Here we are, on the eve of your first day of third grade and I cannot sleep. In fact, I cannot quit crying. I wish someone would have told me how quickly time would pass. How looking back, each stage and challenge we have faced would be but a fleeting moment in time.
Raising you has been, so far, the greatest challenge I have faced. You are so bright that you outsmart me on a daily basis. But now, as I reflect on the nine years we have had together, I want it all back. I wish I could bring back the myriad of moments we have shared and relive them together, taking even more time to treasure each and every bit. You don’t remember it all, but I do. Perhaps the greatest gift I can give you is the memories of your childhood, so that you can see through my eyes just how amazing and miraculous you truly are.
I remember the troubles we had having you. You saw what we went through to give you a baby brother. It was the same with you. The night a young doctor walked into my hospital room and told your daddy and I that I was having a miscarriage and all they could do was help me be comfortable as your life slipped away from us–that very night is etched into my mind as if it just occurred moments ago. The tears we cried! Already so in love with you that our hearts were breaking. A love so palpable that even the young doctor could feel it and agreed to give me drugs that weren’t even indicated that early in pregnancy. But they worked, and I knew then and there that something great was occurring, that your life would somehow and in some way end up being a gift to the world. And we held on because you were so wanted. Through all of the tests and drugs and hospitalizations.
And then you were here with us. You entered the world with the lustiest scream I have ever heard, almost 2 months premature, and yet so ready for the world that you didn’t even need to be suctioned. And you were so beautiful. Everyone who had the privilege of gazing upon you saw your beauty. And the miraculous part is that this beauty I am speaking of never faded.
You don’t remember colic, but I do. The nights you screamed from some unknown discomfort while Daddy was at work and it was just the two of us. I wished then that it would end. Now, looking back, I realize that those nights gave us some of our most sacred moments. I would clutch you close to my heart and sing songs of love to you to quiet your hurt as best I could while I got to know you in a way nobody else ever will. My baby boy. My angel.
You were just nine months old when you began to walk. In fact, you walked before you talked. I cried when you took your first step because I made it harder for you. My shouts of excitement startled you so much that you lost your balance and plopped down on your diapered bottom. The look of shock on your face! I wish I would have known then that you would start taking baby steps further and further away from me.
And when you first talked! We had been so worried. You were almost two and weren’t talking. I worried and worried and took you to specialists because I was fearful that something was wrong. Why weren’t you talking? Of course now I know this was just more evidence of how special you are because I had to make you talk. You were too smart and could do for yourself and just had no need. You never did have a real first word like “mommy” or “daddy”. Instead, one day out of the blue, you toddled up to me and tugged on my pants and said, “I want a cookie.” Just like that. Plain as can be. Not a first word, but rather a first sentence.
Time passed at lightening speed and before I knew it, it was time to send you to school. You were a full year younger than your classmates, and when we took you for pre-kindergarten testing, you looked so small next to the bigger kids. But you were also much smarter than any of them. Your teacher adored you. The sweet innocent little man you were! At recess, all of the little girls would want to play house. And you, so small that the clothes you were wearing came from Baby Gap, would always have to be the baby. And they would push you around in a stroller meant for dolls. But you let them and never complained because that is your nature. And you became even more loved because of it. Anywhere we would go, we would come by people who knew you. “Hi Evan!”, they would exclaim, while Daddy and I looked at each other with confusion. Who were these people and how did they know you?
I remember the day we found out you were different from other kids. Mommy cried a lot of tears that day and you wanted to know why because you were so concerned. “Gifted”, they said. “Freakishly high intellect”. I knew then that life would be a little more difficult for you because you just think differently from the rest of us. And the struggles with school started. Do we keep you with your age group or put you where you belong academically? And I began to have fears that I would fail you in some way. That the decisions I would make for you would end up being less than the best. And then I had to learn the hard lesson that I will not always be able to fix everything for you and my heart broke.
I am not the perfect parent. I make mistakes. But I do know that I have done a good job. I know this because I know you. I remember one day we were at the playground and there was a mentally retarded teenager playing on the swings amidst children your age. And those children were making fun of the boy because he had the body of a grown-up but still wanted to play like a young child. You could see the pain and confusion on his face. I felt fear as you started to approach the boy. I didn’t want you to add to his hurt. As I made a motion to go a intervene, your dad held out his arm to stop me and told me to watch and see what happened. I did, and my heart swelled with pride as you took that boy by the hand and led him to the sand pit and proceeded to build in the sand with him for over an hour, despite your peers’ taunting. And I saw, then and there, the kindness in your heart and knew that I must have been doing something right in the years I have been blessed to have you.
So here we are, and I am sad. Third grade. And your ninth birthday in just a matter of days. It is all going too quickly for me. I know we will build new memories together for me to add to my collection. It’s just that those steps you take, Evan! They just keep carrying you closer to the day you will leave me. And I worry that the world will not be ready to see the beauty and wonderment that is you in the same way I have. But at the same time, I cannot wait to see your life unfold, to witness the amazing things I know are in store for you.
I know the past year or so has been difficult for you. First you had to adapt to the idea of a new baby in the house after almost nine years. Then came the medical issues as my body tried to fail Zachary like it tried to fail you. And before we knew it, Zach was here and you had to adapt to having to share us. But you are so tough and strong and resilient that you handled it better than most adults could. I know, with all of the time we have had to devote to Zach, that you question your new place in the family. I am telling you now that it is still, and will always be the same. My baby boy. My angel. The love of my life. One of my greatest miracles. My life. My breath. my heart. My one and only Evan.