Today you, my very first baby, turned 9. Nine! How is it possible?
I'm not sure it feels like yesterday exactly, but recently for sure, you were that beautiful, squishy, completely helpless baby! And now here you are, half-way to 18, to adulthood!
I can't help thinking about all the things we still want to teach you before you grow up and leave home.
I marvel at all the ways you've changed over the years, how grown up you're getting! I also wonder how you'll ever survive on your own, since the everyday details of life, like where you put your shoes, are often overlooked as you ponder deeper things like the periodic table!
I've made it a mission to prepare you to be able to cook a meal, scrub stains out of clothes, and pick up your things, you know as my gift to your future wife. It's a great challenge I often feel I'm losing! You and I’ve made a deal that each time I pick up your clothes from the floor of your room, you owe me a dollar. The deal’s been on for about 2 weeks now and I think I’ve earned over $10. At this rate, your daddy and I may be able to retire some day afterall!
You have always challenged us as parents, quite the strong-willed child, and you can exasperate us to no end at times, but then it shows up, the goodness and the sweetness. The kid that brings us large portions of his allowance to "help take care of the orphans in Ethiopia". The "Mom, thank you for all the work you do around here," comment that comes out of the blue!
Last night as I was laying out all the kids' clothes for this morning, I asked you, “What’s your favorite shirt? What shirt would you most like to wear to school on your birthday?” You rummaged through your closet and came out with the monster shirt I made for you and a matching one for your brother over a year ago and said, “This one. This one is my favorite because you made it for me.”
Melt my heart. One day shy of 9 years old and he says his favorite shirt is the one his mama made for him!
And I think even if you never get it right, the putting your shoes on the shelf and hanging up your backpack and jacket rather than throwing them down wherever, or the ability to use utensils reliably - oh how many times must we remind you, "Rice is never, ever eaten with your fingers?!" - that it’s okay because the things that truly matter, you have right.
You love Jesus in a way that tells me you just may follow Him wherever He leads you in life, which simultaneously delights and scares me as a mother, knowing that may not always mean comfort or the easy road for your life. Although it will be tough to watch you navigate difficult paths, your Daddy and I know well the blessing and joy you'll find right in the midst of the hard.
You come out of school and immediately wrap an arm around the shoulder of your 4 year old brother. The two of you walk together talking over the day and even if we stop off at the playground and you see your best friend, you don’t shoo your little brother away but include him right in with your big friends! Other mothers comment on how sweet it is and I can only nod, taking no credit, because it's just you, it's who you are.
This past year brought you smack dab into the middle of seas of orphans in Ethiopia. Your courage in greeting those children, shaking hands, hugging them, playing with them when you could have shrunk back in shyness, was amazing, filled me with more pride than your stellar math and science grades ever will (although those are important accomplishments, too)!
And even more awesome, the way you embraced one small orphan as your beloved sister! You've always been on-board with enthusiasm about our adoption journey, even when we detailed the sacrifices we'd make as a family to add another child in that way.
I am so proud to be able to call you my son! I can't wait to see what God has in store for your life!
Your biggest fan
P.S. I am serious, though, about never getting a 2nd date with a girl if you take her to dinner and eat your rice with your fingers! Good thing we have several years before dating is an issue!