Dear Boys —
We are rapidly approaching Christmas here, and you are in school for just one more agonizing hour before your long-awaited winter break. Every morning in the past week you have leapt out of bed to look for the Elf on the Shelf, examined and eaten your Advent calendar chocolates before breakfast, and Baxter has informed us of precisely how many minutes are left until 7am on Christmas morning will finally arrive.
This being the first year you have earned an allowance by doing chores around the house, you had some money in your savings accounts. For months you have not touched a dime of it. We were so touched that you both wanted to supplement gifts you’d made with gifts you could shop for and wrap yourselves for your family. I remember that feeling well, shopping for my family with my own money, and was overjoyed that you experienced it this year as well. You both placed hand-wrapped gifts under the tree that you cannot wait for us to open, and every day you remind us that you bought them all by yourselves. Your glee and pride are contagious!
But I have something important to tell you: no matter what is in those packages (and I know I will love them because YOU picked them out, bought them, and wrapped them for us!), there are some other gifts you have given us during this Christmas season that are just as magical – probably even more. Let me tell you what I mean:
LYLE: Sweet, sweet boy, you have surprised me during this Christmas season in so many ways! First, you have made such great friends in second grade that you want nothing more before school than to run off and play tag with them. Rather than standing by my side, shyly smiling at the classmates who greet you in the mornings and then sadly kissing me good-bye, you stand near me until you catch the first glimpse of one of your buddies and then you go tearing off into the play yard, screeching with excitement. You tell me it’s okay now if I leave for work before the morning bell rings, but it’s such a joy to watch you out there with your friends, I stay put and soak it up in amazement.
Further, you gave me an enormous gift yesterday. No, it wasn’t purchased with your own dollars or wrapped by your small hands. It was the sight of you standing on stage during the school holiday show, looking out at the audience with a broad, confident grin. It was the fact that you had speaking lines prior to the song that you spoke clearly and loudly, so loud that we could hear every single word. And it was the fact that you didn’t even tell me you had those lines, but left it as a surprise to be discovered when I heard that familiar voice with its sweet little lisp ringing through the auditorium and suddenly realized it was my own boy, standing up there with the wide grin of a natural performer. In kindergarten you stood on that same stage, frozen, jingle bells silent while your classmates shook them mightily and sang. Look at you now! I am in awe.
BAXTER: Oh, Baxter, you fabulous tween, you! Imagine my surprise when you announced this week that you wanted to register for the writing workshop offered after school by an author you love! You, who have found the act of writing down your fabulous ideas so challenging these last few years, who cried at the very thought of a writing assignment for homework just two years ago, but who discovered last spring that you can write one heck of a creative story — you are not only handling your school writing work but taking on a class in which you write a short creative story every week and then work closely with a real author to edit it! What a gift that is.
And then! The very next day, there you were on stage at the same holiday show as your brother, not only singing in the choir for the first time but then also on stage again a few minutes later, singing happily in a quartet with three of your friends – a song whose lyrics you and your friends had written yourselves and asked to perform!
I revisit these developments over and over in my mind today, and I am overwhelmed by your abilities – both of you! – to stretch and move outside your comfort zones with such grace and confidence. I hope you will always know, all your lives, that watching the two of you grow and change into such incredible people is the best gift I could ever, ever receive.