Why, hello there eldest son,
At the moment this post is published, you will have been here on the “outside” for eleven years. That’s right…it’s been 11 years since a sea of masked specialists swarmed into my room and you came out peeing, just to prove that all those specialists were really quite unnecessary, you were just fine thankyouverymuch.
You and your brothers never seem to tire of hearing about the way you baptized the world upon your arrival.
It was a baptism for me, beginning at 4:07 on a slushy, lightning-filled Wednesday morning. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when they placed you on my chest, an oblation. I think you can sense that I sometimes still feel like this, though you are very patient with me as I work on figuring it all out. So sorry you’re my guinea-pig.
So, here’s where you are at your 11th spin ’round the sun:
You are still wise beyond your years, while maintaining a charming innocence.
We have talked about how much I value your innocence–you love to play, you aren’t too cool for the Children’s Museum, you don’t cuss me out even though you might want to and I know that you know the words. At your last bedtime as a 10-year-old you wished aloud for a plush Olaf toy (from Frozen) and by golly, I am running right out to buy you one tomorrow, so much did it warm my heart to hear such a pure request. You are wise to be respectful of those adults who help you in your life, and innocent enough to still consistently give us the benefit of the doubt. But as others will attest, sometimes when talking with you it’s like speaking to the sage atop the mountain. Your insights about life, the world, and those with whom you share it are nothing short of amazing. You just might be the only 11-year-old who truly grasps the concept of white privilege, and can speak on it with eloquence.
You are incredibly responsible.
Tying in to my last point, you see your privilege as a charge: you should look out for those who don’t have what you have and help them. As someone who keeps a keen eye on the equality of the pieces of cake served on special occasions, you are well-acquainted with the basics of justice. I am so looking forward to the next few years, when we are able to work together to make the world even better…though you’re already doing a pretty darn-good job of it.
And thank you for being the greatest bathroom cleaner. You grumble far less than other kids might.
You also take all the little chicks under your wing…your brothers revere you, and you are immensely helpful to them. Though you sometimes grumble about the weight of it, you are a stellar example to your younger brothers. From you they are learning tenderness, compassion, and humor. Not to mention endless superhero/Pokemon/insert-obsession-du jour information. Sometimes, as you are well-aware, your brothers can be crazy, impulsive, and maddening. Every time they are whirling about like mini-tornadoes, not listening to a single direction I give, I look at you and it calms me. “They will be older soon, like Maxwell” I think. This does two things: it gives me hope for a slightly-more-peaceful future, and it grounds me to the beautiful chaos of the present. Because just yesterday you were tiny, and now you are not, and it goes so. fast.
You are my buddy.
Look, I don’t ascribe to the mega-attached parenting style wherein I think we’re supposed to be BFFs. You will come to a point where I annoy you endlessly, I know. I’m learning all about that phenomenon of differentiation in my fancy grad-school classes, and why it’s important. But for now, I am really glad that you laugh at my jokes. Our conversations are fascinating. I love that when one of your brothers does or says something ridiculous, we catch one another’s eye over the top of their heads and share a silent chuckle. Tonight, you lay in your bed with me next to you and whispered all about your fifth-grade life, naming no names but sharing your thoughts with remarkable candor. At one point I slung my arm over your ever-growing body (you’re up to my nose these days in height) and leaned my head into your shoulder. You took the opportunity to squeeze me in such a fierce hug that I couldn’t help but puddle right up, remembering the way I used to curl around your tiny sleeping form in bed and now your feet are pretty much the same size as mine. You were nice enough to stay like that for longer than is probably acceptable for a fifth-grade boy, and also to pretend not to notice or care that I was crying. In that moment, I felt like the luckiest, saddest, proudest, most joyful mama alive. My baptism of April 16th, 2003 was one of paradox. For showing me that many truths are possible, I am so grateful to you.
Happy birthday, dear Maxwell.