Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Letter to My Firstborn on His 10th Birthday

To My Son,

Ten years ago on this day, I remember two things.

One, being absolutely starved and just wishing you'd be born already so I could finally eat again.

November 1, 2006
Two, being completely overwhelmed when you were placed in my arms. No words, no thoughts...just staring and wondering how it was possible that this tiny human was finally here.

And now, today, at 9:44 am, you turned 10.

What a ride it has been.

You were born in Virginia, came out of your shell in North Carolina and came into your own in Wisconsin. Now we are full circle and it's been, at least from your perspective, the hardest year of your life. You left all that was familiar to you, crossed the country with two very angry, very loud, toddlers. You searched unsuccessfully for friends during the longest summer of all our lives. You have struggled through your first bad teacher for a few months now.

But all that is beside the point.

I don't tend to wax too sentimental over the baby years. I have loved watching you grow and learn and become this phenomenal human. But there is something about this milestone that has got me thinking, pausing.

You, my son...well, where do I start?

You have the best giggle of any kid I have ever met. Your smile lights up a room. Your beautiful eyes are full of curiosity, full of kindness and hope. Your heart aches with those you love when they feel pain and rejoices with anyone who is happy. You play soccer fiercely and even though you aren't the biggest or the fastest kid on the team, you practice hard and you give your all. You read books about science before bed and want to grow up to solve global warming. You write books in your spare time and draw schematics for your Lego city. You consider it your responsibility and joy to keep your little brothers laughing and you make up better games for them than I ever could.

You are jocky and nerdy and funny and kind and sweet all at the same time.

The time is coming, though, when it won't be so easy to be kind. When choosing that road might render you uncool. When erring on the right side may mean you lose friends. When defending the humanity of your brothers gets you called names. When working hard at your schoolwork and wearing glasses might put you in the dork category.

When being unashamedly you will no longer be as easy as it has always been.

Son, don't let them change you.

Laugh when you think something is funny. Dance if your favorite song comes on. Play with any kid you want, whether or not the "right" label precedes his or her name. Continue to see girls as playmates, as humans with brains and brawn and creativity. As friends, not objects. Care deeply about justice and love.

Even when no one else does.

You won't look back in your twenties and wish you had tried harder to be like everyone else. You might, however, look back and wish you had the guts to be yourself, no matter the cost.

So, my beautiful boy, happiest of birthdays.
Ten years old!

I am not choosing the sentimental route, the route of wishing you were still little and I could hold you close. The truth is, I count it a joy and privilege to watch you grow each day. What I love and long for is to see you experience joy, right here, right now. To give me hugs if you want but to let go of you when I need to because it's best for you.

You have made me prouder than I ever thought possible.

Keep being you.

Fierce, loyal, funny, smart and kind.

And never apologize for it.

Your Mom

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