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Five Years With A Leo

Dear Bryce,

I've struggled in writing this letter to you. Maybe that's because I've already written in so much detail about your unique qualities, quirks, talents, and passions. Maybe it's because you're old enough that if I were to say most of these things directly to you, I'd carefully consider the language surrounding each phrase, because you take everything so literally and so personally and so seriously. Recently some other bloggers have asked questions about how we'll write about our kids as they age to points where they can read our words and react to them. I've responded to several of those questions by saying that I write about my experience, and since you are a pivotal part of that experience, I will inevitably write about you. Don't take this to mean that I feel I have unlimited license in what I can disclose about you. I find I don't worry so much about this issue, because you are such an effective and direct communicator that there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that once you reach an age where something about my writing bothers you, you will not hesitate to tell me in very clear, concise terms, and because I am trying my hardest to teach you that communication is the catalyst and the precursor for action and resolution, I will follow my own instruction, respectfully acknowledge your words, and act accordingly. There will never be a time that I simply won't write about our interactions, though: those are my experiences, and I would expect you, as you grow, to use yours in a way that feels equally fulfilling to you. I hope my example comes through to you over time, and doesn't just make you want to egg my car or send hate mail to my office. If so, I sincerely apologize; but until that point, I am writing this birthday letter to you, and will probably write volumes more about you, and to you.

Everything about your birth was intense. The pregnancy leading up to it had been deceptively simple and complication-free, which made the experience of hearing "his heart rate won't come back up" and "we don't know why it keeps dropping like this" that much more shocking and heart-wrenching. You see, before I was pregnant with you, I could never envision myself having a child. It wasn't that I didn't want a child - I did. I simply couldn't envision it the way I'd always been able to envision other aspects of my intentions for my adult life. Throughout the pregnancy, I tried to picture it, I read all about what to expect and I thought about you and how I knew this whole thing wasn't a dream because I could feel your feet and elbows poking around inside my huge belly. But still, even through all of those attempts, I was troubled by the fact that I simply couldn't imagine what you would look like, smell like, sound like, or feel like outside of my body. I couldn't imagine what daily life in our household would consist of with you, the new baby, the new family member, actually there, living with us. Leading up to your birth, I allowed other people's excitement and life experience to brush off my internal worry, and I focused on reading the baby books and preparing your nursery, tangible things whose existence and purpose I didn't have to work hard to imagine or question.

When I first saw you, I studied your face intently and was awed that you started out as a clump of cells indistinguishable from the other microscopic cells making up my form, and now here you were, despite my nine-month-long inability to fully believe you'd actually be born and have a face, and hands, and a voice -- a very CLEAR, LOUD voice. I spent every single day of the entire first year or so of your life being in sincere awe of you as a separate, real being. You were the template for us -- as your dad puts it (and as any new parents inevitably find), the standard by which all other kids were judged. Thus, we thought your penchant for screaming at nap times was normal, we thought all children refused to change ground surfaces when walking outside, we thought all toddlers gagged on any food with a texture more complex than stage 2 baby food, and we assumed when you could find landmarks from any part of the city, and could hold complex conversations and perform basic mathematical functions at age 2, that the world was going to be run by a frightening new breed of pre-schoolers within the next few years.

Luckily your pediatrician recognized your abilities and pointed us in the direction of your school. Last year at this time, I was fretting about our decision to send you there: would you feel socially overwhelmed? would the other kids accept you? should I put you in the younger class or the older class (you were right on the cusp)? what if we were wrong about how much you could handle? You thrived there; you learned, you handled everything that was thrown at you, and you simultaneously surprised me and confirmed what I'd known already - that your abilities and your quirks and your intensity aside, you are and always have been too strong not to thrive. All of my disbelief and fear during the pregnancy that you'd never even exist was just as irrelevant and and insignificant to your near-supernatural will to be, to be you, to be intensely, boldly you, as all of our doubt and worry about your ability to handle the challenge and complexity of school. So broad is the chasm between your being and some external belief in you, in fact, that even writing "the challenge and complexity of school" seems trite and inconsequential. Sure, there will be challenges, there will be hardship in your life, but our worry, angst, and doubt means nothing in relation to you. Your intensity, while I may tell you that it drives me insane at times, exists for a reason. When I step back from the difficulty with which that intensity often presents me, I see you surrounded by beautiful, powerful, blinding light. Is it your "soul"? Is it your "aura"? Is it my poor attempt at describing the indescribable? It is you - it is what clouded my vision of you before you were born. I couldn't have imagined you: you create who you are every day, and you've done so in profound ways from the minute you existed in any form - even before you were born you refused to let me dictate who you would be. You are a mystery and a miracle, you are intense and bright. You are my son. You are five years old today.

Happy Birthday, Bryce. I love you.