A note to my boy, who is five today

Dear Declan,
You are five today. That is a little bit of a relief because I can’t remember the last time you met someone new who would have guessed that you were only four. Between your tall physique and your extensive vocabulary, I’ve had more than one person look at me like I must not remember the actual day that you were born.
There is no doubt that you are growing up quickly. And that I can barely remember the time before you were able to talk to me, when you were a babbling bundle of roly-poliness with ticklish, chubby folds on your legs.
These days I’m reading A Wrinkle in Time while you pick words you recognize off the page and ask me to tell you when I reach them. You work out math problems on your fingers. You close yourself in the storage ottoman and tell me you’re headed through a black hole, out a white hole and into some other part of the universe. You mix up magic fairy dust in a little tin and whisper wishes into it. You love dogs and babies. You laugh hysterically at mispronounced words and plastic dinosaurs that bite. And no matter how much you rationalize that they can’t hurt you, you seriously cannot stand bugs.
I’m grateful to Stephen Hawking because he reasoned that the imperfection of the universe is what made us possible. Now, when you make mistakes, I have a higher authority than your mother to invoke, which helps to keep you from being too hard on yourself. Sometimes this works for me too. Beautiful things can come of mistakes, now we know what to look for when we mess up. “Perfection is not possible,” is your new mantra. I made this point to you once. You’ve made it back to me at least a dozen times since, probably because I’ve really needed to hear it.
You’re also growing up in ways I wish you didn’t have to. Your preschool experience has taught you, and re-taught me the value of going through our feelings instead of around them, so maybe we’re at least better prepared for several of the challenges that are right before us.

Hospice workers, with all their loving care, have just descended on our family. And as much as I don’t want you to be burdened, as much as I want to protect you from feeling that you have the obligation to help, that obligation lives in you. You like to push your Grandfafa’s dining tray in so he can reach his food. You pick up things that he drops. You ask him what he needs when he calls out for help and you help him adjust his chair. Most of all, you do what a lot of us have more trouble doing around him – you laugh, you talk to him about all the science dancing around your brain. You impress him with ballet jumps and happy energy and provide him with little glimmers of pride and joy. You snuggle with his wife, my mom, your Giga. You are one of the best caretakers I know.

 

A few days ago you asked me not to put you in any summer camps for a while. What you want, you told me, is for us to have our own adventures, to do projects, to be together. You know you’re starting Kindergarten this fall, and they say a summer filled with shared experiences is the best preparation for this transition. I’m hopeful it will prepare me too, because I’m pretty sure you’re going to soar in school. I’ll be the one who is a wreck, having less of you in my day.
I wrote this thing after you were born. And every day you give me new answers to the question I asked that day in Delphi. I have been privileged to have a lot of amazing teachers in my life, and you are one of the greatest. I am so proud to be your mom.
I love you as brightly as a quasar, as infinitely as the stars in all of the galaxies in the heavens and as powerfully as a hypernova.
Happy birthday.
xoxo,
Mommy
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