Where do I start? We measured you the night before last. I was helping you get ready for bed when I glanced up at the door post between your bedroom and your bathroom and saw the mark from last year. 44 inches. When you stepped away from the door, I made you go back so that I could make sure that I hadn't messed it up. Three inches in a little over a year might not seem like much, but all the sudden you were standing there, the tip of your ear just covering the previous year's growth. It hit me hard.
You are getting so big in so many different ways. You no longer need to tip-toe to open the latch on the back gate. You help yourself to water and yogurt and cookies and bananas. You know what you want when the ice cream truck comes around and count out your own allowance to pay for your treats. You insist on privacy in the bathroom and oh! the pride in your face when you wash your own hair at bathtime. You call Daddy at work and leave voice and text messages for him when he's not there to hear about whatever it is that you are just dying to share with him. Most mornings you refuse to get dressed all by yourself -- you prefer to have some company so that we can talk about what you want to do today or what you dreamed about or how your switches need to be flipped so that your systems can start up before you can do anything because your muscles are connected to the teeny-tiny wires inside that are connected to your brain which is apparently connected to a switch that sometimes makes a "blip" sound (sometimes more of a "flick") and is usually located somewhere near your belly button. You are convinced that you are made out of parts and pieces, wires and switches, bolts and screws. You're so convincing that sometimes I make the mistake of calling you "Robot Boy". You're always quick to set me straight. You are just "Aaron".
Oh, but you are anything but "just". You are happiness, you are frustration. You are anger. You are hilarity. You are the purest embodiment of life. Everything you feel, everything you do, it becomes you. Sucked into the great vortex of your intensity, impossible to separate once it creeps too close to your gravity. There is no half measure for you. All or nothing. On or off. You are exhilarating. You are exhausting.
You crept into our room last night, woken by a bad dream. I was on my way to change out the laundry at the time, but you wanted to sleep in our bed so I tucked you in and promised to be right back. It couldn't have taken me more than 5 minutes. I had to stop to catch my breath when I walked back in. Daddy stretched out on his side of the bed, you on mine -- it was almost more than my heart could take in. Everything I love most in the whole wide world in the space of a queen-sized bed. You've got my hair, my eyes, but you are your Daddy's boy through and through. You have his determination, his tenacity. You are always, always, always thinking and when you come up with an answer, you think about it a little bit more, just to be sure. Not to suggest that you are cautious. Oh, no. You jump in with both feet, landing on both feet, thinking on the way down. I worry you with admonitions to be careful, to watch out. You told me yesterday that "the same all the time is boring. And Mommy? Boring isn't how I learn."
You have the most amazing capacity for learning. Sometimes it shocks me just how much you really do know. How do you take it all in? You are moving a million miles a minute and yet you still see-smell-feel-hear-taste everything around you! We can't keep up with your thirst for knowledge. I am convinced that the sole reason you are reading is because you were tired of waiting for me to finish whatever I was doing to read that or that or this to you. Somehow you figured out that all those little squiggles contained the information you were searching for, so by golly you were going to make sense of them. And now we can't stop you. Cereal boxes, street signs, TiVo descriptions, you read it all. Books from my teaching days, intended for my struggling 2nd graders. Last week you counted by 2's all the way to 50, only stumbling on 37 and 39. I got you back on track at 40 and would have helped you the rest of the way, but you held up your hand and said "I can do it all by myself." You've figured out that NE in the car must mean north-east because "N means North and E means East so you just put them together like a compound word." I think I mentioned compound words once a couple of weeks ago when we were trying to figure out why a rainbow is called that. You "administer" medicine to Cookie Monster and Bunny for their allergies. You waited for me "approximately 2 minutes" before you put on your own shoes and "tied" them. We haven't quite conquered the loop-knot-double knot yet, but I have no doubts that had I left them alone, your shoes would have remained firmly on your feet for the entire day.
I crawled into bed beside you last night and you rolled over towards me. I lay there in the darkness, feeling your heart beat next to mine, thinking about the
hundreds thousands countless beats we've shared. I pulled you close, aching to capture the fullness that I felt when my body encompassed your entire life. You pushed away and I was blinded with a flash of pain and pride. I am not your everything anymore. You are becoming your own everything at an alarming pace. And yet? I revel in your independence. Your confidence, your passion, your determination, those traits that make it impossible to convince you to just wear your sandals when you've decided that you need your running shoes? Infuriating, yes. If I had a penny for the number of times we've been late because you wouldn't just do what I wanted you to...! Sometimes life would be so much easier if you were more compliant, more empathetic, more concerned with what people around you might think. If only things could be more routine, more expected. More the same. But that would be boring, wouldn't it? And what would I learn from that?
Sometimes it takes physical distance from you for me to be able to step back and really see you. Your life force is too strong for me to pull back when I am with you and I am too easily caught up in power struggles with you. I sometimes think that had I grown up in different circumstances, I would have been very much like you -- head strong, passionate. I understand the rage that you feel when things don't go your way far better than you might believe. Just ask Aunt Sarah. But I learned at an early age that what I wanted and what was going to happen were often two very different things and that protesting was likely to bring me attention of a very different kind than I was looking for. I learned to suppress my passions, to be "nice". I fell victim to the idea that if I could just do what everyone else wanted me to do, that I would be liked and that would make me happy. I learned to be content. And now I am learning that sometimes "content" isn't enough. I never want you to be simply content. I want you to know moments of peace, certainly. But I never want you to mistake complacency for happiness. Routine is comfortable, but routine. The same. Boring.
I carried you back to bed last night, scooping you up in an awkward pile of arms and legs, blankie and stuffed animals. As I pushed open your door, your fingertips brushed against the top of my knee. I put you back in your own bed, wondering how much longer it will be before you are uncomfortable in your own skin, unsure what to do with the length of your arms and legs. I was the tallest girl in my family, always envious of the petite stature of my sisters. Maybe it's different with boys. Maybe you'll escape the awkwardness of not quite fitting into the mold that has been cast for you. I hope so. I pray so. With all my heart and soul and breath and blood I want for yours to be a life of self-assurance. Of self-trust built on a myriad of experiences brought about by trusting your inner instincts to lead you in the direction that you need-want-must go. I hope that your instincts lead you astray every now and again, so that your life will never be boring. I hope that you will look for challenges. I hope that you will challenge yourself, your beliefs. I hope that you will continue to challenge us.
I pulled the covers up to your chin and whispered, "Love you, baby." You stretched out your legs and half-way rolled over towards me. "I'm not a baby, Mommy," you insisted before stuffing blankie back in your mouth and hugging Cookie Monster tighter.
No, no you're not. But I love you just the same.