Dear son, you are eight today.

It is time for one more of my annual birthday letters to my son who turns eight tomorrow (or today based on where you live). Someday very soon, he will discover this blog and my series of posts on his birthdays. I will have a lot of explaining to do. I cant wait to do it- he deserves to know all this, first hand. Without further ado, here is my letter to my son on his eighth birthday.

Dear little guy

Every year around this time, your mother and I are reminded about the infinitesimally small bundle that was placed in our hands by the wonderful nurse, Amy. With every passing year, some of the finer details of those early weeks of your birth have drifted away from us. We hold on to the precious few things we remember and fill in the gaps with our photos and videos that are and were woefully inadequate (Note to parents to be- dont ever skimp on the photos and videos. Just shoot them and store them away on the cloud. You will never regret it). The one thing we can never forget is how special you were and still are to us.

Your seventh year has been as eventful, if not more than all the years before. You are up to my shoulder now. Soon, you will be as tall as me and I will have to treat you as my friend. Just so we clear, that still does not make you right when you try to argue with me. 

Your interest in reading is awesome. We just invested in a very large bookshelf, just for you. I know I insist that you finish your homework and all your daily practice sessions before diving into a book. But I cant be more thrilled about how you continue to get lost in reading. As a kid, I lived in a thrilling world populated by bows and arrows and later by spies and spells. Your world of talking mice and lightsabers and droids and Ninjas are equally awesome. 

Reading

Basketball came and went. Surprisingly, soccer is back. As is the all new interest in becoming the next Tom Brady. We will see how far that goes. Suffice to say, you have started with the right role model. Speaking of Brady, your increased understanding of all the plays continues to make watching the game with you, so much fun.

Contrary to your theory that you aren’t funny (wherever did you get that idea?), you are a hoot. Intentionally and unintentionally. Your sense of humor is so much of who you are. Never think any less of it.

Your smile with all the gaping holes for the missing teeth continue to light up the house every day. Just make sure you brush them properly every day. Twice. 

This year, you and I discovered Star Wars together. Between Disney Infinity on the PS3, the movies and the Star Wars story books, it seems like we have a lot to talk about. I cant wait to see the seventh movie with you. Once we finish the five before that. At the rate we are going, will get to Episode 7 by the time you are writing these letters to your kid. 

This year, your teacher got you started on writing daily journal entries. Never have I see the imagination of a child in full force than when you write these daily. From your ultimate gizmo ideas to solve global warming and saving the whales to your obsession with the Millennium Falcon, every journal entry is a priceless window into your head. It has been such an awesome read every day, I cant wait for the next day and what that entry brings us.

You continue to be strongly interested in math and science. As much as your mother and I would like you to not follow our path, it looks increasingly like a losing battle. You will go far with the things you create with a simple piece of paper and lots and lots of tape. 

Science

Your passion for music- both vocal and instrumental is a constant source of joy for your mother and I. I may have abandoned my singing but the joy and peace I derive from listening to it, only grows with time. I hope you learn to not just sing and play an instrument but to appreciate it and integrate it into your life as a source of strength and pleasure.

We started martial arts for you this year with Tae Kwon Do and you have taken to it very well. Your practice sessions at home are worth the price of admission to your classes. We hope it gives you the strength to defend yourself when you need to but more importantly, develop a sense of respect for non-violence. 

It is getting harder and harder for me to lift you and plant a big kiss on your cheek without feeling the weight. But I refuse to give up, whatever my body tells me. 

And last but not in the very least, as a second grader, you continue to allow me to hug you and kiss you in public in front of your classmates when I drop you off at school every day. Yes, you did tell your mom that you are a tad embarrassed about it but continue to let me do it. The sheer joy I get out of it is hard to describe. All I can say is that I have a huge smile on my lips as I type this. 

We don’t know what this next year will bring us. More challenges, more new experiences and what not. But suffice to say- we would have it no other way. You continue to teach us a lot by just being you and we cannot wait for you to lead us on to the next leg of this wonderful journey.

Happy birthday!

Appa

Dear son, you are seven today.

It is now officially an annual ritual – my open/public letter to my son on his birthday. I wrote the first one when he turned 4. I followed it up with one when he turned 5. Then one for his sixth birthday. Without much ado, here is my annual birthday letter to you, boy_who_will_always_be_my_little_one.

Dear little guy
Let us get this out of the way first and foremost. You are never too old to be kissed on your cheeks by your dad or mom. In public too. You have not protested. Yet. But I see the signs. You dare not. Not now. Not ever.

Now onto the main letter.

This past year was pretty eventful. A whole bunch of key milestones. Your first trip to the Principal’s office happened. Taking after Dad in that department, I must say. At one point, I considered maintaining an extra set of pens and notebooks in the Principal’s office. There is a teeny weeny bit of pride in seeing you follow my footsteps. But I dare not say that in public, ever again.

You lost your first couple of teeth last year. Your mom chides me that your tooth fairy is too generous. Here is what I told her. I didn’t have one. Mine was the maid in our house who gave me a cup of water and some sugar for the blood. I wanted your memories to be less colorful and more memory worthy. And so you had a rich tooth fairy who decided to be generous with you.

You inherited the one gene your mom and I didn’t want you to inherit- wearing glasses at a fairly early age. You hated the prospect of it but have surprisingly adapted quickly and I am thankful for that. With your penchant for math and science and now the glasses, you do risk the prospect of getting the “Nerd” tag. I really hope you figure out a way to deal with it at school. By the way, the glasses make you look much more like me than ever, or so they say. Your mother disagrees, of course.

Your imagination is a joy to behold, if only you have the patience to put pen on paper. We are all waiting in anticipation for the day you realize the pleasure in writing and enthrall us with your words. It will come someday. Soon, I hope. Basket!

 

Basketball seems to be a thing for you now. And that is pretty awesome. Hope this doesn’t go the way of soccer. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll have better luck than me with the height gene.

For the longest time in your life now (12 months and counting), you have aspired to be a marine biologist. I really hope we take good care of the environment for you until you are ready to take care of it. I think you will do a smashing job if you choose to do it.

Your mother and I are old fashioned when it comes to reading and learning. We would prefer that you learn to read paper books (yes, I know, I know) and write with pen and paper. As much as our house is littered with laptops and tablets, we strongly believe that the right way to learn is through books and human interaction. So, if we do not allow you to have any more tablet time than the school work demands, forgive us. We think that is what is right for you and we are not willing to change our minds on this one. You will thank us later.

Then there is your music. As much as I love your willingness to sing everyday, in the car, in your bed, in the kitchen, on the phone to your grandparents, at our friends, at concerts, and yes, very much so in the bathroom, there is something I love even more. And that is your interest in listening to good Carnatic music. For your vocal chords may or may not be your friend, but the ability to listen and enjoy music is a habit that will take you far and wide in your life. It is the biggest gift my parents gave me and if there is one thing I ever hope to pass on, this would be it. So listen on!

Last but not the least, with every passing year, your mother and I are holding on to the threads of your childhood, not wanting to let them fly away from us. You have a wonderful life ahead of you. And we cannot wait to see you show the world what you are capable of. But to us, you will always be the little guy who snuggles up on weekend mornings and is willing to, in private of course, indulge us with as many kisses we want to give and receive from you. 

As the clock ticks twelve and you are officially seven years old, I wish you everything you desire and much much more. You zoom on. We are with you, always.

Happy Birthday!

Appa

P.S: More than half of your best friends (as of this evening, subject to change tomorrow morning) are girls. Yet another good gene, my boy. Yet another good gene.

P.P.S: If T.M.Krishna is reading this, I hope he will soon make a trip to the Bay Area for a concert. I promised my little guy that I will take him to his concert and convince him to sing “Manavyalakin” and “Mamava Pattabhi”.

Dear son, you are six today.

It is now officially an annual ritual – my open/public letter to my son on his birthday. I wrote the first one when he turned 4. I followed it up with one when he turned 5. Today, the 29th of March, my medium guy turns 6. Here is my letter to you, my little man.

Dearest dude

So you are a year older and a bit wiser. Maybe a little too much for our convenience but we will let that pass. You are starting to ask too many questions. Some of them quite complicated and a few of them uncomfortably so. Give us some time and we will catch up. Until then, let the dictionaries and encyclopedias be your friend.

Reading books

I love that you are hooked on math and science. Attaboy! I say. As much as your mother wanted you to be a creative type completely unlike the two of us, your DNA refuses to cooperate. The older you grow, the more obvious it gets that you are going to be into math and science. Like everyone else in the family. Now that we understand that part, would you be so kind enough to consider thinking about building the next great thing. I am not looking for a $19 billion buyout. Something in the millions would be fine too. If you agree, I am willing to start saving towards your rent in SFO. You will most likely need that.

Last year, we had talked about girls. Yes, the same girls. You now have your doppelgänger who happens to be a girl. We are thrilled about it. Not so much about you following her instructions to a T and getting into trouble, but all the other parts including your newfound appreciation (as you clearly put it, not love) for pink and peach. The perspective is all good. Just one note of caution. As much as you like your friend, never, never ever call her your most favorite girl in the world. Not in front of your mom. Rule No 0: The mother is always the favorite girl, lady, women in the world. Never changes. Until you get married and then, the “if…then” clause kicks in. 

V art

We have kept technology away from you as much as possible. Sometimes we wish there could be a balance but not as yet. This birthday, we got you a Chromebook so you have all the right tools at the right time. It is a great device to learn cool things. And the occasional Angry Birds.

Your continued love for music is fantastic. I love the fact that we can listen to good Carnatic music together. While you continue to love Balamurali Krishna’s singing, your newfound admiration for Abhishek Raghuram (and his Viribhoni) is admirable. As is your liking for the Sikkil Gurucharan and Anil Srinivasan combo. I hope to get you to meet one or all of them someday. Remember, these guys put in a lot of effort to get where they are. It is not just talent. So, there is no point in expecting music to come to you naturally. You have to put in the effort. Yes, I am talking about your complaints over repeated practice. Gotta do it. No way around it.

I love, love the fact that you run to hug me when I drop you off at school. In front of your BFF, no less. I know this is a fleeting experience that will soon disappear. Until then, I will cherish every one of those tight hugs.

The Medium Guy

Your mother and I so desperately wish to freeze things in time. As much as we would love for you to eat your food yourself without taking the entire day and clean yourself up properly, we oh so desperately miss the little guy who was knee high and wobbling around in his diapers, and babbling incessantly. We miss that little one so much and as you grow older, even more so.

We love it when you speak in Tamizh. But it is starting to get rarer and rarer. Please, please speak the language a little more like you used to. For our sake. It feels like honey in our ears when we hear it. No hyperbole whatsoever.

I am thrilled that you are not scared of lizards in the garden. I am not gung-ho about you wanting to go and touch them. But not being scared is nice. If only your mother saw our side of things. 

Finally, to me, the greatest part of my day is when I put you to bed and watch you go to sleep. Nothing, absolutely nothing feels purer and awesomer than that. In that moment, the Universe just feels right.

Happy birthday, my would-be paleontologist who also happens to be a would-be geologist.

Signed,

Appa.

P.S: Too early to be asking questions about the reproductive system from your encyclopedia. End of conversation. Finito.

Dear son, you are five today.

Dear son,

I wrote an open letter to you when you turned 4. I figured I might write one more as you turn five today. At this rate, I just might make this an annual affair. Without further ado, lets get to the matter.

Last year, I had the luxury of writing stuff I wanted and not having a worry in the world as to how you would take it because you weren’t really reading anything then. Things are very different now. You read. You actually read big words and sentences. Pretty remarkable how quickly you have grown in the last year. So in honor of your reading skill, I’ll try not to use big words in this post. Just in case you figure out a way to get to my blog. You never know.

You are a big boy now. Not too long ago, you were this little thing no longer than my arm. And now, you are refusing to hold that very hands that lifted you all day, every day. Life has changed. You may not miss it. Your mother does. I do too. All the time.

Weekends are such a joy with you and your mother and I cant wait for it to arrive soon enough. But then there is an added incentive as you are something else during the weekdays. Dude, riddle me this- How many times do I have to tell you that I need to get to work in the morning and things dont happen miraculously?. How many times do I tell you that you cant eat without brushing your teeth nor can I eat your breakfast?. And dude, when you climb onto the car, just find your seat and sit. Is that so hard, really?

We are thrilled that you have taken to music big time. We love that you want to listen to music all the time and also sing your favorite songs. But just keep this in mind- as you grow older, your peers will introduce you to noise of various forms. We have our own little heaven in songs like Jugni Ji, the nottuswaras of Dikshitar or the melodies of Ilaiyaraja. Let not any other noise invade our souls. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But just saying. Also, whining does not constitute music, if you ever had any misconceptions on the matter.

For a long time, I never figured why my colleagues at work had their kids art in their cubes. It was kids art. What was the big deal. But now I know. With every picture you draw, my chest puffs with pride and I cant wait to share it with people or with your grandparents. It was never about the art, was it?

art
art

I continue to be thrilled by your selection of women you want to marry someday. Your latest choice has my full approval. This time you have progressed to making baby plans with her- twins no less. That may be overreaching IMHO but hey, I am not stopping you from dreaming. You continue to make choices like her and you have an ally in me.

We had our issues in getting you to drive a bike without trainer wheels. I did push you beyond your comfort zone. But dont you get the kick now that you have mastered it?. Take this quote from your dad’s favorite kid’s book – “Try them, try them, and you may!. Try them and you may, I say.” Just promise you’ll give everything a shot. I assure you, you wont regret it.

I like the fact that you like to talk. Very much so. But occasionally it may be a good idea to listen to your mom. This is one solid piece of advice I can give you, having known her for 14 years now. While on the topic of your mom, she loves it that you snuggle up to her. Just so you know.

When you were a couple of months old, your mom and I had this huge argument over co-sleeping. She was very much adamant that you should sleep next to us. I wasn’t a big fan of the idea. Fast forward to a month ago when you finally banished me from your room. I can’t tell you how much I miss sleeping in your room- listening to your random musings before going to sleep and your snuggling up to me in the morning. It was the first time I realized that you were not a kid anymore. It broke my heart.

You finally woke up to superheroes and Transformers this year. Thank Goodness for that. We have a lot to talk about. While I share your ardent admiration of Optimus, I have to say that Megatron deserves a chance too. Poor sod. He isn’t as bad as he is made out to be. He is just a survivor. On the same topic, great that you like Iron Man. Not sure what you see in Spiderman. The dude sucks. Really, really!

On the subject of toys, during one of those regular toy cleanups in your room this year, you actually asked me to toss out your Thomas toys. For a long time, I couldn’t wait for you to get past those holier-than-thou Brit trains and move onto cooler stuff like superheroes. But when it really happened, I was shattered. You see, I associate Thomas to your 2s and 3s. Another sign that you are growing up and I didn’t like that thought one bit. So yes, I have all your Thomas toys stashed away. Aint trashing them, evah!

I think I have written and shared enough. I will now go back to looking at your pictures and videos over the last five years. Time flies so fast. I miss the 0 year you, the 1 year you, the 2 year you, the 3 year you and now, the 4 year you. A lot.

Soar!
Soar!

If you ever get to reading this, I have one piece of advice on your birthday. Soar, my boy, Soar!. The world is waiting for you. Fly high and fly free. Let not anything hold you back.

Happy Birthday, my very own Superhero.

Signed,

Dad.

Dear son, you are four today.

I am still in denial.

You were but a little baby, just about an arms length when I first saw you. You have grown since then. Quite a bit. You sit next to me at the table and have a conversation these days. And I thought you werent going to be doing that until, well, ever.

4

I remember the nights when I would pace the bedroom with you in my arms, slowly coaxing, cajoling and soon praying that you’d go to sleep. Sometimes you did, only to wake up when I put you in the bed. Yes, I remember those nights vividly. My tshirts bear testimony to it. And now, I cant lift you for more than 5 minutes without starting to feel my back hurting. You have come a long way.

There was a time when your babbles were music to my ears. Now, I wish you would occasionally pause to let your dad and mom talk. Then again, I was no different and that gives me an odd thrill. The seed does not fall far from the tree afterall.

You can be a pain some mornings. Scratch that. Most mornings really. I never thought brushing one’s teeth was such a massive chore. I never thought it would take any human over 2 minutes to wear their socks and shoes. You proved me wrong alright. I never believed our biological clocks treat weekdays and weekends any differently especially while waking up. Apparently not. Somehow you have got them mixed up. If only I could change that.

They started teaching you to read and write at school. Never imagined the toll that it would take on me. I mean, how hard is it to write a lower case “e”. Really. Really?. Just as I am about to tear the few remaining hairs on my head, you blow me away with your incredible smile. As your mom always says, “Sucker!”.

I never thought I would see you fall for a girl until you hit elementary school. Apparently you have a thing for quite a few of them in your day care already. And for thin and charming well dressed women, much much older than you. But hey, the seed doesnt really fall far from the tree.

For all this, you are incredibly tuned to your our emotions so much so that your mom and I long for your hugs and kisses, all the time. I know that when you run out of things to tell me while you are in bed and not really feeling sleepy, the only thing left in your arsenal is “I love you appa”, it still blows my mind. Everytime.

I could go on and on. But I will stop here. I never thought life would be so much complicated and challenging after a child. You have showed me and how. But with every word you speak and every hug you give your mom and me, I can only wish this phase lasted forever. We already miss you as a baby, an infant and will soon miss you, the toddler. Life has indeed become quite different from what it was 4 years ago.

All the more awesomer. Happy birthday, medium guy.