News From The Woods.45


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published January 1, 2001

"A Letter To Robert"

Dear Robert,

This, your third year of life, marks the time you are coming into you own. So very many things have happened and you have matured so much in the past year. It is so strange to be able to have a complete conversation with you. Your comprehension is astounding. We have spent the entire year spelling things to each other and friends who visit because you pick up on every little thing that is said, and if we want to tell some funny story about you we find ourselves spelling key words or phrases lest you repeat the incident all over again. Mere mention of Santa Claus would cause you to erupt into a running and shouting fit, so we must always spell H-O-H-O and S-A-N-T-A. For that matter we have to spell L-A-K-E and S-I-T-T-E-R. Sometimes our spelling gets so complicated that your oldest brother Jeremy stares blankly and says "What?".

One of my favorite stories is when your "Papaw" came over and constructed a fence around our yard. We thought it might be a good idea if we could contain, or at least "slow you down" a bit when you in the front yard playing. After all, the front yard is about the only place you CAN play, since the back yard is basically a cliff and the lake. Anyway, your Papaw inlisted the hale of both your older brothers, and in a single day a fence was erected in the front yard. It consisted of some "cattle guard fence" placed between steel bars driven into the ground. Not exactly a "fancy fence" but it did the trick. Well.... about halfway into the construction you came outside to watch everyone at work building the fence. You glanced around at the work and asked what they were doing. When told a fence was being built for you ("It's your very own fence, Robert!") you looked up and said "Me no cow. Me no need fence". Well, you can't imagine the laughter from the family on that one!

You have learned quite well how to manipulate both your parents, and know exactly which buttons to push to get results (sometimes not very pleasant ones). We are now in the throes of parental discipline. Both Mommy and I abhor violence, but even we must agree that some form of corporal punishment is in order when you "cross the line". I know you are just testing us and pushing the envelope, but so much of the time you feel it is all very funny, even when you go too far and we say "That's Not Funny!'" I'll never forget the time you strode into a crowded living room with company and yelled "Hey! I'll tell you what! That's Not Funny!", complete with pointing finger and stern look in your face…… and then defiantly marched out of the room like a little soldier. We were stunned, and then we all just broke out in fits of uncontrolled laughter. At first, our spankings were little swats on the behind, but of course the Pull-Ups with all that padding softened the blows to what amounted to love taps. You though that was funny, too, until the day I had to really swat you on the behind to get your attention and it hurt. I will always remember the look you gave me……….. Your little heart was broken because Daddy had struck you and for the first time it really hurt. I almost left the house in grief, but then Mommy would have had to be with you by herself during that time. You didn't want anything to do with me for almost two hours that day after "the incident". I hated myself thoroughly for not being able to reason with you. I guess I'm learning all about what your grandparents had to endure once upon a time.

It is getting a bit better these days. The spankings have at least had an impact on you. You know the difference between bad and good but you still push the envelope at times. It's like sometimes you "pretend" to be bad just to see what happens. We are firm with our "No's" but stop short of actually disciplining you. But when you cross that line we still chase you down and give you a swat (or two, depending on the offense). I don't know where you picked it up, but your worst trait during those times when you feel "bad" is when you "mock spit" at us. You will clear your throat and then let some spittle drool out on your lips. The first time you actually spit I wore you out. It was not fun but I was determined that you should not continue that line of action. You got the idea, but every once in a while when you are really mad at us you will clear your throat and look for a reaction. I just stare you down and don't say a word. Most of the time it works, but sometimes we go 'round and 'round. At least you don't seem to hold it against me like you did in the beginning when I had to discipline you.

In truth, that is the only negative thing I can come up with concerning your past year. For the rest of the time you are a 100% VERY good boy. You are smart enough to know routines and sometimes it is a challenge for us to get you ready for the morning trip to the sitter during the week. We try to rationalize with you about Mommy and Daddy both having to work (imagine that) but some mornings when you cock your little head over and with huge liquid pools of eyes you say "I don't have to go to Ms. Lorrie's today...?"….. well, we just look at each other and shake our heads sadly. I wish in my heart more than anything else we could just keep you at home all day, but it just cannot possibly happen. I can't imagine what it will be like in another year or so as you grow older and are more insistent (and cunning). It's going to be tough. But the truth be know, on weekends when we have you day & night you honestly just wear us out! It's like you know that we only have a couple of days together so you want to make the most of it. Even during the week, when you get home from the baby sitter you are somewhat grumpy to Mommy and I. It took us a while to realize that you were mad at us for leaving you there all day and determined to make us pay for it. After an hour or so you calm down and everything is all right. Then it starts all over again the following day. But truth be known: We don't blame you a bit. All you want is to be with us. The time when you are the absolutely the happiest is when Mamaw and Papaw are visiting and when Luke and his wife Jennifer are here. When the entire family is present in the living room or downstairs in the den you run and play and are always happy (to be the center of attention). You are content and do not demand attention like you do when "regular" company come to visit. But even then you don't bawl and wail or act like a crybaby. Your manners are excellent for a three year old.

This year marked your first big trip. Last year when we went to Florida we were so miserable without you that we vowed "never again". Well, this year, one of Daddy's best school buddies planned a special wedding for his daughter, to be held in Tampa, Florida. It was a "fantasy wedding" theme and you were to be included in the wedding party. The ceremony was very structured and you were required to go down the wedding aisle all by yourself and then take your place on the stage which was built for the occasion. As the father of the bride stood before the stage he swept his arms open and the curtain parted. There was the entire wedding party, "frozen" in their places. Everyone was all standing or sitting very still . The result was that it looked like a huge painting or a still picture from a scrapbook. And there you sat on your special park bench, dressed head to toe in your tuxedo, not moving a single muscle. You glanced left and right but never moved your head. The entire wedding crowd in attendance gave an audible "Gasp!"at such a wondrous sight. I WAS SO PROUD OF YOU! For the entire wedding reception and all through the rest of the evening Mommy and I were repeatedly told how well-mannered you were and what a perfect gentleman you were. You were definitely the hit of the event!

As a reward for your good behavior we went to visit your sister in Orlando, who had arranged for the whole family to go to DisneyWorld for a day. They arranged a schedule so perfect, so thorough, that you got a real taste of Disney in a very short time frame. They even arranged to make reservations to eat lunch with some of the Disney characters. Your first gift upon entering was an autograph book. I didn't think much about that until Missy and Jody guided us through the park like old pros and managed to get us in line for every single character signing that day. Your book was loaded with so many names by the end of the day I was stunned! You met Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, Goofy, Chip n' Dale, Tigger, Poo Bear, Baloo, Princess Jasmine, Snow White, and more characters than I can even remember. What I DO remember is about 6PM when we got the last autograph of the day and you threw up both your hands and exclaimed "ALL the characters!" And I even have that on video forever. I guess the highlights of the day for you were the Buzz Lightyear ride (the only ride we did twice), Winnie the Poo's ride, the animated bear show, and of course you got to "drive" a race cart on a track. Oh, yes. You also (thanks to Sister) were allowed to ride up in the pilot's compartment in the very front of the monorail. What a view! And the absolutely coolest thing was when we returned home and played back the Disney video for Mamaw and Papaw our first night back. When the video was about to end you looked so sad and as if you were about to cry when I reminded you that you could now watch your video anytime you wanted. You said "It's not over?" and I said "No. Never." You were so thrilled you jumped up and ran around the living room telling everyone that you were ready to see it again. You have relived that trip so many times. Video is wonderful!

Also, while in Florida, we arranged to take a jaunt over to St. Petersburg to visit "Daddy's Big School", Admiral Farragut Academy, my old military school alma mater. Only two miles away was Treasure Island, where we got a beach cabana for the evening. Our room opened right out to the beach and ocean. When you came out of your room with your trunks on you made a beeline straight to the ocean and didn't even hesitate to go in. You sure loved the waves but you did NOT like the salt water taste. An hour of the ocean was enough. You then ran back to the motel and got in the swimming pool (your first experience there as well). We almost couldn't get you to to come out. Finally you got hungry and relented. We treated Missy and her entire family to a wonderful seafood dinner on the beach and you were a perfect gentleman. For that matter son, you were a great little Trooper for the entire whirlwind trip. You endured the drive down and back in your child seat situated in the back seat of my tiny sports car. Mommy and I were totally amazed at that and will have no hesitation taking you on long trips anywhere from now on.

As we got closer and closer to Christmas time you sensed it was almost "time" !! You knew that when the leaves fall off the trees and it starts to get cold that it was Winter, which meant time for "HoHo". You live for Christmas! You wanted to watch all our favorite Christmas videos like "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer", "Frosty the Snowman", and "Mickey's Christmas Tale". You even watched "Scrooged" and "The Santa Claus". ANYTHING with HoHo in it. Our neighbor put up their Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving and then showed it to you, so YOU had to have your tree up as well. We gave in, even though we knew by Christmas the tree would probably be a fire menace due to dryness. As we got closer to Christmas Eve you started planning Santa's visit, reminding me to put out cookies and milk for him and such. About every two or three hours you would announce "I'm a good boy!" and we would agree. At one week before Christmas you counted how many more "sleeps" there were before SANTA! Then, on Christmas Eve, while you were playing in your room, there was a noise downstairs. You ran down the stairs and Lo and Behold there WAS Santa, in the flesh! He had made a special visit to see you just for a few moments. He told you what a good boy you had been during the past year and to keep up the good work. You positively beamed with pride! When you asked to see his reindeer he said he only had a moment as he had to get back to work to make sure he could return will all your presents. He DID bring one very special present that night. A book called "Twas The Night Before Christmas". You and Mommy and I read it aloud as we rocked you before bedtime. You could hardly sleep that night…. Tossing and turning. And the next morning you came downstairs and Santa had been back and brought you lots of toys. All the toys you had specifically asked for. Remember the Rocket Tops and the Candy maker? That was all you wanted. Of course there were more presents than you could focus your attention on at one siting, so we doled them out during the following week to you. And it was a good thing because it was the worst winter we had ever seen in the Ozarks. We were literally iced in for three solid weeks. Not that it bothered you. You loved it. No baby sitter for three weeks. Of course, for Mommy and I it meant no work for three weeks, but we sure had a good time in December together even with all the cold weather and cabin fever.

We are so proud of how you are progressing this year. Your mental capacities and awareness of your surroundings always exceed our expectations and hopes. We have real conversations with you and you comprehend what we are saying. You show good manners and say "please" and "thank you". You always share your toys with other children. When you get a treat you make sure you have enough for everyone present. You are thoughtful and mindful. And you NEVER do mean things. You have been taking your time learning potty training, but in the past month you've shown real dedication. You love to help Mommy and Daddy clean house, do chores, and cook. You are exercising your imagination and exploring your creative spirit. This also means you are displaying your temper at times but you always accept the consequences of your actions. Sometimes a "go stand in the corner" is enough. Sometimes it is not. But either way, you always return to us and say "I'm sorry" with that sad puppy dog look in your eyes. You DO know what you are doing even as you do something you know you're not supposed to do. Mommy and I have lost our patience and sometimes our tempers with you, particularly after a long hard day, but we always make sure before you go to bed that you know you are loved and needed in this family. You've also learned that if it's broken, Daddy will fix it. If you are hurt, Mommy will fix it.

As a final thought , when we enrolled you in Montesorri School earlier in the year I thought it would be good for you, but you didn't care for it. The staff were all friendly but careful not to show any "special treatment" to any one child. I can understand the reason for that but you didn't. You were used to a "touchy feelie" baby sitter who loves you and plays with you and watches out for you. After two weeks we admitted to our mistake and promptly took you back to Miss Lorrie. You were so happy we knew we made the right decision. There's plenty of time for you to grow up, Son. Be a child for another year. Besides, it's kind of amusing when we say you are a "Montesorri School Dropout".

We love you,
Mommy and Daddy

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