of creating that feeling of family that still makes us so excited.  We whispered a lot of secrets to each other when no one was looking.  We talked about definitely getting married and MAYBE having a baby someday.  Not too long after the above photo was taken, your father asked me to marry him after 4 months of a crazy, bi-coastal courtship.  I didn’t hesitate to say yes!  I was with it enough to know when the best thing that ever happened to me asked me to marry him!  We announced our plans to our family and friends about 2 months later.

4 months after the announcement, your dad flew out to NYC (a magical place where I once lived and hope you will live one day, too) to help me move my whole big East Coast body and mentality to be with him in Seattle.  We had a dramatic cross country trip that included a blizzard, several hotel rooms, fantastic fun times with friends in San Francisco and Northern California, and an hours long relationship survey that you might someday be interested to read.  After arriving in Seattle, things looked a little like this for the two of us:

Biggest sand dune on the whole beach!

Love bites

Roadside Attractions

We even posed for fancy engagement photos with your Uncle Andy (I’ll bet you like that guy, he’s awesome).

Engaged!

After 10 months of your father putting up with my difficult West Coast transition (people out here are so weird to me.  You will never understand just how weird, my little West Coast son, and I am glad for that), we got married in a gorgeous East Coast affair in my hometown, Wilmington, Delaware.

Just Married!

It was one of the best days of our lives.  We were supported by our family and friends and had the greatest time, ever.  You were there in spirit, I’m pretty sure.

After the wedding, we went off to Italy, where we talked for three whole weeks about the future.  Sometimes we were on a gondola, sometimes we were eating pizza, sometimes we were hiking, and sometimes we were riding bikes.  Mostly, we were filled with huge expectation.  We knew that great things had happened, and that even greater things would be ahead of us.

On a gondola in Venice

3 months after this photo was taken, we decided on another fateful New Years Eve that we should expand our family to include the person who is shaping up to be you!  This is a funny and somewhat bad photo of what what we looked like on that night:

Soul Night!

In the seasons that followed the above night, we tried to figure out for a good 8 months just how to make you.  We were about to stop trying so hard and concentrate on something else when some sort of magic happened.  Suddenly! your father and I shared a secret once again.

A Secret...

In this photo, I am about 7 weeks pregnant and very excited about having recently heard your heart beat for the first time.  That book that I’m reading is the pregnancy book that led me to hire your midwife.  I had to hide the cover from your Aunt Carinna, who took this photo but didn’t yet know that we were expecting you (I’ll bet you like her a whole lot, too).  This photo excites me, particularly, because at this point in my pregnancy I am dying to lay on my belly in the grass.  I can’t wait for you to get here, so I can spend the summer doing just that!

For a couple of parents who have known each other for only 3.5 years, we’ve got a pretty epic and awesome history.  We are absolutely filled with gratitude and joy to welcome you into our fold.  We know how quickly life can expand with love, how precious all that creating joy is, and how important it is to have a tight unit of family around you.

We are now up to date with our relationship’s photo history and this blog.  Everything between there and here is more or less recorded, in one way or another, for you to read when you are ready.  I hope you can see from the above content just how much we love each other, and just how much we are excited to have you become a part of the very special thing that we share.

We love you, we welcome you, and we think you are awesome, already.

Yours,

Mom

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Dear Axelrod,

by Milton on Wed, Mar 31st, 2010

in Letters to baby,Week 34

Okay, that’s not your real name.  Some friends of ours, I’ll call them Penny and Wilhelm (you’ll like them) told us a little story about how Wilhelm’s parents tricked a few of their family friends into thinking that their future son’s name was going to be Axelrod.  When Wilhelm was born, one of Wilhelm’s uncles threw the new parents a party which sported a big banner that said something along the lines of “Welcome to Earth, Axelrod!” much to Wilhelm’s and Wilhelm’s parents’ surprise and delight.  I liked that story, and thought that it would be fun to give you a blog name as well.  Why not, right?  We’re Milton and Esther here.  Might as well call you Axelrod.

Anyway.

So, as you probably heard from inside Esther’s belly, we threw you a little party this past weekend.  Your grandmother even flew 3,000 miles to attend.  They made you cute onesies with words and images of inspiration, prediction, and sometimes pure randomness which you will be wearing for the first year of your life.  It was awe-inspiring for us as well.  You don’t realize yet just how welcome and loved you are by the world you have yet to enter.  You are going to be surrounded by amazing mentors and friends.  I already found someone to be in charge of your literary adventures.  And another someone to help teach you musical appreciation and sportiness.  Yet another plans to teach you how to be socially deviant.  And the bid’s going to be high for the privilege of giving you your first whiskey.  But we won’t get ahead of ourselves.  You are going to have a lot of time to just soak it in.  Your stroller is all ready.  So is your Ergo and your Moby Wrap.  Not to mention your car seat.  Transportation needs have been met, and you can’t even hold the weight of your own head (outside of the womb) yet.

Of course, I’m still thinking about all the different things I can show you.  But I don’t want to get too ahead of myself… I want to give you a chance to let me know who you are before I decide exactly how I’m going to relate to you.  Because this is a relationship we’re entering into.  The magic of all of this is that you are on the way to becoming your very own person.  I’m your father, and I can already tell that I’m going to be very interested in your thoughts, your personality, your spirit, your ideas, and your actions… but I want to make sure that they come from inside you.  I’m going to try not to project myself into your life.  I will help bring whatever spark is inside you, out.  That’s my goal and my mission.  And in the process, I believe that you’ll be able to bring that spark that’s inside of me out a little bit more as well.  That zero-degrees-removed-from-the-universe force of life.  The part of us that experiences things, feels things, thinks things, and IS things, before they get filtered through our expectations, ideas, and opinions.  We all have it in common, and when we see it in others we can’t help but love them.  And when we hide it from others then we slowly start to die.

That’s my deep thought for the day.

Keep growing, Axelrod!  Keep working on those lungs and that baby fat!  And take your time.  We’ll see you when you’re ready.

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Dear Baby B

by Esther on Wed, Feb 24th, 2010

in Letters to baby,Pregnancy by week,Week 29

It’s getting harder for me to torture the cat. The floor, from which I scoop her, seems to be getting further away as you grow bigger.

My grunting must concern her a bit, because she was just terribly patient with me as I held her like a reluctant little ball on my shoulder. Maybe she is intelligent enough to be a little afraid of the fact that she will very soon lose her status as the cutest thing in the loft.

I can almost guarantee you that she will not display much patience when you are old enough to figure out how to torture her in your own special baby way! I’m sure that we’ll have many laughs at her expense when that time arrives. We like to have laughs at the neurotic cat’s expense in this house. It’s much better fun than watching television!

Poor Soap-Face! We will be sure to feed her lots of wet food between your bashings. She’s a sensitive beast, but the key to her love is hidden in a very simple place. You’ll get some good early life lessons through watching her, I’ll bet.

Love,
Mom

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Dear Baby B

by Esther on Sun, Feb 7th, 2010

in Letters to baby,Pregnancy by week,Week 27

I think your father felt your knee inside my belly last night.  You moved quickly away and are ever elusive with your positioning.  Sometimes, I feel high high kicks that are close to my ribs.  On those days, I can also feel what might be your 10 little fingers tickling so far down low in my belly that I feel you might stick an arm out from me and wave.  I can be pretty sure on these days that you are already in the position that will be most conducive to our comfort when I go into labor in 3 months.  BUT, there are other days when you stretch to other positions.  Laying across my belly.  Swimming around in circles.  Are you a fish?  Are you a yogi like your mom?  A runner like your dad?  Something all together completely new, unexpected, or different?  I am trying hard not to project our personalities on you; I can feel every day that you are of your own mind… but it’s hard for me to not think of  you as sharing at least a few similar interests with your parents.  I hope you won’t get too annoyed with me later in life when you strike out on your own and I tell you that you’re a part of us.  I’ll try to keep an open mind, ok?

For now, since I am able to communicate with these words, I would like to state for the record how I feel your kicking, rolling, and finger tickling will translate to your personality.  Bear with me a bit and we can have a laugh later over how very wrong or very right I may be.

For now, you seem to like it when I pat you through my belly.  Maybe it calms you down.  Maybe it reminds you that there are two of us in here.  When I stop before you are ready for me to be done, you kick and roll to let me know that we haven’t yet finished bonding.  I feel like this is an indication of what’s to come when you’re here, on the outside of me, and we get to spend hours during your beginning – communicating through my pats and your kicks, coos and shouts.  I’m appreciating the early training we have now while certainly looking forward to all the the fun we’ll get to have later.  I think you might be a little like me, needing to know that someone is always there to love you and pet you.

The quality, consistency, and timing of your motion tells me that you’ve got a persistent character, but that you’re not too forceful.  You don’t move suddenly.  You build up and roll down.  You tickle rather than jerk.  You are a fluid little fish inside me.  Sometimes I poke you and you poke me back, playfully.  Sweetly.  I never feel as if you’re uncomfortable or unhappy.  I venture to hope that you have the Benson family positivity streak… goodness knows that’ll be useful to you in this house.

This is all I know about who you are, for now.  And I realize that it’s all speculation.  I reserve the right to change my opinion of you at any time.  You can reserve the right to tell me that I’m wrong anytime, too.  Just please, be as gentle as you are now.  I already love you too much to fight.

Love,

your Mum

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A Letter to Baby B

by Esther on Sat, Jan 9th, 2010

in Letters to baby

Dear Baby B,

I’ve been laying about during my down time during the last few weeks thinking about how lucky we are to be having you, right now, during this year, in this city, with these friends, and (most of all) with each other.

Your father and I knew shortly after we were married that we wanted our family to grow.  We immediately started making the emotional and intellectual preparations so that you could be our reality.  We are so ready to have you be a part of our little family.  We don’t have all the things you need yet.  In fact, we’ve barely started collecting stuff.  Luckily, you will be very small when you get here, so you won’t be needing very much.  The thing you need most is something we already have in abundance, anyhow.

We have a whole lot of love in this family already.  Sometimes I wonder how I will be able to love a person more than I love your father already, and then you kick to let me know that you’re here already, and I feel a sense of protective love for you that trumps the greatest feelings I believed I could have.  We are each so fortunate to have this bond.  Not every family feels this way, and we work every day to ensure that we don’t take it for granted.

I look forward to the day when you can read this for yourself, understand how much we want each other, and how much we want you to be a part of every moment we’ll share as a family in the future.

Love,

Your Mom

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Dear Baby Benson

by Milton on Sun, Dec 20th, 2009

in Letters to baby,Week 21

Dear Baby Benson,

Now I can really write to you. I know your gender, and I’ve seen you move! You look like a real baby–to the point that we could count your fingers and toes.  It was a little weird that we could also see right into you and count the vertebrae in your spine, and see the chambers of your heart pumping blood this way and that.  Ultrasounds are mystical technology that way.  I hope that’s the last time I ever see your spine and heart and the contents of your brain in such detail… better to keep that stuff on the down low once you’re in the outside world.

Everyone wants to know if you’re a boy or a girl.  We will be telling people after Christmas, I think, since Esther wants to make your gender a Christmas gift of sorts, which is cute. Personally, I can’t wait to tell people.  I think people will like what you are.

I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations.  What kind of person I expect you to be.  What kind of father I expect myself to be.  What kind of parents Esther and I will make as a team.  Of course, everyone tells us that our expectations are bound to be way off, given all of the random wild card factors that come about when you actually arrive and start expressing your magical combination of genes and environment.  But expectations are unavoidable, necessary even.  We can also expect to have some of our expectations changed in the process.

More than anything, I expect that we’ll be a happy family. That’s the primary thing. A family that gets along with each other. A family that spends time together. A family that helps each other when difficulty presents itself, and a family that knows how to appreciate when times are good.  I have this expectation, and I will not let it go, ever.

I have also begun to think beyond the generic expectations and to go into specifics. To think about which expectations come about simply as a byproduct of what kind of people we are as parents.  Do we expect that you’ll be hyper or mellow?  Do we expect that you’ll be an extrovert or an introvert?  Do we expect you to excel at your studies?  Do we expect that you’ll like sports?  Video games?  Vegetables?  Reading?  Dancing?  Surprises?  Heights?  Music?  Will you be logical or emotional?  How empathetic do we expect you to be?  I guess I expect you to be a little bit like us, plus or minus.  Then again, you’ll be your own self and are welcome to surprise us on any of those characteristics.

The fact that you’re growing up now, in this world, is new.  Esther and I grew up in a world that was 30ish years ago, with a lot of different things going on.  The world is changing fast, and we’re aware of that.  We want to change with the world, to keep up with it primarily as a means of keeping up with you.  We’re excited about the future, and we’re excited that you are going to be a part of it.

It’s definitely weird to think about you as a person all unto yourself. As a person that we have the privilege of introducing into this world.  Guiding you in your growing understanding of how it all works together.  A process that both Esther and I are still on ourselves, and really have no expectation of completing in our lifetime.  While we aren’t experts at this world, we do feel like we have a lot that we can show you.  A lot of cool stuff.

In the meantime, I’m working on reviewing a lot of ideas about life, childhood, etc.  I feel like I’m a teacher and I have a very important class to prepare for.  There’s a lot of material, and I’m not formally trained as a teacher, so I also need to practice that part too.  We’re reading some books, we’re having lots of conversations, and we’re trying to narrow down a few basic strategies for how to work as a team on the amazing task of caring for you.  It’s gonna be awesome, I promise.

Love,

Your dad

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Dear baby

by Milton on Wed, Nov 25th, 2009

in Letters to baby,Week 17

Esther texted me today, “Our baby is awake. :))))))”

I texted back, “Yaaaaaaaay! What’s he/she doing???”

She texted back, “Swimming! Spending secret time with mom…”

“I’m jealous.”

It’s true, I don’t get the same secret time with you as Esther does.  I still haven’t felt your swimming frog legs kicking flips in her belly.  I have a feeling I’m going to want to overcompensate by speaking to you in deep sea voices once I do make first contact with your other-worldly self.

I’ve started learning some songs on my guitar to play for you once you arrive. I’m trying to find baby-appropriate songs that are somewhat soothing and also have either ambiguous or happy lyrics.  I’ve learned about 66% of From An Aeroplane Over The Sea, by Neutral Milk Hotel, and am working also on learning Flume by Bon Iver, When U Love Somebody by the Fruit Bats, and a couple Decemberists and Fleet Foxes songs sit on the backburner waiting for my fingers to callus up a little.  Once I get my guitar-playing fingers working a bit better, and my play-and-sing coordination down a bit more, I will try to write a song or two for you. Or at least change a few of the lyrics to songs I already know. We’ll see. Underpromise overdeliver, right?

Since I haven’t played guitar in a while, I’ve noticed that the songs I’m playing are a lot different from the ones I used to play.  The music of the last few years that I’ve been listening to is actually a lot simpler and easier to play than the music of my highschool and college days (lots of classic rock back then, to be sure).  In particular, the songs are easier to play, but there are a lot more lyrics to memorize. And the melodies are a bit more difficult to sing over the chords.  Just my observation. You won’t know the difference, really. But, I hope you like our music… cause you’re gonna be listening to a lot of it as you grow up.  We’re gonna try our best to avoid baby music… I don’t really get why baby music has to suck. But who knows, maybe it’s because babies have bad taste in music. I’ll leave all options open. Another good policy, I guess.

Back to some guitar now.  Talk to ya later, baby.

Yours,

Milton

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