It is a cold, cloudy day at our house. I woke up early, made myself a cup of coffee, and sat down to wait for you. I didn't have to wait too long--sleeping in still isn't your thing. You came in the family room and gave me one of your famous hugs. It used to be that I wrapped you up in my arms for a hug; now it's more the other way around. You are perilously close to being as tall as me, and your feet are already as big as mine. Many days I have "borrowed" your shoes so I could run out to the mailbox or turn on the sprinkler!
So...The Year You Were Ten was also The Year of our Lord Two Thousand Twelve, which we rang out earlier this week with a sigh of relief. 2012 was not kind to our family! Although I wish I could erase the events of this year that were so devastating, I know that the experiences you've had--bad and good--are helping to shape you into the person God designed you to be. They are also helping to shape me as your mother. I want you to know that I have never known greater sorrow, cried as many tears, or sat through as many sleepless nights as I have this year. I also want you to know that in my never-ending quest to protect you and your brothers and to make "normal" happen for the three of you, I have found greater joy, deeper love, and firmer faith than I ever thought possible. That, darling boy, is what I want you to remember from The Year You Were Ten.
Of course, while difficulties and disease have swirled around us, life has marched right on. You conquered 4th grade and went right on to 5th, in spite of my disbelief. It's your last year of elementary school, and the last year that you, Little Middle, and Baby will EVER be at the same school together. Every morning when I drop you off I watch the three of you walk up the sidewalk and I just want to make time stand still. Fifth grade has brought you a whole new set of challenges: multiple teachers, new friends, girls!, and of course, The Film. The panicked momversations Ms. Krystal and I have had about our babies and their bodies deserve an honorable mention here, as they've gone a little something like this:
Me: Do you believe this letter they sent home? Don't they know these boys are still babies?!?
Her: I can't believe it.
Me: Are you going to talk to him about it?
Her: No way! Are you?
Me: Of course not! He's just a baby! Dumb school knows nothing about 5th grade boys (grumbling)....
You did indeed view The Film, and that afternoon I was on pins and needles waiting to hear what you thought. You came in from the bus stop, and simply said, "It was disturbing, Mom. Very disturbing." And you went off to your room without another word.
Since that day, there has been some talk of puberty/voice changes/girls!, but you have made a nice recovery and seem to be much more concerned with the plans you've made with your friends and what you're wearing. In fact, I offered to take you ice skating today for your birthday because I know it's something you've been wanting to do for a long time. You
turned me down, opting instead to hang out around the house with your friends. (I'm not sure, though, how you think you will play for the NHL if you never learn to ice skate. I guess you can always go with one of your backup dreams: professional hunter or Olympic shooter.) You were pleased, though, with your new clothes from Aeropostle and American Eagle. Santa brought you Nike Elite socks. I have never seen anyone so happy about socks as you were on Christmas morning!!!
Speaking of Santa...this was the year that I burst your bubble. Your dad was not happy with me, but you and I both know that I had your best interests at heart. You have enough to worry about without having to wonder who to believe: your pals or your parents. You were so grown-up about it, though, that my immediate thought was: "We can never go back to the way it was!", and I couldn't keep the tears from flowing. Thank you for being gentle with me.
When you're growing up, you get to do more and more big-kid things. Like riding your bike to Sonic with your buddy for lunch. And trick-or-treating without your parents. And reading books on a Kindle instead of turning actual pages. And going to camp. I feel pretty privileged that I had the opportunity to tag along to camp this summer. I tried to stay out of your way, but it made me feel better--a little safer, perhaps?--to be there to keep an eye on you. And I think that you felt safe, too. I know that it may not be my absolute best parenting, but I like it that you are more relaxed when I am with you. It means that you know that you are my top priority--that when we are together everything is fine.
That's not to say that you want to be with Dad and me all the time. Those times are becoming fewer and further between as you are learning to navigate and be part of the big world around you. But I am confident that you are secure in my love for you, and that warms my heart.
You want to know one of my favorite memories from The Year You Were Ten? It was that Sunday morning in March when our entire family gathered at our church to watch you and Little Middle be baptized. The white robe billowed out behind you as you stepped down into the water. I knew that you were nervous, but you were determined to follow Jesus in that very public profession of your faith. It was a big step that I hope will be the first of many. I will never, ever forget the mix of love, pride, and gratitude I felt that morning. Our God is so very, very good.
You know another way I know that He is good? Because He let me be your mom. You push boundaries sometimes. You can be disrespectful. You can be stubborn. You can be sloppy. You can be exhausting. You can also be a sweetheart. You root for the underdog. You are a fantastic friend. You have good ideas. You are a hard worker. You feel deeply and love fiercely--just like your mom. We make a pretty good pair, I think.
I hope that this day is made even more special by knowing that your mother thinks the world of you. Every morning when you wake up, there will be a hug waiting for you. Every night when you lay your head on your pillow, there will be a prayer prayed over you. I will always be in your corner. I will help you when you ask for it, and I will help you when you wish I would just leave you alone. I will ask questions about your day. I will insist that you make good grades, but I will understand when math gets the occasional upper hand. I will keep taking you to jiu jitsu, even when we are both tired, because I know that it's good for you. I will fight hard to get well because I want to be with you. I will ring your doorbell before I come in to your room. I will demand kindness and respect from you and for you. I will continue to watch in awe as you grow, because you are God's gift to me. These are my birthday promises to you, son. I love you more than you can know.