Happy 8th birthday! Oh, all the things I want to say you on this day! But you’re at Fenway Park with your dad right now for your special birthday game. I wanted to go with you (you know, because rooting for the Red Sox together is our thing) but logistically it just worked out better for Dad to take you. Plus, I think he really enjoys taking you to the games (especially because I got really good seats this time) and he knows we’ll spend less if he goes (you know we’d be coming home with more Dustin Pedroia bobbleheads and jerseys if I went!) I hope he remembers to have you look up at the scoreboard when the Red Sox wish you a happy birthday. Because not every kid can say they’ve seen their name up there not once, but twice now.
There are so many many things I love about you. First and foremost of course, is that you made us parents eight years ago. A life changing event in so many ways, of course, but for me it led me down a path I never thought I’d take. I was working 12 hour days and teaching when you arrived (in fact, I was writing curriculum when I was in labor with you), and had always assumed I go back to work. A few weeks home with you and I knew I couldn’t leave you. With your growth issues, you needed me. And so home I stayed. Eight years later, here I still am. My “job” is to now be home with you and your brothers. It wasn’t an easy choice, but one I never regret.
I see so much of both me and your dad in your looks and your personality. Actually, you look a lot like my dad did when he was your age. You have his athletic ability too, and I love that you enjoy playing baseball as much as he did. Like him, you’re small but quick with excellent skills. And you listen. How great was it that your coach this year said how much he liked having you on the team because you were so “coachable”. Like my dad, I think you’ve found a sport that you can enjoy for life. I love how you just want to go out and play ball – even alone – but it’s so much fun to watch you and your dad have a catch in the yard. I know your dad likes that too. He’s told me about how far you’ve come with your skills and you’re getting better than him! You and you dad are so much alike in many ways – you are both incredibly smart, articulate beyond your years, and have a curiosity and lust for learning that many adults don’t possess. I like listening to the two of you talk about cars, science, and how the world works. Now if I could only understand half of what you were saying…
I hear time and time again what a “good kid” you are. Of all of your special qualities, this one is the one that warms my heart. Your teachers have said it, your friends’ parents have said it – they all enjoy having you around. You’re polite, fun, engaging and easy going (and you don’t eat a lot!) Kids want to be your friend and parents want their kids to be friends with you. That says a whole lot about you as a person. You can’t teach that. That’s just you. And that is truly awesome.
But what makes you the most special is that you have become an amazing big brother. Howie looks up to you and trusts you and wants to be just like you. I know in so many ways, it’s quite annoying. I can see how upset you get when he makes his noises instead of words, or throws a fit when things don’t go just right. You’re old enough now to understand that he can’t control those noises or outbursts in the same way that you can. We’ve talked about how his autism affects his daily life, and all of ours. We’re doing our best to help Howie with his coping strategies, but I know sometimes we don’t do enough to help you with yours. Know that I am trying – I am trying not to yell, trying not to get frustrated by the day. I know I need to find activities that we can all do together so that we can better interact as a family, and not ones that pull us apart and do separately.
As Howie gets older, he’s going to look to you for help in his life when he has difficulties or challenges because of his autism. He will do this because of how awesome you are. He will do this because he knows you love him and care about him and you will help keep him safe, just as you already do. That makes you more special than many big brothers, and it’s one of the huge reasons we love you so much.
Happy Birthday sweetie. And next year that seat at Fenway next to you is all mine.
“Will you laugh just like your mother
Will you sigh like your old man
Will some things skip a generation
Like I’ve heard they often can
Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we’ve handed down” – The Things We’ve Handed Down by Marc Cohn