This year marks the 10th anniversary of one of my favorite novels, The Kite Runner. This year, I read the novel for a second time, and still experienced the sorrow, regret, forgiveness, redemption, and inspiration I felt in the deepest parts of my heart when I read the novel the first time. This year, I sat in the tattoo chair for the fourth time and let the artist draw a kite permanently on my right shoulder blade, to remind me that there is always a way to be good again. And this year, on April 23, I remember the day I first met you and I celebrate your second year of life.
This is not a coincidence.
William, in this story I hold so dear to my heart, an innocent, kind-hearted child suffers. He is treated poorly because of his race, his religion, his status. He is done wrong by those closest to him, yet he remains solid, kind, optimistic, and good. The character who does the wrong is only a child himself, and must learn that before he can let go of the past, he must seek redemption. The story reminds us that the choices we make, our journeys in life, shape us into who we are.
“…what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime…”
When you came to me, vulnerable, soft, and crying, that day changed the course of my lifetime. No longer could I just be Shannon, the daughter, the sister, the friend, the wife, the teacher. No longer could my life surround my own desires. Because of you. You changed the course of my lifetime in the best of ways. You showed me that for the remainder of my days on earth, I will have in front of me in human form, a way to be good again. A way to impart wisdom and knowledge and love. A way to leave a mark on a dying, unkind world. A reason and a hope.
“Not a word passes between us, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t have to say anything.”
You are two years old. It is so hard to believe that you are two years old. You say so many words—book, read, walk, puppy, bubbles, mommy, dada, car, orange, purple, green, bird—and you count to 12 with the cutest little lisp at “thix.” But you don’t really talk yet. You communicate by yanking my arm, by climbing, by lying on the ground in protest, by laughing, and by looking me in the eyes. We don’t have to carry conversations. [Most of the time] I know how you feel.
“People say that eyes are windows to the soul.”
When I walk into your room in the morning, and you’re standing, preparing to climb out of your crib, you don’t have to speak. Your eyes say, “Good morning.” You take out your pacifier just to kiss me, you look at me like you’ve been waiting all night to see me. And we know each other. We just know.
Your big brown eyes might be my most favorite of your physical features. They take everything in, they express such joy and curiosity, and they are the only part of you that I pictured before I met you.
“It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn’t make everything all right. It didn’t make ANYTHING all right. Only a smile. A tiny thing. A leaf in the woods, shaking in the wake of a startled bird’s flight. But I’ll take it. With open arms. Because when spring comes, it melts the snow one flake at a time, and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting.”
When you smile, it makes my day worthwhile. Since your first birthday, we celebrated Christmas, which was less than perfect. You weren’t interested in your stocking or opening presents. But really, that just tells me you are content. Since your first birthday, we took our first trip to Disney World. That was less perfect than we expected, as well. But it shows me that you are comfortable at home, where you belong. And in those rare moments when you calmed down amidst the chaos, saw something that you liked and smiled, my heart lifted. Because that’s why I do everything I do. That’s why I work hard and come home early and take you places and hug the stuffing out of you. I love to see you smile.
At the same time, I know the world won’t always be kind to you. I know I can do my best to protect you, and you may have to face difficult times despite my efforts. I know that in the past, I have experienced hard times. I’ve been hurt by others. I’ve cried. I’ve watched terror on the news. I know that there will be days of sunshine in your life, and days of rain and snow.
Yet if I look outside at the Florida sunset, if I listen to birds chirping in the trees, and if I look into your big brown eyes and see your smile, the snowflakes melt. The sadness fades. Because there will always be good to outweigh the bad. Always. Please remember that.
Last year at this time, I was planning a baseball themed party for my baby. He didn’t have a lot of hair. He didn’t say much. He had just learned to walk, then to run. Now, one year later, I’ve just hosted a Bubble Guppies birthday party for a full-fledged toddler with the biggest, craziest head of dirty blonde hair I’ve ever seen, who climbs on the furniture, watches TV upside down, and asks “Are you keed-ing me?”
In so many ways, you are a little boy. You eat more than any teenager I’ve ever met. You know what you want. But in more ways, you are still my baby. You fall asleep in my arms, you cling to my side in overwhelming crowds, you stare out the car window, curious, like everything is new.
In the last two years, you have taught me so much about life. I’m learning every day. For your 2nd birthday, I make this promise to you: I promise to always love and cherish every personality trait, every face, every quirk you develop—all the little snowflakes that are you.
I promise to let you eat your crust first and open your sandwich up. I promise that I won’t freak out if, instead of putting blueberries in a bucket, you pick them and eat them straight off the tree. I promise to let you stop and look up at every streetlight when we take walks around the block. I promise to let you pull the strings on your pants… or my pants… or Daddy’s pants. I promise to let you turn your matchbox cars upside down and spin them, instead of driving them rightside up. I promise to let you walk barefoot. I promise to let you be you.
I’ve lived my whole life trying to be in control, but I don’t want to control you. You are the most unique person I’ve ever met, and I don’t want to take anything away from who you are. Except when you put trains in your mouth—don’t do that 🙂
“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”
I’ve dealt all my life with forgiveness. I’ve struggled to forgive others, and I’ve struggled to forgive myself for my failures. Each day as your mommy, I question my decisions, my words, my actions, my reactions. I worry if I’m good enough for you, because you’re so so good. But slowly, since I met you, the pain of the past, the worries about my insecurities, have subsided. Because each day, for the last two years, no matter what kind of day I’ve had, no matter how I’ve felt, no matter what about myself I’ve abhorred, you have loved me. And I love you right back—more than my life.
So today, I celebrate you. I celebrate that you are a Mommy’s boy to the core. I celebrate that you have taught me that life and forgiveness, that regret and redemption go hand in hand. I celebrate our little family of three. I celebrate this last year, and hope for many more. Happy 2nd birthday, my prince.
“For you, a thousand times over.”