Dear Isaac, (A Letter to my 3-year-old son.)

Dear Isaac,

You are three years and three months old, and you are the funniest little boy I know. People often say that it is right that your name means laughter. How can I describe you? You are tough, soft, dancing, stubborn, you love beauty and fruit, you insist on your own way. You are excited by life, you sometimes confide in strangers and sometimes scowl at them.

You were bitten by a dog in a bus station the other day. None of us saw you walk toward it, thinking it was another dog, and getting a bite on the cheek for trying to pet it. A sudden scream and you ran toward me with blood on your face. We taped you up, got you on the bus, and six hours later, we went to the hospital in Chiang Mai. You were very brave. You got two shots, one in each arm, before they injected your face and you decided that you had had enough. It was hard to watch you being sad and getting injections, but mostly I was proud of you, because you were so courageous, so fun, so interested in everything, (you sat up on your gurney at one point and asked, “Mama, why do these neighbors have medicine?” and I really had no idea how to respond to that) and so full of life and sweetness. You told me that coconut is better than any chocolate. And then we walked out and caught a red truck to get back to our hotel and go to sleep.

You are very quirky. You get places mixed up. You get the words, Hospital, Hotel, and Hotsprings mixed up. So sometimes I say, “We’re going to the hospital,” and you jump up and down and cheer. Because you think we’re going to the pool and hot springs and you’re going to get to swim. 

You get bigger places mixed up too. 

A while ago you said, “In America, there are a lot of chickens and dinosaurs, and the road is broken.” I blinked at you. “Are you talking about India?”

“No! America!” 

“Are you talking about Chiang Mai?” I pushed.

“No, America!”


Or people, and relationships.

“What’s a wife?” you asked me.

“A wife is…” 

“No! Kenya said a wife is… Uncle Neil’s wife is about… Auntie Ro. Uncle Brendan’s wife is about… Auntie Leaf. Uncle Josh’s wife is about… Auntie Omi.” 

“That’s true.” I said.

Kenya filled in, “And then he asked, is Jazzy’s wife Elkie?” 

We laughed and said, “Elkie is Jazzy’s sister. Jazzy doesn’t have a wife, just like you don’t have a wife.” 

“I do have a wife!” he said. “My wife is in America.”


Practical life with you can be an exercise in patience.

“I will brush my teeth by myself.” 


“After I do my breathing.” 

And then you proceed to do some very interesting breathing exercises, as though you are going to give a speech or try to make your way through a difficult childbirth.

Time is also a bit difficult. Everything in the past for you is Yesterday. “Yesterday I was a tiny baby.” “Yesterday I was in India.” 

You are learning letters, and can tell us the letters on packages you find. “Why does this say K-L-I-M?” you asked the other day, about a box of soy milk that you found. 

You have learned to swim. You taught yourself. You kick your feet and dive down, learning to love the feel of your body moving through water, the way the water holds you up and surrounds you. And I watch you swimming, and you come grinning toward me with your face wide open in smiles, your dimples, your little fish body, and I feel so much love for you. We have a favorite game, one we play when you are being "a trial." 

"I love you when you're happy and when you're sad," I say.

"And what else?" you ask.

"When you're sleepy and when you're excited."

"And what else?" 

"When you're mad and you're sweet. I love you all the time."

"And what else?"

The game goes on, and it will always go on.

I love you Isaac, my little bear,