(Not So) Tiny Prince

Tiny Prince,

Happy 6th birthday, William Thomas! In the blink of an eye, another year flew by and here you are, 44 inches tall, 42 lbs solid, full of life, love, beautiful curls, and long, twiggy legs. In this year as a five-year-old, you faced some changes and challenges mixed with exciting moments and I’m sitting here, reflecting and reliving every little bit.

Highlights:

-Road trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
-Family visits in New York and Pennsylvania
-First train/subway rides
-Kindergarten!
-Learning to read words
-First school bus ride and field trip to Homosassa Springs
-Moving up to Level 6 at Seal Swim School
-Disney, Disney, Disney!
-Being tall enough to ride Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom for the first time
-Competing in Special Olympics

Current Favorites:

-Pizza
-Kit Kats
-iPad
-Books
-Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You”
-Trains
-The “row-coater” that KK bought you
-Disney
-Swimming
-Elevators
-Your own face in the mirror J

Words to describe you:

-Happy
-Loud
-Fearless
-Fun(ny)
-Energetic
-Curious
-Loving
-Content
-Confident
-Particular

Things I will never forget:

-The wonder in your eyes looking out the window of the New York train
-You choosing your dinosaur backpack and your first day of school outfit—a blue polo shirt and khaki pants. (You INSISTED on “pants!” even though I told you it would be hot outside.)
-Doc McStuffins holding your hands, looking into your eyes, and crouching to hug you at Hollywood Studios on your fifth birthday.
-Your face watching the “snow” fall during the Frozen Sing-Along at Hollywood Studios.
-Your big, belly laugh when Magical Mickey spoke to you and said, “Cheeeeeese” at Magic Kingdom.
-The sound of you driving the Power Wheels Jeep into the bookshelf on Christmas morning.
-You learning to call “Mommy!” when you need me. Last week, you woke up and couldn’t get out of your bedroom and you called out for me FOR THE FIRST TIME.
-Your first crush—Ms. Kaitlin at Heart 4 Kids, where we took you for an occupational therapy evaluation and you smiled and got stupid shy and closed your eyes and tried to kiss her!
-You demanding that I still push you in the baby swing at the park.
-Your ability to stop and listen to explanations before getting upset. I love you so much for this.

Disney Characters You Met:

Mickey Mouse/Minnie Mouse/Daisy Duck/Donald Duck/Goofy/Doc McStuffins/Jake/Sofia/ Handy Manny/Chip/Dale/Pluto/Aurora/Cinderella/Ariel/Baloo/King Louie/Snow White/ Anna/Elsa/Tinkerbell/Olaf/Woody/Buzz Lightyear/Pooh/Tigger/Piglet/Eeyore/Alice/Mad Hatter/Mary Poppins/Joy/Sadness/Viking/Pocahontas/Peter Pan/Rafiki/Belle/Tiana/ Rapunzel/Elena/Princess Jasmine/Moana/Chewbacca/Kylo Ren/Aladdin/Merida/Mulan

Oh, William, you’ve had so many great moments as a five-year-old! Sure, we’ve struggled a bit with academics and you’ve gone through both teacher and therapist transitions, but I want to focus on all the positive experiences you’ve had!

You’ve become Mr. Independent now that you’re in kindergarten and Ms. Landis pushes you to advocate for yourself. When Abuela brings you to school, you dismiss her by saying “Bye Way-la” when you’re ready to walk with Ms. Morrison to your classroom. When I pick you up, you insist on carrying your belongings, putting your backpack on, and clipping it across your chest. At Disney Springs a couple months ago, your actions demonstrated your independence. You handed your token to the operator, picked your seat on the train ride, and fastened your seatbelt. Part of me feels a twinge of sadness when you don’t need my help, but more of me finds such solace in the fact that you are moving forward and learning to take care of yourself. For the most part, you have learned to get help when you need it and you’ve learned how to put on your shirts, underwear, shorts, and socks! You. Are. Capable!

You’ve learned to communicate in your own unique way when you cannot use words to express yourself. You love to pull our arms places and tell us where to sit. You like to play chase, and ask us to “Stand up” and “sit down” and “I’m gonna get you.” You even take bandaids and put them on your belly or on your teeth to let us know that something is hurting. You had your first loose tooth as a five-year-old… you’re getting to be such a big boy!

For your birthday last year, Daddy and I were able to buy annual passes to Walt Disney World, and I must say, we have made the most of those passes! We’ve stayed at All Star Movie Resort, All Star Music Resort, Art of Animation resort, Caribbean Beach Resort, and the Hilton Buena Vista Palace. You explore the hallways, playgrounds, elevators, and swimming pools at these resorts as if you live there and Daddy and I just adore watching you take everything in. You even like to use the key cards to open the doors to the hotel rooms yourself. We’ve eaten at nearly every character dining experience and you’ve had the opportunity to meet so many of your favorite characters!

JasminePeople refer to Disney as “the most magical place on earth.” I must say, you have made that statement true for your daddy and me.

IMG_9161It has been a joy to experience Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios with you! You’ve even gotten to share these experiences with other family members–Tio, Titi, Leli, and Gramps! At Magic Kingdom, you run around in the splash area near Dumbo and you request “Snow White row-coater” over and over again. By far, Snow White Mine Train and Splash Mountain are your absolute favorite rides! You even watch Splash Mountain videos on YouTube at home! You laugh and laugh when we watch the Mickey’s Philharmagic 3D show and when we meet Magic Mickey. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile or laugh as much as I have when you hear that giant mouse say “Cheese!” Your eyes light up and you stand perfectly still when watching the “fire fires” light up the sky at the end of the night, even when you have to try really hard to stay awake.

 

At Cinderella’s Royal Palace for Valentine’s Day, you met Cinderella, Aurora, Jasmine, Snow White, and Ariel. Each princess said something about your beautiful curls (Jasmine called them “magic carpet curls”), and Cinderella referred to you as “Tiny Prince.” You rode the elevator with her twice—like the king of the castle!

Cinderellas Castle

You’ve also become quite the Harry Potter fan (or “Hippo Popper,” as you like to say). You put these magical movies on and listen to the music in the opening credits so carefully. When you were sick, I was able to get you to watch the first two movies completely and half of the third. Someday, I hope we can sit and read the books together.

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I love that you’re interested in the characters at Disney and in Harry Potter… magical stories like these remind us that good triumphs over evil, that there’s more to each person than what’s on the surface, and that one person can rise above obstacles to achieve greatness.

Magic: wonderful; exciting; fascinating, captivating, charming, enchanting, spellbinding, magnetic, irresistible

You are magic, William. You brought magic into my life when you were born and you fascinate and captivate and charm and enchant me every single day. You wake smiling, you fall asleep smiling, and I smile because of you.

This year, at 6 years old, I wish you more magic, fun, smiles, laughs. I wish you strength as you face obstacles, and when you’re not strong, Daddy and I will be strong for you and with you.

In closing, I want to leave you with the lyrics of the song you ask me to listen to every day on the way home from school. It’s a beautiful ballad from the soundtrack of Me Before You, one of my favorite books turned film that coincidentally tells the story of a young man named Will. I know the book tells of a tragedy and the story behind the song stems from a child whose parents are facing divorce, but when I hear it, I think of how sometimes, Mommy and Daddy are overwhelmed and don’t know how to make sure you have everything you need, but you always reassure us that all you need is for us to hold you and be with you.

“Unsteady” by X Ambassadors

Momma, come here

Approach, appear

Daddy, I’m alone

Cause this house don’t feel like home

If you love me, don’t let go

If you love me, don’t let go

Hold

Hold on

Hold onto me

Cause I’m a little unsteady

A little unsteady

Mother, I know that you’re tired of being alone

Daddy, I know you’re trying to fight when you feel like flying

But if you love me, don’t let go

If you love me, don’t let go

 Hold

Hold on

Hold on to me

Cause I’m a little unsteady

A little unsteady

I will always hold onto you. I will never let you go. Happy number 6!

❤ Mommy ❤

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Four, Wild, and Free

My William,

Somehow, I have a four-year-old son. Four. Years. Old. Sometimes, I can’t even believe it. It seems like overnight you grew from the mushy infant who loved to snuggle or the grinning toddler who loved to be tickled into this long-legged boy who loves to run and jump and play. You are not a baby anymore. It happened before I was ready for it, but you are no longer a baby. You are a boy. A boy who uses the bathroom independently. A boy who climbs chairs to reach the cookies and chips. A boy who asks for lollipops and ice and “canny” (Hershey’s kisses). A boy who tells me what’s on the pages of books and finishes puzzles and plays games. A boy who identifies letters and colors and numbers—something I was never sure I would hear you do, but always believed you could. A boy who masters technology, swiping games and finding videos on YouTube—Clair de Lune, Little Einsteins, Blank Space, and Uptown Funk are your current favorites, mixed in with some “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid and “Let it Go” from Frozen. Man, do you love Frozen. A boy who can smile and comply, or kick, protest, and refuse with sudden anger. A boy who does “clean up time” so obediently. A boy who wraps himself in a burrito of blankets or grips my arm for dear life to fall asleep. A boy who bends over as soon as he walks in the door, always standing, to take off his shoes and socks, even though we’ve told you sitting down would be so much easier. A boy who rolls his sleeves up to wash his hands—your daddy makes fun of me, but for some reason, I find this little skill the most adorable and the most adult of all the things you do.

I’ve never seen time go by as quickly as these last four years have. When I think about the years of your life, I can characterize each of them by describing the changes in your personality and behavior over time. As this birthday approached, I began searching for an adequate word to encompass the miniature person you have become in the last year. I’m not going to lie. I didn’t always love age 3. So when I tried to describe you—the many sides of you we have seen since your last birthday—in one word, the word came to me quickly. And it has stuck with me. William, my love, my four-year-old little man, you are wild. 

You were wild once. Don’t let them tame you. –Isadora Duncan

Like your crazy blonde curls that we adore so much pointing every which way when you wake up in the morning, you are wildly moving. You are everywhere at all times. You are the Tasmanian Devil, spinning round and round and round. You are fast and you are fearless and you are so very hard to catch.

“A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?” –Albert Einstein

Like a feral cat who cannot and will not be tamed, you choose to march to the beat of your own drum—a drum those around you may not be privileged enough to hear, and you don’t care—and to ignore the “normal” and the “typical” and the “usual” and the “mundane.” You twirl when others walk in a straight line, you stand when others sit, you zig when others zag. Wild and crazy and free.

“He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amid a waste of wild air and brackish waters and the seaharvest of shells and tangle and veiled grey sunlight. ― Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

Like a botanist studying the origins and effects of plant life, you choose to spend your time weaving in and out of the wild: chipping bark off trees, kicking fall leaves (in February and March, obviously—it is Florida, after all), tugging on the “gree grass!” and holding it in your too-big-for-a-four-year-old hands (you get those from your Gramps, by the way), throwing sticks into lakes, watching birds fly in the sky and lizards scurry across the sidewalk.

Wild.

I think that when a mother names a child, she can set in motion a trend, a chain of events; she either brightens that child or dooms that child with the inevitable associations members of society hear with the utterance of that name. After months of disagreements, after no other name fit, we named you William. And after one of my favorite movie characters of all time, we called you Will. Now, so often, the words that seem to encompass who you are and who you are becoming attach to the name Will perfectly, like the puzzle pieces used to signify the Autism Spectrum Disorder you’ve claimed as a part of who you are this last year. Will. Weird and wild. Warm and wandering. Will.

In addition to the alliterative matches to your name, the definition fits. will: (noun) determination, willpower, strength of character, resolution, single-mindedness, drive, tenacity, staying power. What were we thinking? Your daddy and I named you Will. And you certainly have an iron will. You are both physically and mentally strong, and if I’ve learned anything from three-year-old to prepare me for four-year-old Will, it’s that if you don’t want to do something, there is nothing in this world—not even a lollipop or “canny”—that can make you do it.

Oddly enough, it never crossed my mind that your Daddy and I planned to have a child born under the same astrological sign as me. When we decided to have a family, we thought it would take some time. We thought we would have a summer baby. But there you were at the end of April, due near your mommy’s birthday. You are a Taurus. You are a bull. Just like me. I guess that’s why it seems that in this last year, while you’re playing with and smiling at everyone else, you’re giving me the stink eye or butting me in the head or pinching me. We are alike, you and I, deep down inside. AutismPic6 But on this fourth birthday, I want you to know that you, my child, are so much more than I am. Because you own being different. You own your individuality and wear it proudly as a badge for all to see, a prized medal of achievement, and you are often oblivious to the expectations of those around you. For that, I both admire you and thank you. I am fortunate to have someone in my life, someone so close to my heart, to force me to recognize what is actually important and to force me out of the box of complacency I’ve lived inside of for so very long.

For me, words were everything. The typed word, the spoken word, the sung lyric. They were everything. Until they weren’t. Until you didn’t use them. Until I had to learn your words without words. Thank you for teaching me to listen to what people are not saying. And thank you for trying your hardest this year to learn new words and talk to me and your family and friends and teachers.

For me, normalcy was everything. Dressing normal, acting normal, behaving, doing what was right by everyone else’s standards, pleasing people. Until there was no normal. Until I was told you weren’t “normal.” Until I learned that what’s normal for me and what’s normal for someone else—honestly, can we just call it all normal? We just have a different normal. And if you’re not normal, then I certainly don’t want normal. Because everything that I want and everything I believe in, is in you.

For me, structure was everything. Shoes and clothing and piles of paper had their places. Books and DVDs stood alphabetized in their shelves. My life had to be planned out ten years in advance—a degree at this age, a marriage at this age, a child at this age… Until it couldn’t be. Until they weren’t. Until tiny hands showed me that for some strange reason, that DVD goes over there, that toy fits best under the coffee table, that bus belongs driving down the side of the trampoline instead of on the roads painted on train table, that game can only be played while balancing upside down on the swivel rocking chair. Life? Well, life just happens sometimes.

You are 100% your own, William. As a three-year-old, you’ve made strides forward in learning to follow routines, in learning to comply with rules in a classroom setting. You’ve tamed slightly. You can sit and attend to a task, you can identify nouns and verbs in picture books at speech. You can watch me write letters on your magnadoodle and read me what they say. You can snuggle me with me and watch a show for five minutes—then get up and stand precariously close to the television. You can use 3-4 word phrases to request what you want—because you always want something. I want you to know that I’m so proud of you and I will continue to support you as you meet more goals, learn new lessons, and progress. But even though you’ve made those strides, even though you’ve let school calm you and teach you more socially appropriate behavior, you are still my wild child. And I believe in my heart that you always will be.

This year, as we absorbed your diagnosis and organized family and friends to join the 2015 Walk for Autism Speaks in your honor, your KK asked me to listen to a new song, “Masterpiece” by Jessie J. The lyrics say:

So much pressure Why so loud?
If you don’t like my sound You can turn it down
I got a road
And I walk it alone
Uphill battle I look good when I climb
I’m ferocious, precocious I get braggadocios
I’m not gonna stop
I like the view from the top (Yeah)
You talk that blah blah, that la la, that rah rah shit
And I’m so done, I’m so over it
Sometimes I mess up, I fuck up, I hit and miss
But I’m okay, I’m cool with it 
I still fall on my face sometimes
And I can’t colour inside the lines
‘Cause I’m perfectly incomplete
I’m still working on my masterpiece
And I, I wanna hang with the greats
Got a way to go, but it’s worth the wait
No, you haven’t seen the best of me
I’m still working on my masterpiece

AutismPic1 Every time I hear this song, tears well up in my eyes because I picture you and your strong spirit. You’re ferocious and precocious. You mess up and you’re okay with it. I know we haven’t seen the best of you and I can’t wait to see your masterpiece.

Please remember: your successes are my successes. Your struggles and frustrations are my struggles and frustrations. I’m with you.

So happy fourth birthday, my sweet and stubborn William. This year and every year, my wishes for you–like the book I Wish You More that you got as a birthday present–are boundless, endless, limitless, and unable to be put into words. But for now, what I wish most for you is that you continue to be you. That you continue to figure things out your way in your time.

Don’t let anyone take your wild away, Will.

All good things are wild and free. And some people aren’t meant to fit in a box.

“How old is William?” “THREE!”

William Thomas (or “William Tommy,” as you like to say), I cannot believe that another year has gone by, that your hair managed to grow longer and curlier, your smile is even wider, your personality happier, and you are now three years old. When I ask you, “How old are you?” you smile and say “THREEEEE!” You even try to put up three fingers—we’re still working on that.

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This last year presented quite a few obstacles. We experienced our ups, our downs, our in betweens. Mostly, this last year presented questions. Questions about your development, about your abilities, about your knowledge and understanding, and, inevitably, about my parenting skills. I’ve watched you struggle and overcome in speech therapy sessions. I’ve listened intently and written down every new word I heard you pronounce perfectly, even when there weren’t many. I’ve read the early adjusting reports and now the daily positive reports from your preschool, Longleaf, where you love to go and you’ve begun to thrive and flourish. I’ve watched you climb and run at Monkey Bizness and Gymboree and in our backyard. I’ve stood beside you while you mastered a new puzzle or stacked boxes and blocks higher than every before. I sat next to you at your first dentist appointment–you did great! I recorded you singing “Jake and the Neverland Pirates–and meeee!” Just this month, I heard you say “Wuv you” for real. For the first real time. Last week, I held your hands in a bounce house while you looked up at me, bent your knees, and yelled “Jump!” You can jump, Will! And I’m so very proud. I’ve been patient and waited until you were ready, and all of a sudden, you are potty trained, even waking me up at 3:30 in the morning because you have to go.

You are SUCH a big boy. And no matter the frustrations we’ve faced, no matter the walls you still have to climb over, no matter the days I get stressed or worried, one thing remains absolutely the same about you since the very day I met you:

You are happy.

Before you even squeeze your tired eyes open in the dim light of your bedroom every morning, you smile. For so many reasons—because I roll the car windows down, or because the dog is running in circles, or because I let you wear my big black and white polka dotted sunglasses, or because Gil says something funny on Bubble Guppies, or because I find you hiding under the table or inside the tunnel or behind the closet doors—you laugh your beautiful laugh and flash your perfect white smile with the pointiest canine teeth. And all is right with the world.

You are happy.

In the last year, your Daddy and I experienced so many great days with you. We took you to see the Rays win at Tropicana Field, and you walked around the stadium and got your first baseball card with your picture on it! I cannot wait to take you again this year, and next year, and the year after that and watch you get taller and taller in each baseball card. We took you to Disney World (again) and had an even better time than the first! You loved the night parade and watched it in your jammies 🙂 We traveled with KK, Uncle TJ, and Mandy on a cruise to the Bahamas! You left the country for the first time! You were the best behaved child who has ever cruised in the history of the world, and you loved the food, the water rides, running around on top of the ship on the mini golf course, and just being with us.

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Daddy still calls you Buddy. I still call you Prince. And that’s really what you are to us. Daddy loves teaching you how to throw a basketball into the hoop and hit a golf ball. He takes you grocery shopping every weekend and you two bond like the best of friends.

You are my prince charming. I love taking you to the park and on walks around the neighborhood because you just adore being outside in nature. You started requesting to go on walks and you always want to include your puppy, Esme. This year, you learned to hold her leash and walk her like a big boy.

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You point out flowers and look up at the birds and everything you notice is so new and so beautiful. You look into my eyes and push my nose into your eye socket like your weirdo Uncle TJ used to do and you say “wuv you” and everything about you is just so prince-like. You have my whole heart.

Recently, you’ve begun to develop more preferences and you’ve begun to communicate your wants and needs much better than before. You point more, you identify objects more, you ask for “more milk please” and your little phrases “nan-baba” for “banana” and “hank you” and “ya welcome” are absolute music to my ears. However, your growth has also come with a few somersaults and bangs on the bedroom window when you should be sleeping (where do you get this endless energy?!), pouty faces, stomping of the feet, and a couple swats at Mommy’s or Daddy’s or Abuela’s face when you didn’t get your way. Thankfully, these moments are short-lived and overshadowed by your gentle, easygoing spirit.

Your teacher at Longleaf is proud of you. She takes pictures of you playing peekaboo behind the tree at the playground to show me. Your speech therapist is amazed at how many words you can say and how you belly laugh when she pretends her T-rex is going to eat your arm.

You are happy.

You bring joy to my life and to every situation, and that is such a rare quality in such a flawed, violent world. You are sunshine and you are flowers blooming. It is so fitting that your birthday is in the spring because your personality truly is life itself. You are new every day. Your spirit is warm on the coldest day and I cannot say enough about how highly I think of you, how deeply I love you, how powerfully you have changed me, and how strongly I believe that your future will be nothing less than magical.

I leave you with one little piece of advice:

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” -Roald Dahl

Here’s to another year of happy, William. Another year of silly, magical, playful smiles and so much happy. Happy 3rd birthday, sweet prince.

I love you,
Mommy

Literary Quotations: A Letter to My Son on His 2nd Birthday

Dearest William,

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.”

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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.

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“For you, a thousand times over.”

Mommy

The First Year: A Letter to My Son for His First Birthday

 “The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones,” Tsukiko replies.
-The Night Circus, Erin Morganstern

Dearest William,

As I sit here, just 16 hours before the anniversary of your entrance into the world, I cannot help but reflect… on so many things. Your existence did not come as a surprise to your father or me. In fact, we planned you. We decided that we were ready to move forward in our lives. We welcomed the idea that adding a child to our marriage would truly make us a family. We prepared for your arrival.

But in every sense of the word, you were unexpected.

Before I conceived you, I possessed expectations and misconceptions of pregnancy and motherhood. I expected swollen ankles and mood swings. I pictured cravings for French fries and chocolate shakes, and tipping the scales at Publix. I saw pillows and blankets embroidered with a unique name your father and I agreed upon early enough in the pregnancy that we could shout it from the mountaintops and make it “Facebook official.” I imagined lying in bed at night, running my hands over my stomach, feeling your tiny kicks, and wondering who you would become.

Though I often wondered who you would become, and every once in a while, a book or a song on the radio would remind me of the life growing inside of me, my flowery visions of pregnancy withered shortly after the positive test. I never expected daily nausea and vomiting. I never expected to lose weight and be in the hospital. I never expected to leave the doctor’s office in tears—not because you were unhealthy but simply because I was so depressed and no one understood. I never expected to feel fatigued every night at 7:00 p.m. or to fight to keep my eyes open. I never expected to battle and debate and question name choices over and over again until three days before your birth.

You were unexpected.

When I watched my friends who recently became mothers, and thought about what my experience would be like, I shivered in fear. Sometimes, I closed my eyes and daydreamed about a tiny version of my husband—tan skin, brown eyes, black hair, and long fingers—and I smiled. Other times, I could feel the weight of the bulky car seat on my arm. I could see the faces of the disappointed people in my life because I would constantly be late for every occasion. I heard shrill screams and cries, and envisioned endless nights without sleep. I looked at bassinets and playpens and cribs and strollers and thought, “I don’t know anything.” What if I didn’t love you enough? What if I couldn’t be a mother? I pictured pain from giving birth, pain from breastfeeding. Sometimes, I asked myself how I ever thought I was ready for a family in the first place.

And then, on April 23, 2011, there you were.

And you were, so, so unexpected. This time, in the best of ways.

You made the sweetest noises. You had my skin tone and cheekbones. I didn’t think you would have anything of mine. You snuggled up so close to my skin, it was like we were one person. You started sleeping through the night at 5 weeks old. You yawned and you sneezed and you were all sorts of cute. From birth to four months, you were mine, all day every day. Every wake-up, every nap, every bottle, every bath. You were all mine.

William, although this year has been the fastest of my life, I can honestly say it has been the best. You have taught your dada and me so much about life and love and about ourselves, and for that, we are forever grateful. You have made becoming a parent so easy. Because you are kind and you are easy.

In one year, I have watched you blossom from a 7 lb 15 oz infant…
into a yapping, walking, laughing 21-lb toddler.

And I love every little idiosyncrasy that is you.

And I can’t believe I ever doubted that I would.

In a year, I was able to witness your first smile, your first laugh, your first roll over, your first crawl, your first words, your first steps, and unfortunately, your first sickness.

But I wouldn’t trade a day.

You are inquisitive and mellow and loving. You are stubborn and determined and intelligent. You are needy and independent. You are strong and you are soft. You like to throw things and clap things together and you love being in water. You have crazy blonde hair—seriously?—and the absolute most darling big brown eyes and longest eyelashes I’ve ever seen.

I feel ever so cliché, ever so sappy, ever so lame saying all of these things, but they’re true. You have changed me, and I love that I’m your momma.

So Happy 1st Birthday, William Thomas Rodriguez, my prince. Here’s to a year that was all about you, and to many, many more.

I’ll end with the words I whisper to you every night after you drift off to sleep:

William, you are the very best thing.

Love,
Momma