To my beloved son, my oldest child, the boy who taught me to be a mother,
Today you are six. Six! How is it possible that the newborn I goggled at, bleary-eyed, overwhelmed, in awe, six years ago today has turned into the tall, lanky creature who stands before me now, the one whose ribs have edged out any last traces of baby pudge?
You love Legos and knights and the color orange. You love to draw and it is with no exaggeration that I tell you that you are already a much better artist than I am – more imaginative, more elaborate, more precise. You love books. Although my reader’s heart swells with pride when you sound your way through a sentence, you still prefer being read to, especially big, fat tomes, like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy that you and Daddy wake up too early to read together. You pride yourself on being “the healthiest eater in the family” as you shovel broccoli, kiwi, and bell peppers (yellow or orange, please) into your mouth and tell me, “I don’t really have a sweet tooth like you do, Mommy.” (Good thing, that.)
You love being outside. When we went to the beach this summer you were fearless as you learned to ride the waves on a Boogie Board and begged your older cousins to tow you farther – “Deeper!” – away from shore. Your favorite part about our new house is the wild edges of the backyard. You bushwhack through prickers and thorns and emerge with your legs slashed with scratches. You find me on the porch, seemingly oblivious to the blood trickling from your knees, and put on your bike helmet. You run off again, then, and scamper up your favorite climbing tree, scaling higher, higher, until I have to look away – not wanting my own nerves to keep you from getting to where you want to go. Too heavy, it feels, is the metaphor.
You started kindergarten last week. On that first morning, I walked you to the door and left you in line with two other small boys and a reassuring, nodding teacher, gave you a hug and a kiss, and then walked away. As I made my way back to the car, wondering if I should be crying, the moment felt weighty, as though the first chapter of your life, the one that had been orchestrated by me, had ended. When I picked you up that afternoon, I heard about your day, about making a self-portrait in art class and losing your temper “but not too bad” at Choice Time because there were already three kids in the Lego center. At recess, you told me with a grin, you and your new friends had been “under assault during tag from some first graders.” I think you like it, this new place of yours, this new chapter that you’re writing all on your own.
Your great sensitivity is your deepest gift and your albatross. You read other people’s emotions intuitively, offering comfort and assistance. You seem to know when I’m having a bad day, sidling up next to me on the couch, resting your head on my shoulder and offering, “I love you, Mommy.” You earned a “ticket” at school last week for offering to help a little girl in your class who uses a walker down the stairs. You cover your eyes with your hands if a movie soundtrack swells in such a way to tell you that a person or creature is in danger. You want to understand how other people experience the world, why people do bad things, how you can make the world a better place.
You are preternaturally aware of the passage of time. Last week the anticipation of the first day of school got to be too much for you and you came to me with tears in your eyes and said, “Sometimes I feel like my life is going by too fast.” I know exactly what you mean, buddy. I feel that most keenly when I look at you, marveling at the smart, kind, creative kid you are even while I miss that tiny, helpless baby you will never be again. As your life rolls on, I am infinitely grateful to bear witness to it and to have you in mine.
Happy birthday, my sweet, sweet boy. I love you the most. The most on toast.