For the life of me, I cannot find a letter for your 11th birthday and here you are turning 12. What happened? How did I fail at life so substantially? My only defense is that we came home from our trip to New York together and almost immediately the entire world fell apart with the Covid-19 pandemic. It's no excuse. But that's all I can come up with. Or Will. Will was A WHOLE HEAPING HELPING OF A LOT LAST WINTER. I was barely surviving all the therapy and all the hitting and screaming that he was throwing my way. Again, no excuse. I apologize with everything in me.
You're 12. And you're a transracially adopted 12 year old. There's a lot of growth and development and adoption processing and understanding happening in these days and moments. The truth is, I didn't see all of this when I held your shrieking newborn body in my arms. I knew it would be a journey but I had no idea. Walking with you down this path of pain and awareness has been an experience I carry with great honor. I say it to you all the time and I will say it here in print: your story is yours. Your life is yours. Love who you choose. Accept what you will. Disregard what you won't. I am here for all your big, huge feelings and I am here for your silence. Decide who belongs to you and who doesn't. The choice is yours. I promise to continue learning, to sit in the uncomfortable, and to broaden my shoulders to hold what they need to. I promise to seek first to understand. I promise to do whatever I need to do in order to be what you need.
But what I need you to hear--someday, when you read this--is that I love you. I love you no more or less than your older brother or your younger brother. I know you are not biologically related to me but neither is your dad and I love him something ridiculous. I know you're not always in a place to receive that. But I won't stop saying it.
There's a line in Dear Theodosia where Hamilton sings...
Oh Philip, when you smile I am undone
Look at my son
Pride is not the word I'm looking for
There is so much more inside me now
Oh Philip, you outshine the morning sun
When you smile, I fall apart
And I thought I was so smart
Those are my thoughts exactly. Except, well, your name isn't Philip. But, Matthew, pride doesn't begin to cover it. There is so much more inside me. There is so much love. And in the depth of your smile I am undone. It's the same smile you've had since you were four months old. It lights up the room. It lights up my heart. And I know that is so mushy and gross but it's completely true. I am ever so thankful that I have that smile in my life.
I can list all the ways you amaze me but it would take too long. You are so smart with your straight As and your advanced math. You are so strong with your self taught flipping and your 200 push ups. You are such an incredible brother. Truly. Oh you know how to push both their buttons and you do--as brothers do--but you are so often kind and caring, patient and self-sacrificing. You are creative, introspective, and always hilarious.
This year has been hard on everyone and you're no exception. I'm sorry for the isolation. Still, we did get to go to Tahoe and San Diego. We had a blast camping at the lake with our best good friends and visiting the family in southern California. We had fun in the creek over the summer and really enjoyed our first full Oregon summer--even if our options were limited. Beach trips and Silver Falls and a million walks helped break up the huge amount of time we spent stuck inside.
With all the isolation, you'd think it would be impossible to sustain injuries. But no. You got a probable concussion--running through the house with wet feet and falling flat on your back, a sprained wrist--before you were proficient at landing flips, and a sliced open foot--because your brother shoved you off a dock and you tried to stay on it. Between you and your brother, we were visiting urgent care constantly and it was OUT OF CONTROL. But I will tell you that as of this letter, it has been 176 days since we have entered the urgent care or the ER. How long can we go? 177 days, probably.
Your laugh is infectious. Your brain, a wealth of knowledge. And your body, way taller than your older brother's was at the same age. I predict that you'll tower over him in two years time. But we'll see. Watching you grow and develop into the amazing preteen that you are is one of my greatest joys. I pray peace upon your heart as you continue to change into the person you will become.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.