3 years of Lessons, Love, and Laughter - A Tribute to My Son

Sometimes with writing, I don't know where to begin, so I never do. But today is my oldest son's third birthday and I couldn't let the day pass without sitting down and writing some of the things that have been stirring around in me for a while. It's a tribute to him and all that he has taught me over the last 3 years, not all of it easy to learn or think about, but needed. So, B, this one's for you, for you to read someday, many years down the road. It might not be perfect or make complete sense, just like your mama, but it is heartfelt.

My Dear B,
When I was preparing for motherhood a little over 3 years ago, I pondered the many things I wanted to and hoped to teach you someday. I honestly didn't give much thought to what you would teach me, let alone how much you would teach me. But wow, have you ever taught me a lot!

You have reminded me of what it means to be brave, to try new things. I am struck by your courage as I watch you jump into a large pool, water covering every inch of your little body, and then you pop up out of the water with a smile as big and bright as the sun on your face. You have reminded me that often the things that seem the most scary at first are the most exhilarating. I love, love, love your sense of adventure.

You have also reminded me of what it looks like to empathize with and care deeply for other people. I witness this nearly every day as I see you do things like cry when your brother gets his shots or ask me every day for a week if my eye (that I scratched) still hurts and if it feels better yet. I recall the first time that it hit me how deeply you feel. When you were just two we took you out on a boat and you bawled your eyes out every time you saw me or your Daddy fall down on the wakeboard (which I'm sad to say was quite often). We were ok, but you didn't know that and you thought we were hurt. And you hurt because you thought we were hurt. Some people might mistakenly see you as a crybaby, but I see you as one who empathizes deeply with others, especially in their pain, and it quite frankly is one of the most beautiful characteristics I've ever witnessed in anyone. And you are only 3. B, I hope you never stop feeling deeply, rejoicing with those who rejoice, and hurting with those who hurt. It takes courage to keep doing this, which is why I'm glad you are brave too. Because to feel deeply for others means you will hurt deeply for others. And hurting, as you know, is no fun. And sometimes when people feel hurt over and over again, they want to shut it down, so they won't have to feel the pain anymore. But I hope and pray that God gives you the strength and courage to keep you compassionate and vulnerable in the best of ways.

B, you have also shown me what it's like not to hide, because you don't even know how to hide yet. Somewhere along the road from childhood to adulthood, we learn to hide all that we don't want others to see, our weaknesses, our insecurities, our wrong-doings. We hide out of fear, fears of all kinds. But you, B, you haven't learned how to hide yet. I absolutely love playing hide-n-seek with you because I tell you to go hide and I count to 10 and before I can even open my eyes, you come bursting out of your "hiding spot" exclaiming, "here I am!!" Yes, there you are, my bright, beautiful, authentic, and unafraid boy. There you are. While at some point you may learn what it means to and how to hide, I hope you never do. You are too beautiful to be hidden.

B, you have definitely taught me more about sea animals and construction vehicles than I ever expected, or in full disclosure, desired to know, your thirst for knowledge knocks my socks off. It keeps me humble too. There's nothing better for the ego than having a 2 year old correct you and instruct you on the difference between a stingray and a manta-ray. Mind you, I will never confuse the two again. Yes, you are a little smarty-pants, but more important than smarts is your tenacity to keep trying and the problem-solving skills you use when you do persevere. My whole insides leap with pride and excitement when I see you place a puzzle piece in the wrong spot, and frustration creeps up, then you it again in a different space and realize that it fits. The way you marvel at yourself every.single.time and proclaim, with hands raised in the air, "I did it! TA-NA!!!" (your version of ta-da). Yes, you did. You did it because you kept trying and you didn't give up. And while there are situations in life in which giving up might be the right choice, I can tell you that many of the best things in life are not "gotten" on the first try. So, always give it one more try, and you just might get  it. Thank you for the reminder, buddy.

B, I could go on and on about the things you've taught me these last 3 years, but I want you to actually read this someday and I need to save things for other birthdays. SO, the last thing I want to thank you for teaching me on this, your third birthday of yours, is perhaps the one I'm most thankful for and it also brings the most tears to my eyes. In many of these other areas, your lessons to me have been reminders of things I maybe already knew but had lost sight of a bit over the years. But this lesson is one that you have taught me for the first time. It's a journey kind of lesson, but you have sent me on my way. It is the lesson of letting go. And that is perhaps one of the scariest things I've ever written down and while I want to keep learning it, I hope to God with all of my being that it is never fully tested. But here goes. I used to be somewhat fearless, and not always in a good way. Like, Nana and Papa had a celebration the first year that I made it an entire year without going to the ER. I was 23. I love that you are brave, B, but I'm counting on the fact that you are smart too so as to not land yourself in the ER as often as I did. Ah yes, the letting go. I once was fearless, and then I experienced some pain and losses and the fear began to creep in. And then into my life walked someone really amazing, aka your Dad, and I realized I now had something really big to lose, and the fear in me grew stronger. And then I got pregnant with you, after a long time trying. More to lose, more to fear. When they told me that you weren't getting fed in the womb and that you needed to come out a week early or else you might die, the fear soared (though it's still debatable whether that fear was actually medically warranted, but that's another story). Then you were born and it was like, holy frijoles, it's my job to keep you alive (or so I often let myself believe). More fear.

And then there were all of your skin reactions, the allergy diagnoses, the epi-pens, and that day last fall, when you were just 27 months old and your airways almost completely closed and they told us that we got you to the hospital just in time. I've never been so afraid in my life. But that's when it finally happened. All that built-up fear needed a place to go and it just kind of erupted. And that's when I realized, like deep in my heart realized, that I'm not in control, despite my best efforts to convince myself that I am. And I realized that  you are a gift from God; That God loves you even more, way more, than I do, which I can't honestly wrap my brain around; that you are God's, and it's my job to do my best to take care of you, and I can assure you, I will do my darndest. But that ultimately, it is God who keeps your heart beating, and your airways open, and wakes you up each morning with all that energy that I can't always handle at 7am but am sure glad you have. Yes, you have taught me, or shall I say, have begun to teach me what it means to relinquish my illusion of control, and trading it in for trust in God and his deep love for you. Big, huge knot in my stomach right now as I write this, but one that leads me to pray the prayer that I have prayed over you and your brother every day since you were born (it was spoken to the tribe of Benjamin but we include your bro in the prayer because we totally failed him in the name department. Not only did we not give him a biblical name, but more importantly, we gave him a name that means dark and hairy and well, with his white like the sun hair, yeah, big-time name fail. But don't tell him that just yet, k? I'll confess to him in one of his bday tributes down the road). The prayer I pray over you every night, "Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for he shields him all day long. The one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders." - Deuteronomy 33:12. I think about this and I am reminded of both my desire to protect you from everything awful and bad in this world. But I'm also reminded of the reality that I won't be able to. And that is a very painful reality for me to swallow. See, just because God loves you, B, doesn't mean that nothing bad will ever happen in your life. God doesn't promise us a happy, perfect, pain-free life. But he does promise to walk us through whatever comes our way. And I've had just enough hurt and loss to believe that promise. And I hope you believe it too. Thank you, B, for teaching me how to let go and to live into faith and trust on a daily basis. I hope that no matter how big and dark the storms in your life grow, that you are reminded that the sun always still shines somewhere above the clouds and I hope that you keep tracing rainbows in the rain. I hope we both do, whatever comes our way.

I love you, my strong, beautiful B. Happy, joyful, 3rd birthday. Love, with all of my heart, Mom