For my son on his first birthday

Everett Everett,

I can’t believe a whole year has passed since we saw your sweet face for the very first time. I remember the very moment you were born. The doctor placed you on my chest and a flood of emotion washed over me like a tsunami. It was love and pain and relief and fear all at once. It felt like the best gift anyone could give. It was as if I’d known you all my life. You were part of me, but a part of me that remained elusive until that very moment. Once I could touch you and hold you, it fulfilled a longing in me that I can’t explain. I knew at that moment that I would never again be the same.

Before you were born, I worried that maybe I wouldn’t have the same feelings about you that I did for your sister. I love her so much that I couldn’t imagine loving someone as much as her. And then you came, and I realized that I loved you exactly the same. It wasn’t like I carried a finite amount of love and now had to split it between the two of you. My love multiplied and my heart grew bigger. There was always a place there just for you; I just didn’t know it until you showed up.

As I cuddled you and tears fell from my cheeks, I was lost in a moment of bliss. That is, until I heard one of the nurses say, “twelve, twelve.”

“What? Are you serious? He weighs 12 pound and 12 ounces? Oh my God!” I said.

The nurse looked at me and laughed.

“No,” she said. “He was born at 12:12 p.m. He doesn’t weigh twelve pounds.”

I breathed a sigh of relief. There had been a lot of talk during my pregnancy about how large you were. I knew you were big, but for the love of all that is holy I was hoping you weren’t that big.

BabyEverett

And over your first year, you’ve endured a lot of jokes about your size. If you’re reading this later in life, and you’ve developed some sort of complex about it, I apologize. It’s just that we have been stunned that you seem to be made of some kind of football player DNA. We’re a little stumped about that.

Your first year has been full of love and laughter. Avery tries so hard to love on you that I’m often scared she’ll squeeze you to death. She loves you so much, in fact, that I have to remind her that I am your mother, not her. She becomes very upset and says, “No! He’s my baby!” Something tells me even when you’re towering over her as a big, strong man, she’s still going to treat you that way.

Avery is also your best friend and the person who can make you laugh harder than anyone else. It makes my heart happiest when she is dancing around, acting crazy just to entertain you. You laugh a deep belly laugh and she does, too.

You’ve also learned how to make us laugh. If we ask you to do a “shake-shake,” you close your eyes and smile so big that your two little teeth poke out and you shake your head like a puppy with a bone. You are spurred on by our laughter and you keep shaking your head so much that I worry a little about whether that may not be so good for you.

You call the dog by making little kissing sounds, and you love to feed Josie from your highchair. Your latest trick is what we’ve started to call “the strong man.” You hold your hands up high, clench your fists and grit your teeth (well, gums actually) and hold your breath until your face turns red. We laugh hysterically.

Since the moment you started crawling, you have turned our house into a circus. You climb on everything. You explore everything. You play in the toilet at least three times a day. You eat dog food on a regular basis. You’ve eaten all sorts of varieties of bugs and plants and dirt.

You crawl around looking for things to explore, and Avery runs behind you yelling at you in a sheer panic that you are going to be hurt or swallow something. Your Dad and I run behind her telling her to leave you alone. That’s pretty much how things are at this point in your life.

You have surprised us with your strength and physical capabilities. I haven’t known any other 10-month-olds that could do a pull-up. You seem to have this tenacity that drives you to keep going if you want something. It certainly presents challenges right now, but I know I’ll really appreciate that quality about you later in life. You are happy and curious and easy-going. You love to snuggle with your momma, and it makes my heart so happy.

This is your very first birthday. On this day every year I will always look back at where you’ve been and look forward to where you’re headed. My hope for you is that your Dad and I will show you that above all, you are loved. You are loved just for who you are and who you will become, and there is nothing that can change that.

I know it’s going to be hard for me sometimes watching my little boy grow up. I might not know exactly when to let you be free to skin your knees, break some bones and live out your adventures and when to cuddle you up close to keep you safe. But, here’s my promise to you.

For your birthday, I chose to decorate in hot air balloons because it represents this promise I have for you. I promise that I am going to let you fly. Your Dad and I are going to give you what you need to get off of the ground, and then we’re going to set you free on your own adventure. I want you to have many adventures, to see the world, to live out your dreams, to be brave enough to live fiercely and freely. I want you to learn who you are and what great things you are capable of, and I promise to let you try your hand at things even when I’m afraid for you. I will be your greatest encourager.

Hot air balloon

Don’t be afraid to fall down, my son. It’s those who fall down but learn how to get back up again that live a good life. I promise to give you enough room to be brave, to dare greatly, to live freely. I will always be here to bandage up your skinned knees, but I’m going to let you fly.

That’s my promise to you on your very first birthday.

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