Dear Jack,

Yesterday, while I sat in the kitchen trying very hard to plow through my book (A Short History of Nearly Everything, if you must know), I heard your familiar high pitched shriek followed by a series of “no”, each one a lot more emphatic than the one before it.    “No, NO, NOO!”  I had to smile.  You have definitely acquired the skill of saying no.  There was some scuffling before I heard your feet pitterpatter away to escape.  “JackJack, give me that!”  Your Kuya Charlie roared from your room.  His feet pounded on the floor.   You appeared in the living room, frantic.  Your wide eyes scanned the room for an ally, someone who could help protect the precious thing clenched in your fist.  You didn’t see me, you realized you were alone.  “JackJack!” your Kuya Charlie called right behind you.    Your feet started to pump up and down while your head shook from side to side.  You lurched forward.  “Goway, goway, goway!”  you screamed as you scrambled up the couch.  Your  Kuya Charlie caught up with you and with no remorse pinned you down.  You screamed some more, “Topit, Topit!”  You both struggled over the treasure, a Lego guy with a helmet that you loved to slip on and off over the guy’s head.  Eventually, because you’re only one and a half and your Kuya is four and a half, he managed to pry the Lego guy out of your fingers.  He ran back to the room while you cried for Mama.  When Mama didn’t show up, you turned around to get your Lego guy back.

 As I recount this, I am realizing once again how articulate you are, especially when it really matters, like when you are being hassled and all you want is to be left alone to enjoy your favorite toy in peace.  You’ve got a lot of words down, mostly food and body part related, but these three words– No, GoAway, and StopIt– are the ones you have mastered and wield with such confidence.  I hope you continue to say them when you need to say them.  They may not always stop your Kuya Charlie now but in the future these words will save you from a lot of grief.  Learn these words well.

Dear Charlie,

When you first started preschool several months ago, I feared that you would be the short little kid in the class whose toys and belongings always got swiped by the other bully kids.  I feared this because ever since you were a toddler, you were never one to scream or push or punch or kick back when hassled by another toddler.  You would move away when another toddler took up your space and toys.  You always turned away to avoid a hit.  When you were three or so, a little boy barely two who liked to play with you kept punching you to get your attention.  Eventually, he bit you.  I told you that you should have punched the boy back.  Your Papa was aghast at my lesson.  “That kid was a baby- he didn’t have the words!” he said.  I knew your Papa was right, but I still wanted you to push back.  Your Papa and I have joked several times that you may just be the lover, not the fighter.

However, since pre-school, you have been better at claiming your space, standing your ground, and saying, “Stop it, I don’t like it, you’re hurting me!”  I’ve heard you use this phrase with your friends at school.  I’ve also heard you say this to Jack several times.  (Where else would Jack have learned his self-defense phrases?)  But every once in a while, I see you exchanging punches with your friends.  You say it doesn’t hurt and it’s just having fun.  I let you kids figure it all out- a little roughhousing is good for everybody.  I just hope that you  keep practicing self-defense every chance you get.  It’s ruthless out there and those who know how to clearly say NO, GO AWAY, and STOP IT will fare much better than those who don’t.