On the Occasion of Your Birthday: An Open Letter to My Son

Let me first say what all adults say, even though it is rhetorical and slightly ridiculous; “I cannot believe how big you are getting!”

Yes we all say things like that because one day you are a blip on the ultrasound screen and the next you are asking for the keys to the car, which is coming much too quickly might I add. We are amazed at how quickly you children grow and seem astounded by your progress. We should be more surprised if you didn’t grow or perhaps shrunk but instead we marvel at your age, your size, the changing squeak in your voice. Forgive us and indulge us, sometimes it is all a bit to take in.

As I reflect on the day you were born I would like to state for the record that you took your sweet time. Your desire to not leave where you were comfortable seems to have stayed with you. I am sure if we had realized how much you love video games we could have coaxed you out sooner with the sound of X-Box blipping and bleeping but who knew? And I suppose I should take some of the blame, if I had paid attention in that class I might have learned something about giving birth but as it was your dad was too busy commentating his way through his distress and I am sure by now you know him well enough to know taking a baby class, complete with graphic videos of child birth, with him probably isn’t the best idea.

I remember holding you after you were born and crying when I realized you were all mine and the responsibility knocked me flat, that and a hormone surge that could have lit up New York City. I remember your new baby smell and I remember when that went away and was replaced by new baby poop smell. But it was all okay because you were sweet and loveable and mine.

You did not come with a manual, neither did your siblings, but in your case it has been hit or miss. You were a brave soul to be born first. Your dad and I have made a few mistakes along the way. We probably shouldn’t have listened when we were told “Baby Mozart” was good for your brain. I am pretty sure that advice was wrong. I should have fed you more vegetables and fewer chicken nuggets. I could apologize for these things and many more. Like the day you fell down the stairs, or the day I yelled at you for hiding in the closet eating cat food because I thought someone had come into our house and abducted you while I was in the bathroom. Since you were only a year old I probably should have toned down the yelling a bit but fear can make a person lose sight of reality. Or the afternoon I spanked you for biting me. The sight of the blood dripping from my thumb rendering me temporarily insane, but I was sorry even as I placed the steri strips on my wound.

You were “a rascal” as your grandmother called you. You ran without stopping, you talked without taking a breath. You knocked down blocks and chased the cat. But in all that and even with parents who had no manual, you have continued to grow.

You have scraped your knees and fought with your brother. You have exhausted us and worried us. You have made us proud and brought us joy. I am not sure what you will remember from your childhood. Our memories will never quite match up. You will remember your life from your childhood eyes and I will remember it from adult eyes. I will remember holding your hand and reading you books. I will remember when I yelled or had to punish you. I will remember when I slept on your floor when you were sick and held the “throw up bucket” for you. I will remember my tears of joy watching you in your first play. I will remember hugging you when you were hurt because someone said something that made you feel bad and telling you to be the bigger person, even though I wanted to punch the little bugger myself.

What will you remember? I am not sure but I hope you remember that I slept on your floor and wiped away your tears. I am hoping you won’t remember the times when I flailed my arms and yelled, “Are you kidding me!?” To be honest boys are a mystery to me. Your behavior at times perplexes me. I am not sure why you would bring a frog into the house to see if he could climb the stairs. Or why you would let the tub overflow to see where the water would go. Or why you thought the Little People could be flushed down the toilet and appear somewhere else. It all remains a mystery. And as you get older (as you are bound to do) the mysteries continue, like why you think standing in the bathroom while the shower is running constitutes a shower. Or why you think cleaning the bathroom doesn’t mean cleaning the toilet.

So as your life is truly just beginning and mine is reaching its half-way point ( yes I could very well live to be 90 so please be prepared), I am painfully aware of how few years we will actually spend living together but joyfully aware of what lies ahead, where you can go and what you can do. My hope is you will go and you will do. That you will take the opportunities that come your way. I hope you will forgive us for our mistakes and realize all of what we have done and will continue to do is because we love you. Just as I don’t understand you I know you don’t always understand us. Why we limit your video game time or make you fold your laundry. Why you have to do the dishes or clean the bathroom. Or why I stand behind you whispering, “say thank you” . Someday it may not all seem so mysterious. Then again,

you and your siblings may have a good laugh at my expense as you sit around having a beer and imitating me…”Remember when mom used to (fill in the blank).” That is okay; just remember what goes around…

And when I am old and my face is lined with deep creases, you may come to realize many are because of you. I wouldn’t change a single one. Each wrinkle, every crease tells our story. My life is happy because I am a mom. My life is complete because I am your mom.

Happy Birthday

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