You are five today! Although I am excited for you, this birthday has been bittersweet for me. Turning five is a big deal, because now you are really a big boy. Any traces of that beautiful baby with the perfectly round head have been replaced by a high-energy, fun-loving, super-funny boy.
Eight days ago, you lost your first tooth. You had made no mention of it being loose, so I sure was surprised when I picked you up from your class at church and your teachers handed me a tiny package containing what I'm certain is The World's Smallest Tooth! You were pretty proud of yourself, and you were thrilled with the dollar bill the Tooth Fairy left under your pillow. You won't know until you read this letter someday that as she flew by my bedroom on her way to yours, the Tooth Fairy probably heard me crying over that tiny tooth.
You also won't know that I cried very early this morning while I was making monkey bread for your birthday breakfast. (You broke the family birthday muffin tradition this year. Someday you'll need to tell Nana that you're sorry.) I cried tears of sorrow, because the more you grow up, the more independent you are...and the less you need me. I cried tears of joy, simply because that's what you bring to my life and to our family.
Without a doubt, this year has been the hardest one of my life. Cancer reared its ugly head again, and I have spent the last nine months undergoing treatments. It has been horrible for all of us. How I pray you don't remember it when you grow up! God has given me amazing friends, but there have been days when no words from them could cheer or encourage me. On those days, there was you. You might rush in for a quick kiss and be gone, or you might climb in bed and snuggle for a while. Either way, no words were needed. I have found tremendous comfort and peace just by being with you.
You never seem to be upset at being left while I go to the doctor, nor do you ask too many questions. You are just content to be, and you act as if whatever I say is perfectly fine with you, thank you very much. I will never, ever forget the day I told you and your brother that I would lose my hair during chemotherapy. He was worried and tearful, but you simply put your hand on your little hip and said, "Little Middle, it is going to be OK, because God will take care of Mommy." Such wisdom for such a little guy!
Of course, it isn't all gloom and doom around here. No, not while you're around! Case in point: After church last week, I was explaining to Little Middle something from his Sunday School lesson. I ended my explanation by telling him, "Everything we have comes from God." You piped up from the backseat, "And Santa!"
One morning I asked you to get yourself dressed. You said, "Mommy, I have to wear pants, right?"
And one of my favorite Baby quotes: "I have three words to say! Can you get me some Cocoa Krispies with no milk?"
Gosh, you're funny.
I guess it's because you're my youngest that I feel the passage of time so acutely. I am torn; part of me can't wait to see what you're going to do and become, part of me wants to slow time way down so I can soak in every second of this season of your life, knowing that I will never experience it again. I want to remember how you love to drink with a crazy straw, but rarely want milk in your cereal...how you concentrate so hard when you play Angry Birds on Daddy's iPhone, and how you can beat levels he can't even get to...how your feelings get hurt when Goliath and Little Middle leave you out, but how it's easy to see how much you love them (and they love you). I never want to forget how adorable you look in your Wranglers and boots, how you laugh so hard you snort when I tickle you, and how you smile first thing when I wake you up in the mornings. I want to freeze the images I have in my head of you being the cutest ring bearer EVER in your aunt's and uncle's weddings this year, and how you barely managed to tolerate that little flower girl. I want to remember you building Legos with your brothers, playing Star Wars with your friends, demanding macaroni and cheese every Tuesday, the goofy faces you make every time you get your picture taken, and the way you say "I love you."
Baby, I know that every life is precious, but God sure had a special plan when He thought of you. He knew that I would need you just as much--or maybe more?--than you would need me. I am so thankful that I got to be your mommy! In five short years, you've given Daddy and me so much joy, and without even knowing it, you remind us that God is always in control of all things.
Yes, you're a big boy, well on your way to big things. But make no mistake: you'll always be my baby.
Happy Birthday, darling boy.