Today marks another birthday for you, and it’s hard to believe we are turning the page on another chapter. The weeks race by at a ridiculous speed these days, and you change constantly. Knowing I can’t slow time, I feel I should at least reflect on who you are and what you do so that you and I both can know the moments that filled our days. So here I am again writing you another letter as I did last year. I hope you will cherish these one day and maybe keep some of your own scribbled notes as you travel through life.
If I had to summarize your year with one idea, it’s sure to be your newfound independence. We have sailed away from the land of babyhood, Jude. You run everywhere rather than toddle or crawl. You enthusiastically communicate what you want. You never slow from observing and discovering. Your language changes everyday as you study the details of the world to put them together in a way that makes sense in your little mind. It’s fascinating to watch, and it makes me see my own world a little brighter. And for that I’m really grateful. Watching you watching other things is my favorite thing to do. I somehow always knew I’d be the mother of a boy, and you are “all boy” no doubt. Cars and trucks and bugs and bumps and bruises and scrapes and falls. I’m convinced you take some secret delight in frightening me every single day with your daredevil ways. Well, it’s not-so-secret delight actually because your eyes give you away. All mischief.
There are so many details I want to remember about who you are becoming in these months. You’ve learned to identify your letters and sing a few little songs. You’ve learned to imitate those around you and sort things. You’ve learned to open the baby gate, which is quite inconvenient actually. You are always learning and discovering. Your favorite things to play with are rarely the toys that we purchase for you; you’d much prefer random, potentially dangerous objects. Forts made of sheets, cords that have lost their home, mops that have lost their heads, tiny spots behind the sofa where you like to eat your snacks in peace. Among your favorite things to do, your most loved these days seems to be cooking up some culinary masterpiece with an old bowl, a plastic spoon, some spices I manage to keep tightly closed, and any stray objects you could pass as pretend food. Your love of food, and the ridiculous amount you manage to consume each day, is a source of fascination for all who know you. You’ll try anything from malai kofta to a chopped up sushi roll, and bland food is your greatest disdain in life. Well done, my boy.
Culinary pursuits aside, we had some fun adventures this year, Jude. You discovered Central America and Canada for the first time and made a visit back to the Pacific Northwest as well. I know there will come a day when you ache to see new things without me and discover the world for yourself, so for now, I’m drinking in every second of this time when you are happy to be my sidekick. I love seeing new places through your little eyes.
I once read that the months between the ages of one and two were all about the child discovering that he is no longer an attached extension of his mother. After living this year with you, Jude, I am convinced that is true. You no longer stay right next to me when I walk from one place to another. You no longer need my touch to fall asleep at night. You no longer require my help on simple tasks like eating or figuring out most of your playthings. And I can’t believe I am saying this, but it makes my heart a little heavy to see you growing beyond me. One year ago, I simply craved a moment when I was free from your grasp so I could do something really fun, like pee alone or shower. And now here we are with a very different dynamic. But still, there are times when you’ve had a bad dream. Or you fall and scrape your knee. Or you’re feeling sleepy. Or you wake up bleary-eyed from a long nap. And you reach up to say, “Mama, hold,” and my heart throbs with a desire to slow time. Sometimes I catch a little glimpse of your baby face or get a breeze of your post-bath baby scent, and we are back to those first months again when everything was scary and new.
And really it’s still scary and new, Jude. It’s just a different stage and a different set of challenges. I guess that’s what I signed up for with this parenting gig, though. And I love it, even when it’s tough. Looking back at the last letter I wrote to you, I think I learned so much and felt so full in my first year of being your mother that I didn’t realize that it just keeps getting better with the passage of time. Like cheese and wine. (And like your own mama, lest you ever think I’m growing uncool in my older days.) Now I find myself wondering how things could get better, how my heart will stretch even more in the next year to make room for new love and new joy, but I know somehow it will.
As much as you’ve grown and changed this year, Jude, you have inspired growth and change in me as well.
I’ve learned that, though we like to go and see and do and travel, the comforts of home are irreplaceable and it’s where real life happens. Every morning as you rise about an hour earlier than civilized people prefer, I pick you up and bring you to the kitchen to start a new day, and I say a prayer of gratitude. You’re here and you’re healthy and you’re mine, and in my completely unbiased opinion, you’re the most perfect boy who ever existed.
I’ve also learned that there are miracles in the everyday. To you, everything is full and perfect and new: a walk in the woods, a dripping ice cream cone, the shadows of leaves in the sunshine, the feel of cold rain on your hand. So many tiny details passed me by until I saw your love for them. It’s a treasure to spend my days with someone who finds fascination and beauty in the world around us.
I love you for a million reasons. Your smile, your infectious laugh, your unwarranted cuddles, your emerging sense of humor, your taste for adventure, but most significantly, I love you just because. Because you are mine and you grew from a microscopic thumbprint in my belly, and here you are with your own tastes and opinions and your own little self. You have some great things in store, Jude. Years filled with more adventures and more love and more discovery and more of everything that makes life worth living. Drink it in, baby. That’s mama’s advice. Happy Birthday!