I know, you hate that nickname, but you earned it the day you came home from school with your head so covered in glitter you looked like a disco ball. You’re not quite sure what inspired you to dip both hands into a tub of glitter during a class art project, or furthermore what prompted you to rub said glitter all over your head, but I could tell you were delighted that I laughed instead of cringed when you got home. Even the bus driver parked herself in the middle of our street to see my reaction.
If all that glitter had washed right out, you may have avoided the nickname. But weeks later, you’re still shimmering in the light, Mr. Sparkles. The good news is, I’m pretty sure you’ll never do that again.
So, you’re turning 10. If I can be selfish for a moment, I have to say that for as excited as you are about it, it’s a little surreal for me. Just a few months ago, my oldest kid was six years old. All he wanted for his last birthday was some dinosaurs and a remote controlled vehicle of some kind. You, on the other hand, want an iPhone and a four wheeler. (The answer is no.) This is new territory for all of us.
I haven’t known you for very long. Out of your 10 years on this Earth, I’ve only known you for about four months. That’s not much, but it’s a start. It’s long enough to have learned a few things about you.
It’s enough time to know you’re kind. You are careful with the feelings of others, which is a remarkable quality for someone who hasn’t always been treated with the same care. It can sometimes work against you because you care SO much that you give until you’re so depleted that you can’t give anymore. Don’t forget that you matter, too, and that you deserve the same kindness you show to others.
Four months is enough time to know you have a natural musical talent. You’re not the kind of kid who sings along to a song without really knowing the lyrics or the meaning behind them. You listen with intent and then you interpret the meaning you find in those words. It’s my favorite thing to do with you when we’re in the car alone. Listen to a song for a bit and then talk about what it might mean. Sometimes you think it’s about heaven whereas I think it’s about romantic love; usually, we decide it could mean either.
You have a beautiful singing voice. You have more rhythm and natural dance ability than Dad and Ryan and I combined. I wouldn’t yet presume to predict what path you might take as an adult, but I see a musical inclination and passion within you that I hope you’ll pursue at least for pleasure if not for your career.
You are curious. You enjoy science experiments; you like to cook; when you encounter something new, you ask questions. That’s not something a person can be taught. That curiosity about the world around you is innate within you and it will serve you well. While all the why/how/when/where/butwhybutwhybutwhy can sometimes fray our nerves as parents, I want you and Ryan both to always question, challenge and learn.
I’ve missed every single one of the nine birthdays that came before this one. I am so sorry for that. I have missed so much. I can never know the weight of you in my arms as a baby. I can never hear you babble your first words or watch you toddle across the floor. I can never get you dressed for your first day of preschool or memorize the way your tiny hand folds into mine as we cross the street. But we do get today. And tomorrow. And next year. I get to watch you move on to middle school and high school. I get to cry as you walk across the stage to collect your diploma. I get to stand behind you as you start college and your career and a family of your own. There is something to be said for that. There is something to be said for knowing that although our lives were separate until now, they’ve joined together to create one larger, lusher, more promising path.
I know you are looking forward to your birthday. I know you want to be happy and you want to celebrate. But I also want you to know that if it turns out that this day is harder for you than you expect … if you find yourself missing the people in your life who should be here with you … if you find that you just can’t muster up the energy to pretend everything is perfect, it’s OK. We understand. This day is not about our expectations; it’s about you. It’s OK to be excited about your presents and to grin when you see your cake; and it’s OK to be sad, to feel your loss. It’s OK to feel cheated, and it’s OK to have fun. Whatever you feel today is OK.
(But seriously; you’re not getting an iPhone or a four wheeler. Just so we’re clear.)
Happy birthday, Mr. Sparkles. Thank you for adding a layer of shimmer to our lives.
I love you.