Friday, December 16, 2011
Letter To My Son In Honor Of His 7th Birthday
I did not know how I was going to do this…alone. I only knew, instantly upon seeing you, that nothing I’d done with my life up to that point even mattered. It fell away. Who I was before that moment fell away. Nothing mattered, nothing at all, but you.
When you have your own children you will know what I mean. The feeling is that strong. But to love someone, anyone, takes courage. You’ll learn that, too.
Before your birth, when your feet pressed so hard against the inside of my tummy that I could see the shape of it on the outside, I knew you had spirit. I liked that, because I, too, have spirit. I wanted your spirit to be as indomitable as mine, even though I knew it would mean tough discipline challenges down the road.
And I was right. You have not always been easy. But I did not ask for easy. I wanted spirited…and they are not the same thing. Not at all.
You have grown to look like me, with your big brown eyes and unruly mane of curls, but your personality mirrors mine very little. I’m amazed by this. You’re so outgoing! You seek the company of others, where I always preferred to play alone. I used to find a quiet spot and read during recess, but this is not your way, not at all. I liked solitude, but you prefer companionship.
And what companions you and I have been! How I cherished our time together, just the two of us, when you were younger. Then one day, when you were about five, you said to me, “Mama, we need more people,” and I knew you were right. I’d kept our little world almost exclusive because of my own preferences. But you were ready to broaden your horizons, and I loved you too much to hold you back. So I opened up the world for you. I broke our constant routines that you were growing so tired of and I let you lead me into developing new friendships, new connections, and a whole new lifestyle. I watched the ease with which you connected to new people, and I quit bringing books or knitting to the park or to birthday parties you were invited to. I spoke to other parents instead. Acquaintances slowly become friends, good friends. Our world got a little bit bigger each day. And I saw how happy it made you. Now you hit the door immediately asking for someone to come over. I don’t take it personally. I love that you brought more people into both our lives. I’ve spent enough time in my own head. Our world is so full of people now, sometimes I wonder how to fit them all in. And it’s fabulous. Wonderful. So much better than it was before.
Your mind fascinates me, because it’s so unlike my own. You love concrete, logical things. You get upset with me if you know I’m bending the rules, or not following the Lego instructions exactly. You notice things like this, and you’re bothered by them. I see the seeds there for a future preference for organization. It lets me know I better make more of an effort to be organized in my own life, so I can set a good example.
And that, my child, has been your greatest influence on my life, knowing that I serve as an example to you. Every action I take, I know you are there, watching. Every chance I take, and every chance I pass up, I know you are learning from my example. The moments when I want to turn away from someone in anger, but choose to act with love instead, because I want to make sure that you are taught by my example it is never a mistake to care; The moments when I want to give up, but know that I can’t, because I want to make sure you are never taught by my example that giving up is okay; The moments when I feel overwhelmed, but I want you to remember me as strong, and so I find a way to demonstrate strength, so that you might know, from my example, nothing is impossible; The moments I find delight in a sunrise, or the shape of a plant’s leaf, a cup of coffee or the particular rhythm of a cat’s purring…I want you to learn from my example that the simple joys of life are always with us.
Your days as a young child have passed, you are entering your middle childhood years, developing a clear idea of who you are and what you like. These years will take you away from me little by little, bit by bit, moment by moment…but I’m okay with that. You are my child, not my life companion, and I know full well there will come a day that you leave me completely. I want you to do it with courage and confidence. You are so fearless now, I can’t imagine what adventures you will take yourself on in years to come. I’ve already taken you on so many, and I know we have many left to take together. But you have taken me on an adventure of finding myself through parenting you. My love for you made me determined to give you the best and fullest life possible…which meant I had to grab life by the horns in a way I never quite had before. But I could not show you how to really live were I not doing it myself.
And so, my spirited, son, as your 7th year begins, here is my wish for your life, spoken to you in a way I know you will understand: Live it. Fully and completely. Don’t stand on the sidelines playing it safe. Get out there in the game. You might get hurt, but you will heal. You might get knocked down, but you’ll stand back up. What matters in the end is that you played. What you would regret, in the end, is standing back, holding back, wishing you had the nerve to play. I will always lead you by this one example: Play. Play well, and play as often as you can.
Thank you for teaching me how to do just that.