As I write these words, it is the last night you will be six. Come morning, you’ll be a seven-year-old.
No longer my baby, you’re turning into a boy. I love the boy you’re becoming, but I miss the baby and the child you were.
I miss cuddling in bed with you in my lap, reading stories for half the day.
I miss long, slow mornings at the zoo, hours spent watching the peacocks, waiting for them to open their tail feathers.
I miss yogurt and applesauce on the front porch after your nap.
I miss the words you used to mispronounce and the way you’d say “Bam” whenever you didn’t know the answer to a question…or you knew and you weren’t telling.
I miss your lawn mower run, the way you’d jerk your right arm up and down like you were trying to start an old gas mower.
I miss chasing the recycling truck with you on spring afternoons, following behind it as it belched its way down the street.
I miss your little boy voice, the piping cadences and lilt of it that I can barely remember now.
I miss the softness of your hand in mine when we crossed the street.
Even though you’ve been healthy as a horse since we brought you home from the hospital seven years ago, I worry sometimes about you getting sick or, God forbid, dying. But what I’m beginning to see is that each day is a little death. Each day you grow a little older, a little further away from me. And that is natural and good. It is as it should be.
But I somehow didn’t expect it. They forget to tell you when you’re pregnant that motherhood is a long, slow process of letting go, a daily dying to what was in order to embrace what is. They forget to tell you how the heart breaks and breaks and keeps on breaking.
They forget to tell you how much it hurts to love a child.
But painful as the letting go is, I wouldn’t trade my years with you for anything on this green earth or for all the stars in the sky. I can’t say I’ve loved every minute of being your mom – there are quite I few I’d like to do over, for both our sakes – but I do love you. I love who you have been, I love who you’re becoming.
So even though, on this last day of your seventh year, I weep – because I miss you, because you’re growing up – even though my heart aches and the tears stream, I wouldn’t have it any other way. This ache, these tears say to me that my heart is still soft, and love grows in soft, broken places.
How else should I live, except by loving? How could I not want than a heart capable of deeper, richer love? A heart that holds you close and also lets you go? A heart that breaks with joy as well as pain?
It is my prayer for your life, too, my beloved boy: that all your days you will know the joy and the ache of loving.
I love you, Jack. Happy birthday.