I had an entirely different post written, set to publish this morning. Then, while brushing my teeth before bed last night, in what seems like the first moment of quiet I’ve experienced in days, my mind began to settle like glitter in a jar of water. It swirled and whirled, finally calming and zeroing in on one big realization: My son is turning 7. On Saturday. Tomorrow.
His birthday hadn’t been forgotten. I’ve been organizing and planning his party for the last three weeks. He’s been asking regularly how many days until his big day and telling me exactly what he wants for his gifts (XBox, not happening; Pokemon cards and trip to the water park, done); so I didn’t totally blank on his birthday. Somehow, in the stillness as my family slept and the TVs were silenced, my mind danced through the day, then week, then moments. I got calm, and in the mysterious way that it works, my mind flashed to each of my children as babies, finally gracing me with the memory of R as an infant and then his birth. My heart clenched, my stomach dropped. It hit me that my baby is now 7. He will have lived this sensational life, drawing breath, skipping, playing, laughing, crying, and making me do the same, for seven years!
I caught my breath. This is a moment. I need to be in it. To delight in his excitement over growing a year older. To revel in his joy as he anticipates celebrating with family and friends. To tap into the long-ago joy I experienced as the “birthday girl.” To remember being a child who awoke with wonder and pure bliss each birthday. To revel in all of the wishes, acknowledgements, and love that will be shared with him on HIS day. To thank God for his life, the time I have had with him, the memories made and still to come.
When I learned I was pregnant with him, I was madly in love with his big brother, and thought it impossible that I could ever love another child as much as I loved J. It was unfathomable; the heart couldn’t have the capacity to love two babies THAT much, I thought. I cried and stressed over it. I was terrified.
Then, R was born, and I held him. He was the most beautiful, chubby little bundle. I still remember cradling him for the first time, feeding him, looking into his deep blue eyes, and being in awe of his full head of raven-black hair. I was head-over-heels in love. Again.
That love was quickly jarred when, after being taken to the nursery for his stats and check-up, R was admitted into neonatal intensive care. The specialist tried to tell me he expected my newborn to be fine, that my baby had “wet lungs” and needed some time for his lungs to acclimate to breathing air. I was crushed and scared. All I could hear was that my son was not well, that I couldn’t hold, nurse, or even touch him. My maternal instincts kicked in and the only thing that mattered to me was the health and survival of my son. Yes, I absolutely loved him.
The heart, our ability to open ourselves to love and protection over others, is awe-inspiring. Within seconds of his birth, I would have given my life or anything in my power to ensure his well-being and happiness. And that is true today, too, even though through these seven years his tantrums, stubborn streak, competitiveness, hyper-sensitivity, whining, selective hearing, and dazed and confused attitude have tested me and pushed me to my brink of sanity. I’ve imagined flying off to a tropical island to escape the incessant call of “Mama!” cried in almost every tone of voice imaginable.
Yet, the same seven years have been filled with firsts, feats, giggles, hugs, amazement, pride, joy, love, and anticipation of what’s next. Those moments trump even the most majestic tropical island oozing with solitude, relaxation, and exotic chocolates (I would need something to eat!).
That’s why last night, the idea of my baby turning 7 stunned me. It shook me. I want but at the same time don’t want him to grow up. Either way, it is happening, and I almost missed it because I was thinking about the cake, decorations, goody bags, party games, and all of the other stuff on my list. I forgot that tomorrow my baby boy is celebrating the past year of his milestones and achievements, his lessons learned, and dreams hatched. Tomorrow is the gift of another year of living, of sharing new experiences with him, and helping him choose to make his time in this world worthwhile, full, and blissful. I don’t want to miss one second of that celebration.
When he asks me 28 times today if tomorrow is REALLY his birthday, my response needs to reflect the same innocence and excitement as his question every time. The idea of being another year older thrills him because he’s enamored with life and all of its possibilities. He turns 7 only once. He gets only one shot at the next 365 days, and so do I. Let’s live in the moment each and every day; let’s live ’em big, baby!