This Is The Payoff

This is 11.

Today, he turns 11, despite my begging with the universe to stop time and keep him small forever.

I wonder some days if I’m the only mother who finds the birthdays of her children bittersweet. He was so excited to wake up and turn 11, and yet I feel the monumental shift below my feet, unable to stop and steady myself against the change of time.

This year was the big shift, the longest leap to date. I looked at him recently…able to hold a conversation, pursuing his passion, figuring out his spot in this God awful world that we live in, and I was taken aback.

This is the payoff, the moment we worked so hard for.

I’ve written and been very open about being terrified about having children prior to having them. How could I, knowing all of the evil in this world, knowingly bring innocence into this world??? Who was I to think that I, the flawed human that I am, could be a worthy mother?

And yet, we have done it, and grown together.

The most emotional lesson that this precious child has taught me, surprisingly, is how to laugh. I always thought I knew laughter, that I laughed when things are funny, but the truth is that I never knew. In retrospect, I think I always wondered how people could genuinely laugh, knowing the weight of evil that surrounded all of us.

The first time I realized that I had never really laughed, tear inducing laughter that I felt in my soul, was a time that he was on the changing table when he was only six weeks old. In the middle of changing his diaper, I leaned over to grab another diaper, and he farted right in my face. I stood there, stunned, as this was a first for me. And then I started laughing and couldn’t stop with tears rolling down my face.

This was the first of many gifts this boy has given me. It was so hard, those first few years. Days of self-induced vomiting tantrums on his part, hours and hours of therapy, diagnostic testing, and begging prayers that he would just grow up to have a life that he loved. This meant clarity in priorities, shutting out external noise, turning the other cheek to nasty stares, unsolicited comments and opinions about how I needed to parent this special boy. It also meant that I had to take a drastic turn in how I viewed his world, sharply adjusting my view to see things through a foreign lens. As hard as it was, this was his gift to me: laughter and the ability to view all experiences from a different point of view.

This process is bittersweet, because there is no other way to package this experience than heartbreak.  I look at him, with swelling pride, and feel as though my heart has shattered into the tiny pieces of ash, and no matter how hard I try to chase after the invisible pieces blowing into the wind, I’ll never be able to quite put it back together again.  Our love and progress is out there, reserving its spot in the universe, setting us up for the next lessons.

Someone once told me that children pick their parents. I have no idea if this is true, but if it is, I am profoundly grateful that he saw something in me that I didn’t yet see in myself: strength and love.

Happy birthday to one of the loves of my life. I am so very proud of you and so thankful that you chose me to be your mother.

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