It's been 2 weeks since your birthday, son, and you haven't yet received your birthday blog letter.
Between your actual birthday festivities, your birthday party, rearranging our entire home so you can have your own room, and the daily grind (which now includes regular after-school play dates in which your mom and I find ourselves cheerfully providing food, drinks, and our home as a general venue), I haven't found the time to reflect on what I wanted to share with you here.
I've been giving it a ton of thought though, and so here goes.
For the last 4 years, as your birthday approaches, I inevitably think about carrying you, how much I loved every second of being pregnant. I think about the moment I realized that my water broke at the stroke of midnight and waking your mom so we can prepare to meet you. I try to remember how it felt to be in labour, how it was that I was able to reach in through time and space with my voice, seizing every contraction as an opportunity to open up an entire universe that would suddenly include you. I close my eyes and make myself remember the moment you were on my chest for the first time. This is the way my psyche usually prepares for your yearly milestone.
This year was a little different.
This year, I did make myself go through a play-by-play of your birth day. But mostly, I found myself in a planet of regret. I was beating myself up for all the things I should've been but wasn't. None of which has anything to do with you. It's just that you're 5 now - a whole hand to represent your life - no longer a toddler, a milestone for you - performance review time for me. And if I were to give myself a self-assessement at this point in my motherhood: I met most of my expectations but I feel like I failed you - and myself, rather miserably, on several counts. I'm afraid I yelled much of your most impressionable years away. I'm afraid I let you watch too much TV.
What you need to know now is that my regret served as potent alarm: a wake up call to change the patterns in my behaviour - and in doing so, influencing yours in kinder, gentler, more mindful ways. I began this shift earlier this year and I feel like it's already made a difference for us both.
For me, your turning 5 marks the beginning of a great transition. You're ready to open up to this brave new world of inviting friends and all sorts of other influences into your life. (It's already happening. You're already asking our neighbours to come over to have a snack - without checking in with me first.) And while your mom and I are gearing up to welcome the flood of new folks and experiences, I know we're never going to actually be ready. I'm excited for you but I'm also scared, because the bonds we have worked so hard to forge over the first 5 years of your life are about to be tested - and kindergarten is just the very, very beginning.
So after giving into regret, and instead of dwelling in the sweet cozy memories of your babyhood past - all the while refusing to give into my motherly fears, in the weeks leading up to your birthday, I chose to marvel. I marvelled at your lanky limbs and newly-formed angles. I marvelled at your willingness to help others.
I have seen you lead. I have seen you follow. I have seen you recede into the background quietly and respectfully, when you are out of your comfort zone. I have seen you take ownership of your mistakes. I have seen you clean up your mess. And although you rarely spare a kind word to your sister, I have watched you kiss her goodnight, shield her from danger, and buy her gifts with money you earned from doing your chores- all without our prompting.
You can cook an egg 3 different ways from start to finish. You can write your name. You like listening to chapter books. You let me cry in your arms last week because I was worried for your great grandmother. You empathize like nobody's business. You stand your ground. You love a good laugh. You still need your daily snuggles.
You are a good kid. And this is the year that I have to start choosing to let go (a teeny bit, just for now - you're still a kid after all) and just have faith in you, in us, and in our family. It's a giant leap that I never expected to have to make so early in your life, but I think that's the point because I suspect we're both going to be playing tug of war with your independence well into your adulthood.
For now, let me just say: in those darkest hours when I am everything that is in the way of you and your happiness (which these days amounts to gum, chocolate, TV, angry birds, and everything your sister happens to have in her hand), it's because I love you that I think lessons in kindness, consideration, and moderation are too important not to land. There is nothing in this world your mom and I wouldn't do for you. I am whelmed well beyond the point at which the cup runneth over because I am your momma. Thank you for being you.
I'm super stoked you loved your birthday cake and incredibly glad that you like wearing your birthday sweater. I promise to work on making your sleeves longer as soon as possible.