A love letter to Tristan

(Editorial note: I promised that I’d write this post 20 days ago on Tristan’s birthday, just like I wrote one to Simon on his birthday. It took me a long time not just because it’s been a crazy month, but because it’s hard to pick and choose among all the wonderful things that define Tristan to me. Also, for the first time I am aware of Tristan as a possible audience to this post, at some future date, and that has made me inexplicably self-conscious in writing this.)

My darling Tristan,

You are five years old. The rounded cheeks of your babyness have melted away, revealing the fine cheekbones and strong jaw of a handsome young man. Your unfairly long eyelashes frame your gorgeous eyes, gray one moment, then green, then blue. Your eyes take in the world, and I see the world in a different way because of how it is reflected in your beautiful, thoughtful, searching eyes.

You are a joy to me, every single day. I love your companionship, the simple joy of getting to know you and spending time with you. I love that we can sit on a quiet afternoon and play Uno together and I don’t have to help you or let you win. I love bringing you with me as I run errands, simply for the pleasure of your company. I love to talk to you, to discover that you have opinions and ideas and perspectives that are uniquely your own. I love your sense of humour, and I love to laugh with you.

You don’t need me to take care of you at every moment anymore. You can open your own seatbelt and car door, and put on your own boots and coat, and I can trust you out of my sight for more than a minute or two at a time, and while I am greatly relieved by much of this, it still surprises me. You have grown up so much in the past year, your first year at school.

School. You are doing so well at school, and I am so proud. You are so clever, my Tristan. I’m glad that the learning comes easily for you, and that you seem to enjoy each new task. By all accounts, after our first meeting with your teacher, you’ve thrived. You’ve taken to school like you’ve always belonged there.

You are kind, and thoughtful, and considerate. A few weeks ago, you took it upon yourself to put away folded piles of laundry you found on my bed. In the past week, you’ve taken to making your own bed – without anyone asking you to do it. And when you saw how pleased we were, you made your brother’s bed, and made a good stab at making our big bed, too. You, like your mother, like to please people. I can see you absorbing our praise and approval like a plant absorbs water and sunlight.

You are even considerate of your brother. When the two of you are colouring endless pages of your favourite Toy Story and Cars characters printed out from the Internet, you are careful to write Simon’s name on all his pages for him. The other day, tears ran down my cheeks from supressed laughter as I peeked around the corner from the kitchen and watched you try to help your brother put his pyjamas on, because you had yours on and of course he wanted to be just like you. You are surprisingly patient with the number of times you are asked to relinquish something or share something or give your brother the first turn at something, simply because he is younger than you. You are an ideal older brother.

You also have your mother’s obsessive tendencies. You have moved in the past few months from fixations on Thomas trains to Cars toys to Toy Story characters. You have also inherited your mother’s attachment to the computer, and if we let you, you would stand for hours in front of the cabinet that holds the family computer, playing video games and looking for new colouring pages. Well, maybe you get that from your father, too.

You are, son of mine, a little bit on the obstinate side. You know your mind, and you know what you like, and you are quite sure that you know more about the ways of the world than your doddering parents. Which most likely is true, but I was hoping for a few more years before you figured it out.

You still love to cuddle, thank goodness. You are endlessly affectionate, and free with hugs and smiles. You love to share a blanket, or a bed, or simply curl up with us on the sofa. I love the way you rest your head on my shoulder as we read a book together, and the way you will rest your hand on me with affection and ownership.

You are a miracle to me in so many ways, my Tristan. You are the oldest, breaking new ground with every day. I often feel like we are learning as much from you as you are learning from us. It falls to the first child to teach the parents how to parent, I think, and you are a good teacher. As you grow up, I am constantly delighted by your emerging personality.

I love you more than I could ever tell you, my son. From your bright smile to your warmth and affection to your growing independence… you find new ways every single day to endear me, to charm me, to win me over. I love you, Tristan. More and more each day.

Tristan’s recipe for a successful birthday party

It’s the fifth anniversary of my due date with Tristan. To celebrate, we had a party!

After considerable angsting on the subject of birthday parties earlier this year, I think I’ve stumbed upon a winning combination.

Take eight boys, ages 3 through 6, and give them some hula hoops.

Add a bunch of foam cubes and a high platform.

Throw in a trampoline, a rope that swings, and a a balance beam.

Make sure there’s some pizza, and of course some presents.

And of course, the icing on the cake is a cupcake cake.

A good time was had by all!

Tristan lends a hand

I had spent the whole day doing laundry and sorting clothes into careful piles on my bed.

I was in the kitchen finishing dinner when the boys came home. Tristan disappeared upstairs shortly after he got home, and hollered down for his brother after a few minutes.

“Simon, Simon, guess what! Our favourite jammies are clean. I just put yours on your bed!”

I stopped stirring the potatoes. I couldn’t have heard that right. Did my four year old just say he was putting away the laundry?

“Tristan,” I called in as neutral a voice as I could manage, “What are you doing?”

“Putting away my clothes,” he called back, the pride evident in his voice.

“You put away the piles that I had on my bed?” I asked, still unable to believe what I was hearing.

“Only my own clothes, and Simon’s jammies. I left yours and most of Simon’s on the bed.”

“Oh. Okay, thanks…” I said, incredulous and bemused and annoyed all at the same time.

Yes, my four year old took it upon himself to put his own clothes back into his drawers. When I went up later to retrieve them, he had even correctly sorted the pants, shirts, jammies and underwear into the correct drawers. I couldn’t help but smile as I pulled them back out of the drawers. They had been carefully sorted on my bed for a reason… I was about to put them into a suitcase, as we were leaving the next day to visit my brother.

Think it will ever happen again? Nope, me neither.

Christmas joy

Once upon a time, I dreamed of the day when our Christmas tree would be filled with ornaments made by little hands.

My heart grew three sizes this week when Tristan brought home his first hand-made ornament, carefully crafted at school and packaged in a brown paper bag.

It’s a keeper.

The naming of Tristan Louis and Simon Francis

A couple of weeks ago, Chantal from Breadcrumbs in the Butter ran a lovely series of posts about how each of her four kids came to be named. I am fascinated by how people choose names, and always love to hear the story behind someone’s name.

I suspect I might have already told the story of how Tristan and Simon got their names, partly because I so love the topic that I tend to talk about it often and partly because after 600+ posts, it’s inevitable that I start to repeat myself. Those of you who know me in person are nodding vigourously at this point.

Regardless, because you know the topic of baby names had to come up eventually, and because I don’t have anything else percolating for today, let’s talk about names.

With Tristan, we always knew what his name would be. I don’t remember exactly when we decided on it, but we were thrilled at the ultrasound to find out he was in fact a he because we were solid on the name of Tristan for a boy and had not even an inkling of a name for a girl.

Tristan was chosen because of Beloved’s love of the Arthurian legends – King Arthur, knights of the round table, and whatnot, and I simply refused to allow any son of mine to be named Gwain or Galahad or Lancelot. Not that there’s anything wrong with those names, if you happen to like them. But as soon as he said “what about Tristan?”, I knew it was the one. (It didn’t hurt that Brad Pitt had played the noble but wounded Tristan in Legends of the Fall just a few years before, either!)

Tristan’s middle name was also an easy choice. My dad’s name is Louis, Beloved’s middle name is Lewis and his grandfather’s name is Louis. We knew unequivocally that he was Tristan Louis from the time I was five months pregnant.

The sticky part came with his surname. I didn’t change my last name when Beloved and I got married, and when I was pregnant we agreed that my surname would be a second middle name for any kids. But the more pregnant I got, the more important it became to me to have my surname equally represented. Unfortunately, our names hypenated are a bit of a mouthful, and Beloved was resistant to the idea.

We were still undecided when Tristan was born, but we were literally not allowed to leave the hospital until we completed a health card application for him – with his full name. We were all packed up, and Tristan was dressed in his going-home outfit, purchased specially by Granny. I was sitting on the bed and Beloved in the chair, and we glowered at each other, each unwilling to concede. In the end, Beloved capitulated, and I cried tears of relief as I filled out the form with the hyphenated surnames. There have been many times, as I spelled out his name for a pharmacist, or to make an appointment, that I silently apologized to him for saddling him with such a mouthful of a moniker. But mostly I’m proud that both boys carry my name, a name fairly unique and unusual, and I’ll let them decide if they ever want to truncate it to a single name some day. To my surprise, I just noticed the other day when Tristan’s first school picture came home that he is the only child in his class with a hypenated name.

The naming of Simon is a little bit less dramatic. Right up until he was born, we were vacillating between three names, even though Simon had been a front-runner in my mind even when we were naming Tristan. My brother had a friend named Simon when we were growing up, and he always struck me as kindly and thoughtful – two characteristics I attached to the name Simon. The other choices were Thomas and Lucas.

When Simon finally made his way into the world, 10 days past my due date and after nearly 30 hours of efforts to entice him to leave the womb, I knew when I saw him that he would definitely be Simon. Since we gave Tristan the name of Beloved’s grandfather and my father as a middle name, we gave Simon the name of my grandfather and my mother (in masculine form) as a middle name. Simon Francis.

I worried a little bit about “Simon says” and “Simple Simon”, and I even considered the impact of one of my childhood favourite shows, “Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings.” Remember that theme song?

Oh, you know my name is Simon
And the things I draw come true.
And the pictures take me take me take me
Over the garden wall with you.

(Ironically, the Teletoon network here in Canada started running an updated version of that cartoon when I was home on maternity leave with Simon, but when I asked a young teenage acquantance of ours if he had ever had someone tease him about the song, he had no idea what we were talking about.)

In the end, of course, I love both names. I couldn’t imagine them being named anything else.

Rest assured you can expect much more on the topics of baby names in the next six months! In the interim, care to share your baby naming stories?


Today, for the first time, one of the boys helped me with the yardwork and was actually helpful instead of a hinderance! Woot!

We have this huge tree in our front yard; I have no idea what it is, but the builders put one in every yard eleven years ago when they were building on this street. It has these little tiny leaves, maybe the size of Simon’s thumb, that just laugh at my rake as I try to corral them. As I used a combination of the rake and the broom to make piles, Tristan wandered behind me and scooped up the piles using his kid-sized Caillou snow shovel like a dust pan, and put the leaves in the bag. How about that? Only four years old, and I’m getting actual yard work out of him.

Speaking of four years old… he’s melting my heart as I type. Two years ago at Christmas, just before Simon was born, Beloved make a slide show on DVD of all our favourite photos of Tristan and set it to Kenny Loggin’s “Danny’s Song.” Remember that one? It’s always been Tristan’s song for me. The lyrics include these verses:

People smile and tell me I’m the lucky one, and we’ve just begun,
Think I’m gonna have a son.
He will be like she and me, as free as a dove, conceived in love,
Sun is gonna shine above.

Pisces, Virgo rising is a very good sign, strong and kind,
And the little boy is mine.
Now I see a family where there once was none, now we’ve just begun,
Yeah, we’re gonna fly to the sun.

(Chorus:) And even though we ain’t got money,
I’m so in love with ya honey,
And everything will bring a chain of love.
And in the morning when I rise, you bring a tear of joy to my eyes,
And tell me everything is gonna be alright.

Tristan is in fact a pisces (I don’t know how to figure out his rising sign) and from the time I was pregnant with him until now, I can’t hear this song without tears coming to my eyes.

The boys have recently rediscovered the DVD with this song looped on it, and watch it over and over again. Tristan is now singing along with the song, his song, and it’s a perfect moment. Not a baby anymore, my boy. Strong and kind, indeed.

The sqaushed dandelion

His beautiful grey eyes are cloudy as he comes through the door, and Tristan bursts into tears as he sees me.

“What’s wrong?” I ask gently, pulling him toward me. A tearful entry is not uncommon, as he is buffeted by his emotions on many days.

He holds out a wilted and slightly brown dandelion head with a bit of stem attached. Where he found a dandelion flowering in November, even one as pathetic as this one, is a mystery to me. “Bobbie squashed it!” he cries, as I looked over his shoulder and make eye contact with his father, coming through the door with Simon in his arms. Beloved’s shrug says, “Don’t ask me.”

“Bobbie squashed it?” I prompt, genuinely moved by the fat tears rolling over his downy cheeks. Bobbie is the daycare provider, and usually held in high regard. “I’m sure she didn’t mean to.”

“But I wanted it to be special, for you!” he says through tears so thick I can barely understand him. “And now it’s ruined.”

I pull him close and wrap my arms around him, my heart enormous with my love for him, and aching for all the things in life that will hurt so much more than a squashed dandelion. This treasure is my son, my first son, but he’s not my baby anymore. I have tears in my own eyes as I rock him on his feet, his shoes and coat still on, the dandelion pressed between us.

“He’s not so squished,” I try to reassure Tristan. “He’s quite beautiful, actually.” Tristan will have none of it, and is disconsolate.

“I wanted it to be special!” he insists. “Maybe we should put it in some water, and then it will feel better?” he says, showing his first sign of hope. I look at the sad remainder of a former dandelion, and I know no amount of water will ever make a difference.

“Well,” I begin, thinking quickly, “what if we planted this beautiful dandelion in the garden? We’ll plant him in the garden, and next spring after all the snow has melted, he’ll sprout into a beautiful new dandelion with a bright yellow flower.”

Tristan nods and smiles, and no rainbow was ever so radiant as his bright eyes as the last tears melt away. I hunt for a moment in the garage to find a small spade, and we step out onto the walkway leading to the front porch. Even though it is not yet dinner time, the sun has set and we both shiver as we stand coatless in our stockinged feet on the cold bricks. I clear away some dried leaves and dig a small hole in the damp earth.

“Do you want to drop it in?” I ask, and Tristan nods. With tender ceremony, he takes the mottled ochre flower and places it gently in the hollow. I hand him the trowel, and he smooths over the earth and leaves.

With great satisfaction, he hands the trowel back to me and turns back for the house. I smile to myself, thinking of the hours I spend each summer pulling the infernal weeds out of the yard, only to plant them in a place of honour in the garden in the fall.

To be honest, I hope it blooms. This is one weed I’ll let grow in peace.


Tristan squared

While I was at work yesterday, Beloved took the boys to the paediatrician for Tristan’s three-year old check-up. Um, yes, he turned three a month ago – I kind of forgot to make the appointment until last week.

This is a big step for me, giving up control of a well-baby appointment to Daddy. I have no trouble letting Beloved change diapers or get up for midnight feedings, and he does a great job getting them dressed — probably doing a far better job of coordinating their outfits than I ever do. He stays home with them two days per week, so he’s quite good at feeding the boys, putting them down for naps and taking them on little excursions. In a perfect world, I’d prefer it be me at home with the boys, but if not me then Beloved has proven himself more than worthy of the challenge.

But it was still hard for me to relinquish control of the doctor’s appointment. This is serious Mommy-territory, and I have been known to have control issues on occasion. Would he remember to ask the right questions? Would he be able to handle both boys in the exam room? Would he remember enough details of what the doctor asked and observed to satisfy my neurotic need for affirmation that Tristan is doing well?

Yes, yes and yes. I have to tell you, I’m proud of all four of us. First, I’m proud of Tristan for behaving so well. (By contrast, the two-year old appointment was a bit of a farce, with Tristan pulling the ‘I’m a boneless bag of slippery potatoes and I will resist your every attempt to examine me as if you were attacking me with a hot poker’ tantrum.) I’m proud of Simon for being patient and only trying to climb up the doctor’s leg once during the exam. I’m proud of me for ‘letting’ Beloved handle the appointment. Mostly, though, I’m proud of Beloved for exceeding my expectations of him and for being more than able to handle everything the boys throw at him.

He even remembered to make a mental note of Tristan’s new stats for my wall calendar-cum-baby book. Tristan made it a little easier for him by being a perfect square – he is 40.5 inches tall and weighs 40.5 lbs. He is in the 95th percentile, the size of a five year old. Another whopper in the family!


I have the power

It started innoccuously enough. I was trying – with little success – to motivate Tristan into getting his little butt in gear so we could get out the door. He had a different agenda.

Me (ordinary voice) : “Okay, Tristan-bean, time to get your shoes on.”
Tristan : ignore
Me (singsong voice) : “Triiiiistan, it’s time to go. Come here please.”
Tristan : ignore, poke Simon
Me (stern voice) : “That’s enough of that. Get over here so I can put your shoes on.”
Tristan : ignore, poke Simon
Me (annoyed voice): “Hey! Are you listening to me? I said get over here NOW.”
Tristan : ignore, starts pulling socks off
Me (bellowing) : “Don’t you DARE pull those socks off.”
Tristan : tosses peeled-off sock in the other direction

That’s when it happened. Like tumblers clicking into place, something shifted deep in my psyche. It burbled up from the depths of my being in an icy geyser. I felt my facial features twisting, pulling, moulding into something I had never experienced. That’s when I unleashed… (cue ominous music) the Icy Glare of Impending Doom.

My own mother has an Icy Glare of Impending Doom that would freeze a hardened criminal in his tracks. I am 35 years old, and still wake in the night after panicked dreams of being on the wrong end of the Icy Glare of Impending Doom. It is the ocular equivalent of a taser.

I didn’t know I had it in me. It never occured to me to even attempt an Icy Glare of Impending Doom – such powers are not to be trifled with. Like divine intervention, the Icy Glare of Impending Doom makes itself available when the time is right.

To my amazement and delight, the Icy Glare of Impending Doom lasered through my eyeballs and neutralized Tristan’s obstinance. As he scuttled obediently over to collect his discarded sock, his eyes flashed a quick succession of surprise, respect and compliance. He never saw it coming.

Like a superhero discovering their secret talent, I feel I have come fully into my power as a mother now. I have harnessed the power of the Icy Glare of Impending Doom. Don’t mess with me or I’ll glare at you, too.