Yeah, I know. This time last year, I said I was done with the half-birthday letters. “Only once a year from here on out!” I proclaimed. “After age five, not much changes from year to year!” I foolishly assumed.
It’s true that I probably won’t do half-birthday letters every year, but this year warranted an exception. This year, a whole heck of a lot did change from five to five-and-a-half.
In your fifth birthday letter, I wrote that I’d never been more proud of you. Well, guess what? You managed to outdo yourself.
You are coming off of quite possibly the hardest couple of weeks a child could have. You had to say goodbye to your foster brother, BlueJay, a boy you played with and laughed with and chased across the house — and, yes, bossed around a bit — for almost an entire year. I will never pretend to understand how that loss feels to you or how you process it inside your own head and heart, but I will say this: You were you such a strength to him in his last day with us.
The way you ran upstairs to get your toy train – a toy you knew he really loved – to selflessly pack it into his tub of toys. The way you pulled your chair right next to him at the kitchen table for your last breakfast together and let him make silly faces at you, even though we all know you don’t like to be bothered while you’re eating.
You were strong for him even though I know you were – are – hurting, too. That is such a difficult thing to do. To be so empathetic that you can find it within yourself to be strong for him while also managing your own pain. Most adults can’t even do that. It’s part of what makes you so special.
You are already asking when we’ll bring another brother home for you, which confirms something I suspected about you before we began this journey — you are the sort of child who can handle being a foster sibling. The uncertainty and the loss did not damage or break you. It was a scary gamble as your parents, but Daddy and I both felt strangely confident that you were the sort of person who could love fully even in the face of the knowledge that you might have to say goodbye. I don’t know what decisions we will make in the future about fostering or adoption, but I do know that because you are who you are, we were all able to take a leap of faith and make a positive, loving difference in BlueJay’s life. I will always be in awe of you for that.
You have grown in so many other ways, too. You are starting to learn how to sound out words and spell things yourself, which means you are *this close* to learning how to read. You are learning to add and subtract numbers and how to tell time on a clock. In the past six months, you’ve really started to draw, too. Every day, your drawings get a little more intricate. You draw dinosaurs (completely with exploding volcanoes), lizards, monsters, people, houses, flowers and most recently, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, leprechauns, shamrocks and rainbows with pots of gold at the end.
You talk like a little adult. We sometimes joke that you’re five going on 55. Some say it’s because your Dad and I have always talked to you like an equal, but really I think it’s because you simply soak in so much of the world around you. You are observant. You are a natural storyteller. You are funny. You recently had us and your aunt and uncle laughing hysterically with this Ryan-original joke, which you wrote on the spot:
“Why did the sandwich come up from the bathtub?”
“Uhhhh… we don’t know, why?”
“………… Cuz it wanted a bottle of cheese!”
Good lord how we laughed. It makes zero sense, of course, but your delivery was impeccable. Sandwich needed liquid cheese; time to come out of the bathtub. Honestly, I’m still laughing.
You’ve recently started taking karate lessons, which is So Freaking Cool to watch. You are such a natural karate kid because you want to be strong in the mind and the body, you like the ritualistic parts of bowing to your teachers and using respectful words like “sir” and “ma’am.” I see the way you stand a little taller after each lesson, and it fills me with pride.
This is our last summer together before you start real full-day school. Let’s live it up. Let’s swim in pools, in lakes and in the ocean. Let’s ride all the spinny rides and bouncy rides and rollercoasters we can find. Let’s visit the zoo and the science center, splash pads and water parks. Let’s take nature hikes and have picnics in the park. Let’s enjoy this time together, just the two of us.
I know that one day, you will grow up and you will find I have already told so much of your early story. I struggle sometimes with whether that has been the right thing to do. As you get older, we will figure out together what is my story to tell and what belongs only to you. But for now, I think that you — without even realizing it — have inspired others with your ability to love unconditionally.
Ry, I am so lucky you are mine. I am beyond blessed to have the opportunity to watch you grow into such a smart, inquisitive, sensitive and kind little boy.
I love you like crazy. Every second of every day.
Previous birthday letters to Ryan: