Merlin Update

How do you write about your kid without being annoying or invading their privacy?


For that matter how do you raise a kid without being annoying or invading their privacy?


Merlin is hurtling towards 4 (in March of next year) and three has been quite a time.  He’s gone from being sorta-kinda able to communicate about what he sees to inventing songs, telling stories and constructing intricate counterarguments that involve a logic that is foreign yet compelling.


Parenting a toddler feels a lot like Jean-Luc Picard in the early borg story arc of The Next Generation–your tactics and weapons quit working after a few uses and you have to modulate or improvise new solutions on the fly.  


That sounds like a complaint but it isn’t–watching a human brain and personality develop is a true joy and being able to observe in someone else the development of the feedback loops of dependent origination is helpful in understanding how my own brain works.


His interests have matured from construction equipment to dinosaurs and outer space, but pirates are becoming more of an interest for him.  He maintains brand loyalty to Spiderman despite having no knowledge of spiderman aside from what he gleans from other kids at his daycare.


We finished the Thousand Books Before Kindergarten program in……10 months.  We signed up because we love the library and we wanted to gauge how many books we were reading (it turns out we were reading a lot).  It’s weird because you want your kid to have a sense of accomplishment but you also want the kid to understand that all external achievement/praise is just a barbed hook for future performance in a capitalist society–“here’s your prize, kid, don’t disappoint me later.”  


So we’re careful about how and what we praise and we try to communicate our sincere appreciation of who he for mundane things and in mundane moments.


Onward to photography–how do you photograph a kid? Is it ok to share those photos online? I’m operating on the assumption that if a photograph was taken with sincere appreciation and used as same, it’s allowable until the kid asks it to be taken down.  I try very hard to not ask Merlin to pose for photos but sometimes you have to.  He’s developed a weird “point at the sky” photo pose which I appreciate.  Here I am attempting to pose with him (parent pro-tip: outfit match with your kid, you can’t lose them at the zoo or airport or whatever):



And how do you write about your kid?  Again, the sincere appreciation angle.  There’s a chance Merlin will find this post in about a decade and change. when he is of the age to find it mortifying.  Future Merlin–I love you!  I’ll take this post down if you want!


For ease of navigation I just included normal size photos inline so you don’t have to click and go back.  It’s like a non-monetized infinite scroll on instagram, and I’m also not trying to sell you essential oils or whatever.


Merlin photo dump, with brief annotations:


R.I.P. to Merlin’s mullet, photographed in its natural habitat (the reptile house at the zoo) approximately one year ago.  He asked to have a haircut that “is short in front and short in back” so we did so.  I only cried a little bit.


We went to a fairly remote island in the Bahamas right before Merlin’s third birthday with my parents, due to they was having a sale on airline tickets.  I took very few photos.


We also fed sea turtles:



It didn’t occur to me how much routine mattered for kids, I am pretty novelty focused and assume doing the same thing over and over again must be boring but it turns out for developing brains rhythm and routine provide both a firm base for heuristics and a sense of security–recognizable inputs produce recognizable outputs.  So we ate at IKEA a lot and did family dim sum every couple of months:


Merlin’s best non-human friends this year were Xarles the cat (who joined Goodwin Keating in April) and Alien (who we won at a parish carnival we crash every August).


Speaking of doing the same things over and over again, Merlin and I went camping at the same spot we went to back in 2021.  Taking kids camping is extremely fun, highly recommend it:



Merlin picked “skeleton bird” for his halloween costume this year:







And he gave himself a bunch of tattoos for school picture day:







Unfortunately he didn’t realize shirt and shoes were required so his tattoos didn’t show up in the portraits.  He was, however, allowed to bring a favorite toy from home.

And that concludes the annual Merlin update.  I hope you had a 2023 full of similar adventures!