My son turns 18 today. All he has asked for is a Zippo lighter with a puppy on it. He had an early celebration tonight with his dad, who cooked his favorite bacon burger and put him into a “food coma.” Tomorrow we will go to Red Lobster for the Endless Shrimp, at his request. His dad and I have been divorced for more than three years now and as we have ever since, we will celebrate the birthday together as a family. Because no matter what has come before or what may come after, for better or worse, we are family.
This is what family does.
I want to take a moment to give my boy a moment of appreciation. Recognition. My words, which have been my gift and at times, my curse, until I learned to use them wisely. Kindly. Always working on this. 🙂
My boy. How do I express everything that I feel at this moment, the night before you turn 18 and as you told me tonight, “Tomorrow I’m an adult!” I smile and say, one day at a time, kiddo!
* gulp *
My boy, almost a man yet still a boy, I want you to know that I remember everything. That first moment I felt you flutter in my stomach. I was in a grad school literary night class after work. I was thrilled about a passage of words that resonated with me and I felt like it resonated with you, too. (Crazy, but my first connection to you.) I knew right then that you were smart. That you were with me, a part of me, a person. That you were special. That I loved you. That I was blessed.
When you were born, you were the first blood relative I ever laid eyes on. I am adopted, so this miraculous moment – your first moment of life – had extra special meaning for me. One who had never known anyone who was connected to me by more than just paper or words. And of course, because life is what it is, you looked nothing like me and exactly like your dad. 🙂
They told me you were going to be a girl. I knew they were wrong. I dreamt of a blonde baby boy. I painted the room yellow. Little did I know that this was my first time learning to disregard what “they” said and learning to trust my instincts about you. Who you were. What you needed. And then, eighteen years ago today, there you were.
I loved you instantly. From the moment I knew of you. Every kick in my belly. Every tear you cried (know that I cried three tears to every one of yours). Being there for you when I didn’t know how to help or what to do. Holding you. Praying for you long after I had given up on religion. Worrying for you. Loving you harder when I didn’t know what else to do. Making you laugh. Kissing away your tears. Holding your hand. Keeping your deepest secrets.
I always knew you were special, boy. That you were destined for great things. For happiness. No matter how difficult things were, I knew. I believed in you. I had this magical belief that if I just marinated you in love, someday, one day, you would see it, too.
And then one day… you did.
And now here you are, 18 years old. Making your college plans. Driving. Telling me you want to buy your own car because I have done enough for you already and you need to be a man, stand on your own two feet, pay your own way. I glance at the stuffed animal puppies on your headboard and the Xbox Halo posters on your wall. I hug you. Neither one of us lets go first.
One day at a time.
You tell me every day, “Mommy, have I told you how much I love you today?” I always say no. Even though we both know you did. 🙂
Boy – the word I use when you don’t want me to use your name – I am the luckiest mommy in the world. I am so grateful for you. Please forgive me for writing about you. I know you don’t like to be on the “internet.” But you are so special. You have overcome so many adversities and you have never once said, “Why me?” You never give up. You always keep going. It humbles me.
You deserve to be celebrated. Recognized. In today’s world, it seems as if the worst stories and behavior get the most attention. You have challenged and inspired me to be a better person in so many ways. You have touched so many people with your kind heart, your kind words – even when they didn’t understand your way. You always prevailed. You never gave up.
You always stayed true to you.
I want to shine a light right now on what a wonderful human being you are. A person who has overcome so much, worked so hard, and asked for so little in return. Just the other day, your team at school showered you in compliments and you shrank in your chair. (Of course I touched your arm and told you to sit up straight.) So giving with your kind words yet so challenged to take them in.
Your heart and light burn so bright. I always told you, even in your darkest hours, the world needs your light. Don’t give up. Please don’t give up. And you didn’t.
And now, here you are. Eighteen. Almost a man. Taller than me. I hug you and my face is in your armpits. Not a fun place to be. 🙂
In your eighteenth year, I wish you so many beautiful things. I promise you I will do everything I can to help you continue to grow into the amazing man you are destined to be. I can’t promise I won’t hold close my eyes and hold my breath when you don’t brake fast enough. I can’t promise I won’t stay up every night until you come home so I can make sure you are safe and hear how your day went.
God, how I love to hear how your day went. How you are. See you smile. Laugh. Be here for you. Be a part of your life.
I promise I will always tell you to put on a jacket because I am cold just looking at you. I promise that when you hug me, I will always hug you back harder. I know how incredibly lucky we are to have you here. How close the world came to losing your light.
My heart aches. My heart is full.
Thank you, boy. For teaching me what I needed to learn. For giving me so much more than I could ever give to you. For loving me. For being you. Wonderful, loving, sweet, smart, creative, you.
Happy birthday, my wonderful boy. I can’t wait to see where you go from here.
PS My musical inspiration tonight is not cool, according to my teenage daughter and probably many others. I don’t give a shit. I heard this melody awhile back and felt something, so I held onto it. I’ve learned to recognize when something moves me and pay attention, whether it’s cool or not.
I like that about me.