To Theo, On Your Fifth Birthday

Last week, you were in the front passenger seat with me as we  waited in the preschool drop off line. It was raining. As we do each day, I held your hand and squeezed it tight and said, “Be kind. Be you. Love Jesus.”

You gave me a hug and a kiss on the lips and said, “I will. You be kind. Be yourself. Love Jesus.”

And then your teacher was at the car door, and with all the confidence in the world you threw a “Bye mommy! Love you!” over your shoulder without a final glance, opened your froggy umbrella and stepped out into the rain.

As I watched you walking away, so little yet so self assured, with your backpack hanging haphazardly and your froggy umbrella a bright beacon on the gray, Ohio day, I felt a sob creep up in my throat.

It was unexpected, and I couldn’t quite catch it before it was out. My heart was full of love and pride but my eyes were full of tears.

Oh how far we’ve come, my love.

It’s only been five years. Five years! But in that time, so much has changed.

No one has taught me more about love, patience, forgiveness and adventure than you, my dear boy.

No one.

I’ve struggled against “motherhood” so much in these five years. I’ve struggled against you. I’ve fought against all the things I didn’t want to suddenly be associated with just because I was now “a mom.” I fought against your will which is as iron clad as my own. I fought against my perceived lack of freedom. I fought against all the things you’ve required of me, that I wasn’t prepared to give. 

Oh, have I fought.

In many ways, my love, you are a much better person than I am. Your heart is so big. Your kindness knows no bounds. You are braver, truer, and more thoughtful than I could ever hope to be. You love deeply. You laugh easily. And you are the freest person I’ve ever known. Your freedom is not one that could ever be taken away, either. It comes from a restlessness you carry in your heart and mind. It comes from a desire to always know, experience, and wander. Truly, there is no cage that could capture your heart. And oh do I admire you for that.

But your freedom has always put me slightly at odds with you, hasn’t it? At least, as your momma. It’s been hard to have a child who has always been just out of reach. When you were born and immediately taken away from me, it was an instantaneous wound. It had never once occurred to me that the baby whom I knew and grew and loved for the past 32 weeks could somehow be taken away. I never once envisioned bringing you into the world, only for someone else to take care of you. And yet, there you were. From the very beginning, just out of reach.

I watched the nurses and doctors take care of you. I submitted to their instructions on how to care for you; instructions that implied what I already felt – I was not prepared for this. I did not have the skill set to be your momma.

It’s taken me awhile, but now I know the truth. That I was, and always will be, prepared to be your momma. I may not always “know” what to do, but knowledge can be learned. I’m exactly who you need and certainly, you are exactly who I need. You may have outgrown your incubator. You may have outgrown you initial delays and struggles, but you are still that same boy. You have a confidence and independence that puts me just out of arms reach. You love me, certainly, but you don’t always need me.

I’ve fought against your independence. I’ve fought against having a baby I couldn’t hold. I fought against having a baby I couldn’t take outside. I fought against a toddler who we would find wandering around outside – calm, collected, and simply exploring. I fought against a young boy whose mind knew no boundaries. I’ve struggled over the ways you would just do things. You see a need or a desire, and make something happen.

All that fighting has been exhausting. It’s taken me awhile, but now I realize what a gift your independence is. I’m learning to not only embrace it, but foster it. It’s been amazing to see you bloom and grow as your father and I have encouraged your independence. Oh the things you can do! Oh the things you imagine!

You are a certain breed of wonderful, my love. I’ve made so many mistakes in the past five years as your momma. So. Many. Mistakes.

And yet each mistake of mine is met with the simple, uncomplicated love and forgiveness that you offer everyone, and I’m humbled.

I’m so humbled by your love.

I’m inspired by your bravery.

I’m excited by your adventurousness.

I’m energized by your curiosity.

And I’ve been forever changed by your kindness.

You’ve made me a better person, Theodore. You’ve taught me how to be all the things I once was, but somehow lost. You reminded me of a person I used to be, but allowed time and life to dim.

You still exhaust me. But now it’s more often than not because we are doing something together – creating, exploring, or laughing – and less often because we are at odds.

I love you so much, my dear boy. I can’t thank you enough for being you. I can’t quite find the words to tell you just how much I needed you. I can’t thank you enough for your patience with me. I don’t know how to tell you all the things that are in my heart, but I promise I will never stop searching for the words.

Today, we celebrate you.

Exactly as you are.


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