10 years ago, today, I was standing in the kitchen of our Chicago apartment, polishing off a PB&J counting down the hours until I could meet you. The date had been planned for months. We were being induced, so I felt as though I had some sense of control over when you’d arrive. I had everything ready. Your cloth diapers had been folded and refolded, every crevice of your rocking chair tested so I knew the perfect spots for cuddling, and your white onesies all ironed and hanging in your closet (for the first and last time). I was as ready as I could be, which turns out was completely not ready.
Nothing I could have done in those months leading up to your arrival would have prepared me for these past 10 years. In fact, I still feel that same way now. Nothing has prepared me for this new chapter with you now. The one where you’re no longer my little baby, but rather one of my favorite people to sit and talk with. A young man who I couldn’t be prouder to know, let alone call my son.
These past 10 years, so much of what I’ve come to know as a mother, I learned while raising you. “On the job training” I guess you could say. Maybe that’s just the beauty and the curse of the first born. You are my burnt pancake. When they laid you in my arms, our very first day together, it was my first day as a mother. I had no idea what I was doing. And as I tuck you in to bed tonight it marks my first day as a mother of a 10-year-old boy. Still no idea what I’m doing, wondering if I’m getting any of it right.
There are days that I’m less patient with you then I should be. Days when after tucking in the other three kids, I feel exhausted as I climb your attic stairs wondering if you’re still awake. Days I wish I could sit and play chess with you when you ask, or throw the football in the backyard (although you know I don’t have a chance at catching it). Because I know those days will be gone before I’m ready, and I’m already wishing for more time.
I see you growing up. Rushing out the car door barely needing a wave from me, let alone a good-bye hug or kiss (god forbid). I see you standing with your friends at the bowling alley looking for their approval and acceptance, no longer needing mine, as I stand back at a distance just far enough to not be in your space. And I realize that this is it. These are the years with you, the little boy soon-to-be young man, that are going too fast. And I worry, have I told you everything? Have I taken the time to teach you what you need to know? Have I done my job? Am I guiding you down the right path?
It was so easy when my job was all about sleep schedules, what preschool to send you to or which pureed vegetable to introduce next. But the real work, this new chapter we’re entering together feels different. This next chapter is about teaching you character, grit, empathy, and a kind heart. And that my sweet boy, is a much bigger task, for both of us.
So, forgive me if I take some time today, to tell you all the things that I somehow never seem to get the chance. All the things I never said as I tucked you in when you just couldn’t put down that book. Or the things that I may not get the chance to as your door closes just a little more these days. I know my days with you sweetly appeasing me with “cuddle time” or a chat on my bed are coming to an end. And that’s ok. You have been my “baby” for 10 years, and it’s time for you to grow up. But while I still have your ear for just a little while more…. there are some things you should know….
You are loved more than you know
You are here for a reason. A reason that you may not be able to understand for years, or even decades. You will find yourself questioning that. But know, and really know it, that you are here for a purpose.
The love your father and I have for you is endless and immeasurable. But there is a love out there for you even greater than ours. God, the universe, whatever you choose to believe, has brought you here because of that incredible love. Never doubt why you are here, or how loved you are in this world. If you only take away one thing, know you are loved.
The world may not always be kind, be kind anyway
Your heart will get broken. It has been broken, and it will be broken again. Pick up the pieces and put yourself together stronger, but more importantly softer. Be the kindness and love in this world that you want shown back to you, no matter what the world hands you. You can only control thing in this world. You. Always be kind.
The world is yours for the taking, but it owes you nothing
You are going to do great things. I know that, without a doubt. But it won’t happen without a lot of work. Stay humble. Keep your head down. Work hard.
Go after your dreams, fiercely. But remember that great things only happen with great effort, devotion and work. No one gets a short cut. Learn to work for the things you love.
Do not look for happiness, look to serve
Every morning at school you and your classmates start with one of my favorite prayers…
“…O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive…”
“for it is in giving that we receive” , my favorite line. Joy does not come from creating a life for ourselves, it comes from creating happiness for each other. My happiest, most joy filled days are when I’m serving others, whether that’s in our community or in our home. Create a life where you are thinking of others, serving others. That is where your happiness will come from.
You can have anything, but you can’t have everything
You will have to make choices in your life. Decisions. Sacrifices. There will be forks in your road. One path will be traveled on, and the other won’t. Not all roads presented to us are meant to be taken. Choose carefully, thoughtfully, and then stick your course. The grass will always seem greener on the other side. Having it “all” isn’t about having it “ALL”, but rather about seeing what’s right in front of you as everything you need. Only when you can love, accept and find peace in your world, exactly as it is, will you have it “all”.
You will find love. And when you do, oh my child, give up anything and everything for that one person, place or thing. Whatever that may be. The person who makes you weak in your knees and still gives you butterflies a decade later. That one place in the world you count down the days until you can visit again. Or that one passion in your life that you would give up everything for.
Go after them with full reckless abandon. Things, possessions and riches, they will all come and go. But love is the only thing that makes any of this crazy world make sense.
Find someone, something, and somewhere to love, and then fight for them.
I know not all of this will make sense to you today. And that’s ok. One day it will. But for today, just know how loved you are. You have become one of my very favorite people on this earth. And it had nothing to do with me. It was always you – becoming who you were always meant to be.
I can’t wait to watch these next 10 years unfold for you. Thanks for taking me along on your ride.