Monday, July 20, 2015

Letter to a Nine Year Old

Dear Garrett,

I remember it like it happened yesterday. You were there and I was there and I'd waited so long for you that all of it seemed like a dream I'd wake up from. I was afraid to sleep, for fear that the bassinet by my side would vanish into the night. But it didn't. You kept on existing. Days turned to weeks and months and years and now we find ourselves nine years in.


I let that one word pass so quickly through my mind because I cannot think on it. You're halfway to all grown up. This breaks me in ways you may never fully understand and, if you do, it won't be until your own children are mostly grown. The years seem faster now, kamikaze and out of control with the way they topple into one another. Long gone are the lazy and never ending days of toddlerhood which were broken, if I was lucky, by a mid day nap. Now it's all sports and school and scouts and homework.

You are so much more than I ever could have dreamed. Ephesians 3:20 says that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Son, you are living proof of the awesome power God has to surpass our wildest dreams. I couldn't have dreamed up this wonderful YOU if I'd had a million years and all the parchment in the world.

You are so much better than me in every way that matters.

You are brave. You are tender. You are uninhibited. Your smile lights up a room. You are gentle. You are enthusiastic. You are friendly. You are spiritually sensitive. You are flexible. You are respectful. You are optimistic.

This year has pretty well sucked for our family. That isn't to say that we have not been blessed in incredible ways. We serve the God of our good days and our bad ones. He never changes and He always loves us. But, the year has been hard. Still, yesterday, you informed everyone within earshot at church that this has been the best year of your life. It was as if the hard stuff disappeared and what was left was tree climbing and campfire having and firework watching.

But the hard things didn't disappear. They all happened and I watched you change. Before my very eyes, you transformed. You watched your dad and I crying and you decided to grow up. It broke my heart and made it swell with pride all at the same exact moment. As your mama, I don't want you to have to grow up. I don't want you to see or feel or experience any of the tough stuff. But when I watch you weather the storm, I see a glimpse of the man you're becoming and I feel, somehow, confident in the person I'm releasing to the world.

You took care of me. While you still needed me for food and shelter and tangible things, you put your arms around me and gave me permission to lose myself. I didn't feel like I had to be strong in front of you and that, son, was the best gift your little eight-year-old self could have given me.

I think, in some ways, you realized how crazy fierce I love you. If I could love your sister that much without ever even having set eyes on her, how much of my heart must be wrapped around every inch of your body? I hope, something immense, that one day another mama picks us because I am convinced that you will be the best big brother that ever there was. I'm longing to see a day where you hold your sister in your arms.

I'm sorry you couldn't hold Kate. I know you desperately wish you'd been able to. There are choices we make, judgement calls and parenting decisions, and I hope that one day you can understand why we couldn't let you. I hope that one day you can process life enough to know that, while ultimately cathartic and good, it was an experience that wrecked me. I couldn't let that happen to you. It's my job to try to keep you unbroken. I'm sorry that you don't have another sister yet. I know how desperately you were hoping to by the time you turned nine. God has other plans. And, like I mentioned before, they are so much better than anything we can imagine.

You are light and life and volume and energy. You're also very NINE and very EYE ROLLY and very MY-PARENTS-ARE-THE-DUMBEST-PEOPLE-ON-THE-PLANET. I do not so much love those things but I understand that it comes with the territory. I do love that you still want me to climb up into your bed to snuggle with you at night. Every night. And I'm well aware that those moments are numbered. I love that you'll still have insane dance parties with me. I love your cackle as we watch Duck Dynasty or Amazing Race or American Ninja Warrior together. I love the freckles that dot your nose and the fact that you were born a freer spirit than the rest of us put together.

I'm mostly convinced that you'll grow all the way up, buy a one-way ticket to Hawaii and live in a van down by the ocean. The old me would have experienced heart palpitations just writing that sentence but the me who has parented you all these nine years has been kneaded and stretched and she understands that you are different from most all the other boys. The same in that you love bodily functions and poop jokes as much as the next kid. But different. Waiting, perhaps, for something the rest of us don't even know is coming.

I don't know what it is. I can't put my finger on it. But it's there, beneath the surface of who you are. Something special. Something different. Something that makes me wonder how I got so lucky. Of all the boys in all the world, God chose me for you.

Thank you for listening to teachers and coaches and other adults. Thank you for understanding that the world likes well-behaved young men much more than it likes hooligans. It is my heartfelt prayer that you hang on to that, that testosterone doesn't flood over your brain and cause a great deal of damage, that your annual letter in five years doesn't start with, "So, you're away at military school."

I sure do love almost everything about you. I love that you run fast and surf and love the outdoors and love your family and play soccer and baseball. I love the way your eyes sparkle when you smile. I also know that it's only by the grace of God that we've managed to make it this far together--and fairly unscathed. So I'll keep praying for every part of your life and you keep trying not to go to juvie, deal?

I love you,

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