Jul 13, 2010

Happy birthday to my boy

Dear Son,

In 1988, you made your grand entrance into this world.  Even before you were born, you were determined to do things on your own timetable.  You were intractable and impossibly late - a defining characteristic we share.  One of many, I think.  At two weeks past your due date, you gave no signs that you planned to arrive anytime soon, so I begged the doctor to give you your own birthday, instead of risking that you would show up on your older brother's birthday, which is four days past your own.  I am convinced you stood on your hands, scrunched up your chubby face and stubbornly refused to leave the cramped quarters you occupied until there was no other choice.

You were our second baby and second boy, but you were and are uniquely you.  I refused an epidural and you topped the scales at 9 pounds 2 ounces - nearly as big as your brother was and two pounds bigger than your sister who came along later.  When you were born, you were blue and still, and we were paralyzed with fear.  Those first few moments of silence in the delivery room, waiting for you to take a breath, you had the undivided attention of us all.  I've never heard a more wonderful sound than when you finally let loose with a healthy squall.

We have no pictures of your arrival, but it was not second-child-syndrome at work.  In the pre-digital era of the late 80s, we didn't realize the 35 mm camera had no film.  When he discovered what he had done, your daddy tearfully offered to take us all back to the hospital and re-enact your arrival and homecoming.  It would have been like reality TV before there was such a thing.

You were my sleeper.  Once we settled into a routine, you'd nearly always snooze until a civilized hour of the morning, and after your brother's early-morning antics, I was happy for your laid-back approach to mornings.  From the beginning, you and your brother had a push-me-pull-you relationship.  Best friends one minute, all-out guerrilla-style assault warfare the next.  You insisted on rooming together and jumbling up your Lego blocks to create a nighttime obstacle course to your bunk beds.  He outgrew them, you continued to love them, asking for more elaborate sets each birthday and Christmas.

As you sailed through your boyhood, you did everything "big brother" did, but you took things more seriously.  Soccer, skateboarding, snow skiing, you name it.  If he could do it, you could too - only better, longer, faster, harder and more competitively.

For seven years, you enjoyed "baby-of-the-family" status.  You then became possibly the world's most reluctant middle child, a title we still tease you with fifteen years later.  Push-me-pull-you defined your relationship with your baby sister, too.  But I have watched you with her in unguarded moments, and I've seen the gentleness and protectiveness that you tried to hide between a gruff countenance, especially during your teenage years. You are a loyal and protective sibling to your brother and sister, even as you look for ways to needle them.

I love you fiercely, more fiercely than any argument we had from time to time as you grew from boy to man-child.  You are my mirror, you know.  I look at you and I see the parts of me that dared my family to love me as I grew from child to adult, too.   And now you are a grown man.  People will continue to comment on how much you look like your Uncle Nate and your Papaw, but you are--without a doubt--your own man.
And as you stand firmly on the shores of adulthood, your life's path lies ahead of you - you're almost through with college, and I  know God has great things in store for you.  I pray as you move forward, you will listen for His voice and seek His will, and become the faith-filled man He and I see in you.   I wish you many happy returns of this day.

Your mama

P.S. Stay out of the Turtle Cake until after dinner.