Last night I put you to bed and you were 8. You were 8 as I wrapped my arms around you and told you (again) about the day you were born. I told you even though you knew the story, knew it by heart. You know it so well that now you request that I add some dramatic flourishes to it to make it more interesting. You suggested that I add something like “When you were just a day old a band of ninja warriors attacked the hospital but you saved me and defeated every last one and everyone said, “Wow–that baby is strong.”
You are growing up–a fact that pains me and delights me. It is a pleasure to watch you grow into a person I never could have imagined when I held your tiny newborn self to my breast. You are a speed demon on ice skates and you have been able to skate rings around me for years now but you amazed us all this year in the pool when you took off and became a top swimmer in your age group. I can barely swim but you, you are mastering it. It wasn’t that long ago that you were afraid of the deep end. You are conquering this world in ways I never could have dreamed for you. Your dreams are your own.
You are witty and gregarious, polite and generous. And you are so grown up now. You do your chores now (almost) without complaint. You offer to buy Thai food takeout on days when I am exhausted, an offer I have yet to accept but touches my heart every time. You make jokes constantly, especially when the room is thick with tension or drenched in sadness. You have compassion for the most unlikely people, and no tolerance for bullies. While you like many people, and get along with lots, you pick your friends carefully. I like that about you. You are encouraging to your friends, your teachers and me. On difficult hikes you hold my hand and tell me I can do it, tell me where to put my feet so I don’t fall. You talk to me about your heart and things that make you sad.
And yet there is still a little boy there–a boy who sleeps with his stuffed otter and who comes into my bed for a cuddle. A boy
who needs to be held when he gets hurt. A boy who runs around in his pajamas all day if I would let him. A boy who still prefers to be read to, all cuddled up in my lap.
I feel the years slipping away and it dawns on me that your childhood is almost half way over. It makes me cherish every exhausting moment and take pause before I complain. No one teaches me the joy of living moment to moment the way you do.
When I think of you at 8, I will remember you running through the woods with Emma, making spears out of sticks, stones and duct tape and shields from discarded hubcaps. I will remember you making jokes to get out of being in trouble. I will remember you laying down with animals (dogs, cats and even horses) and staring up at the sky, or laying down with your feet in my lap asking for a foot rub. I will remember you using packing tape to attach pillows to your legs so you could play goalie in a good game of street hockey. I will remember you organizing endless games of sharks and minnows at the pool. I will remember you rolling your eyes at the preschool girls who annoy you even though they love you. I will remember you doing the unthinkable and cheering for the Flyers (just for the experience), listening to books on tape while you picked up the living room, and catching bugs in the woods. I will remember laughing with you so hard that tears poured out of our eyes–all because of a fart. I will remember a fearless negotiator who tried to bargain over everything from allowance to the number of vegetables he needed to eat. I will remember you getting your own key to the house, and getting your own kitten and getting a hockey stick with a real curve. I will remember you curled up with a blanket on the floor of the animal hospital emergency room because you had to be there when the cat was sick.
Last night I put you to bed and you were 8. This morning you woke up and you were 9. Time keeps marching on.
I love you my flubba wubba Maxidoodle boy. Happy Birthday.