The Meaning of Kale

Friday, Kale turned 8. Normally I am really good about posting these annual letters to him on the right day (and I’m actually going to back date this post just so the dates are right) but we have had a very fun two days, and truthfully, this year has been disorganized for me. This is a whole other post unto itself, but I will say this: deciding to be a magazine publisher was a unexpected turn of events for me, and I’ve had to learn to let go of a lot of perfectionism and it feels rather freeing.

But Kale, well, the perfectionism still stands. We work on it, but we roll with it. Because it is a part of the kid he is. He is smart, and adaptable, but my goodness does he like to be in control. He is such a fun kid, with a great sense of humour. He is enthusiastic about literally everything and has the most amazing positive mental attitude.

When I was pregnant, we spent a lot of time agonizing about a name. Had Kale been a girl, he would have been likely named after a flower or a pretty tree. I remember even suggesting Sequoia. But because we knew our baby was a boy, we focused in on boy names. Our last name is a tricky one to match with: Arbo. AR like a pirate, wrapped up in a BOw. We talked about Trevor – I was a rabid hockey fan and a life long fan of Trevor Linden. We talked about Greyson, which Ross really didn’t like. Ross suggested Ivan, who was an early Arbo, but I vetoed that. We started going through the names of people we’d gone to school with, just to avoid baby name websites but also open up the list to names without a special meaning or attachment. Ross went to school with a Kale (spelled K-A-Y-L-E) and when he suggested we both immediately stopped and said “Hold up. What’s wrong with that?” (I note, by the way, that at this point we were determining what was wrong with names, not what was right.) And as we continued to say it, out loud, it fit, it felt good, it was comfortable.

FullSizeRenderKale is a hearty, resilient plant. It can thrive in the worst conditions, and is nourishing and strong. According to baby name sites, Kale is a Hawaiian form of Charles, though it is pronouced KAH-lay. Or maybe it’s Gaelic: a Wikipedia article claims it is unisex and means “affectionate, calm, fair, ocean, pure, sea, slender, tide”.

We agreed to wait until we met our baby before we finalized our choice, and as he was placed in my arms, I knew that yes, he was a Kale.

This is a picture of a kale leaf tattooed in a watercolour style on my right foot.
So even when he grows and explores, he’ll still help me be grounded.

So now, here we are. He’s 8. Seriously, what?  Previous Letters: Age SevenSix, Five, Four, Three, Two, and OneThe complete set of Family Photos on a Bed is here.

Dear Kale;

I love being your mom. You make it pretty easy. I have to admit I have it good. You are the compliant kid that gets invited to a lot of playdates and sleepovers because you’re so sunny and calm. You have manners that make me proud. You are thoughtful.

For your birthday this year we are going to have a pool party and the pool across the street. The rain has just let up and the weather is now brightening and lightening. On your invites you asked me to tell guests not to bring gifts. “I have everything I need and want already, Mom.”

You ZOOM through books. Zoom. You will read literally everywhere and anywhere. You have the most wonderful cheesy grin. You love birds and you are so very kind to animals of all sorts. You love your friends. You’re not afraid to dance. You loved theatre more than I thought you would. You are figuring out sarcasm and humour rather successfully and you make me laugh over and over and over. You are still a totally polite kid and you are still always making yourself helpful and it is so charming that you are like that. Today we went to a fun event and the host of the event thanked you for coming and with no prompting at all, you replied “Thanks for hosting this!”

These letters are getting shorter now as I have less to say. We are so easy going, you and I. I have so much more confidence as a parent and I have fewer worries about you. You are a great kid. My memories of your earliest days are fading now, and I’m a bit sad about that, but I am glad I wrote here in your early days. The other day your dad asked me about when you potty trained. A co worker of his had asked about our experience and we both had forgotten and had to look it up. This blog is as much a chronicle of your life so far as it is a chronicle of my life as your parent. These are two connected but separate journeys and I am so glad they are still on parallel paths.

Thanks for being you, Kale. You make me a better me. Happy birthday, my love.





6 years ago