I’m guessing you don’t even realize it, but as we drove to your birthday dinner on Saturday night, you gave me an enormous gift.
With Grandma and Grandpa visiting, our car was packed to the brim, leaving the back row for the two of us. After lugging myself over the middle-row seats and settling in, I reached over to pat your leg. A quiet little hello. Without a thought, you put your hand down, and wove your fingers between mine — casually, comfortably, confidently.
We stayed like that, hand in hand, the whole drive to the restaurant.
Chances are, that gesture escaped you as soon as we broke free of the backseat, and ran through the rain to your celebration. Chances are, I’ll never forget it. Those few minutes? They filled my heart, and made me realize what I love about “eight”.
As you’ve been rounding the corner to this new year, I’ve noticed that though you need me less and less, you still want me. You actually hope that I’ll come to your class parties, watch you smash the ball at your baseball games, and listen in as you sit through your religious education classes.
It’s not like when you were younger, though. You don’t cling to me, or even check in all that often. But the fact that we can exchange a smile from afar is a simple reminder that the strings that tie our hearts together are still there — they’ve simply stretched over time.
That’s a good thing. A really good thing, I think. Yes, I’ve watched you (perhaps too closely and anxiously) as you’ve grown from a cautious toddler, tentative about making new friends, to a confident boy with so many playground buddies I can barely keep track of them all (no matter how many times you remind me that, yes, I do know who Bryan is). And your brother and sister are among them. Sure they can drive you crazy, but you’re their playmate, teacher, coach, and hero. Not because you have to be, but because you want to be.
I can also sense that you’re growing more self aware, but not yet self conscious. Slowly and surely, you’re learning to turn your feelings into words, and using them openly to explore kindness, heartache, frustration, fear, and excitement. I’m in awe of your honesty and openness with Dad and me, and I pray you always trust us like you do now.
Yes, “eight” has you exploding with life, energy, insights, heart, humor, knowledge, and strength. Oh how proud I am of all that you are this very moment. And I can’t wait to see what else unfolds over the year ahead.
Like all childhood phases, I know this one will be gone too quickly. So, as long as “eight” will let me, I’ll gently wrap my fingers around it and hold on. Because this is a lovely place to be.
Happy birthday, Big! I love you so.