A Big Birthday

Today marks a decade that I’ve been a mom. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around it — to come up with the just-right thing to say about the journey to this milestonemomiversary. But it turns out the complex truth isn’t just in my head or heart. It’s singing in a silly voice at the breakfast table as we all beg for peace and quiet. It’s stealing second base as the crowd cheers in the stands. It’s analyzing social injustices in novels, as well as on the playground, trying to be a light when things get dark.
The complex truth is Big. And I’m so grateful to have had known him, loved him, and learned from him for 10 whole years. So, of course, I wrote him a birthday letter…
Dear Big,
Every year on your birthday eve, you ask me what time you *actually* turn your new age. It’s a tangible something for you to hold on to from a day you won’t ever remember. One that, quite honestly, I had to look up to be sure about. Because for me, it was the intangibles from that day I won’t ever forget.
From the moment you came into the world, you touched our family with a joy and light we didn’t even know could be possible. When I looked at you in my arms, I somehow felt like I’d always known you. Your bright, curious eyes immediately took in everything going on around you. That sensitive spirit of yours made itself known right away, too. And those impossibly small fingers of yours wrapped tightly around mine, as a reminder that you needed me as much as I needed you.
As the firstborn, you gave me the gift of motherhood — a gift that has redefined the course of my life in ways I could never have imagined, but there’s no question that gift came at a price for you. You’ve had to serve as my guinea pig, and we both know perfectly well that I haven’t always gotten it right. But, when I see the tremendous person you’ve become, I can’t help but think there are a whole lot of things your dad and I must be doing right — even if it’s only by chance.
Through the years, the characteristics you flaunted on that very first day ten years ago have certainly become some of the traits that define you. But at the same time, you continue to surprise me as you paint a picture of the “you” you want to be, rather than the “you” I think you are.
Big, there are times I’m with you when my breath literally catches in my chest. These moments of pride aren’t the ones you might expect. While I’ll always admire the hard work that’s reflected in your report card, and cheer you on as you take the field, it’s the moments when I’m least expecting it that grab me by the heart.
One time it came in the form of a request for old socks. Because a follow-up question revealed that you and a few friends had been giving up your lunch recess to form a community service group, and you were starting with a winter sock drive for families in need. Another time it came when you told me you were ready to try a summer camp. The real kind where you leave home for a week and do cool things like zipline and water ski. It’s exciting to see the boy who spent years clinging to me in fear now begging confidently for adventure and independence.
There are other ways I can tell we’re both growing up. Now, instead of me pushing and challenging you, you’re the one asking me to open my mind — be it to an idea you have for a school project, or a responsibility that you’re ready to take on. Our conversations have taken a turn too. Your sharp wit and sense of humor have taken on a new, more mature tone that often surprises and delights me. You’re quick to notice when people are treated unfairly, and you want to discuss it. To be a part of the solution.
But the main way I can tell time has changed us is that the parenting that used to be so up close and personal — minute to minute, week to week, month to month — is now a thing of the past. As we celebrate a decade of you being in our lives, your dad and I have reached the point where most of our job is sitting back and watching you thrive. And thrive you do. But the best part is you still want us there — to chaperone the field trip or help coach the team — even though you don’t really need us there in the same, raw way. You choose us. Like we chose you ten years ago. And will continue to do, for decades to come.
Happy 10th birthday, Big! Thank you for continuing to shine a light on our hearts and our lives.


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