Tonight I laid down in the top bunk next to my seven year old. Seven. We talked about his day - the very successful sleepover with a friend from school, the Lego building, the frozen yogurt, the balloons, the dinner with family, and the presents. And then he wanted to know about the day he was born. And as we lay there I recounted the hours just after his birth and how I remember little more than his little round face and the confused eyes.
But what struck me was how separate my memories of that infant are from my knowledge of the long-limbed, freckle-faced boy in front of me tonight. I can't even reconcile the two. That night in the hospital seven years ago, that baby - he was this little bundle of unknown. No personality - an adorable blank slate upon which to thrust my dreams and assumptions. But this boy? This seven year old? He is starting to be known. Every one of the last 2500+ days has shown me how little I knew that very first night. Unknown? Only to us - from the moment he was born he has seemed to know who he is. A blank slate - not a chance. We may guide and shape, but he is his own person with his own dreams and goals for the future.
As parents we are constantly confronted with the desires we have for our children and the desires our children have for themselves. Who we think they should be, and who they know they are are often very different and we have to let go of all those "shoulds".
My oldest is an intelligent, thoughtful boy. He has great capacity for compassion and a need for justice. He reads voraciously and loves sports. He is determined and stubborn, strong-willed and passionate. And those are all things I dreamed and hoped for him.
But the desire to be a business man, owning his own Lego store? His attraction to video games, potty humor, and graphic novels? His loud volume and comfort in almost any social situation? Those are things I don't understand. Traits I never imagined. Interests I couldn't have fathomed seven years ago.
Together, he is all of those things. The ones I expected and the surprises that leave me shaking my head. Every day he teaches me that I can't take all the responsibility for the things about him that I find challenging, just like I can't take credit for all the amazing things he does. He is his own person. Completely. And as his mother, I am tasked with standing back, shouting advice, crossing my fingers, and glowing with pride. Because he is my son, and I am just here to witness his heartaches and glories with a hug and a kiss.
It's what I've tried to do for the last seven years, and what I will do for the next 70.
Happy birthday, my dear. I love you. All of you.