Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Ryan James: 5 years


My Dearest Ryan,

Today you turned 5 years old. Before writing this letter I went back and watched some of the videos from the first days after you were born. Watching those, raw, new moments, I can feel the emotion of those days all over again. The elation, exhaustion, and overwhelming realization that we were now wholly responsible for a living, breathing, BEAUTIFUL little person. I remember the pride I felt in being able to call you "my son." I remember finally realizing what Elizabeth Stone meant when she said, "Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." Momentous it was indeed. 



Ryan, my how you have blossomed in the past 5 years. You have grown from a wriggly, tiny little baby to a joyful, compassionate, sensitive, kind, caring, smart, curious, snugly, enthusiastic, thoughtful, and fun boy. A boy!! While you will always be my baby, you are no longer a baby. You are a boy in every sense of the word. From the way you seem to constantly be in motion, to your love of all things trains and rockets. To the way you just adore your Daddy to how you still delight in nightly stories, snuggles, and songs. You are an amazing little boy, and as I told you tonight at dinner, someone I am so, so, so very proud of. 


 

This year, you took on the role of being the oldest of THREE little boys. It's not always easy, and there are times when I am certain you long for the days of having Mommy and Daddy all to yourself, but you truly are an amazing big brother. You just adore little Connor.
Through you I see my own parenting reflected back at me. The way you talk and coo and care for Connor is because you are watching me and Daddy and trying to figure out how to do it just right. And while in so many ways you want to be a grown-up who can hold and care for Connor, you are still very much a boy. A boy who is at times not fully aware of his own body and thus I sometimes fear for Connor's safety as you and Zachary both just want to smother him at times. You clearly just want to be physically close to him, and yet, you don't realize how much bigger you are than him. But any of your interactions with Connor, even those that make me nervous, all emanate from a place of profound love. I cannot wait to watch this relationship develop through the years. I see you very much being a kind, protective, and yes, sometimes bossy big brother. No matter what, I know Connor will look up to you and adore you, just as Zachary does. 

Yes, Zach adores you. You might not realize it, but he does. It is the reason why he drives you crazy at times. He wants to do everything you do and he wants you to do everything with him. He wants to play with your toys, he wants to know all about trains, he wants you to watch Cookie Monster with him, even when you'd rather be learning about Volcanoes and Bullet Trains, and Planets. Just as you look to Daddy and me for validation and praise, Zachary looks to you. When he finds something fun, funny, or exciting it is "Eye-an" he wants to share it with.  "Eye-an! Eye-an!" he calls. Looking to you to say, "Oh wow! That's cool!" or, "Yeah! Good job!" When he wants to tell a knock-knock joke you're first he goes to tell it. 
And yes, this experience of being a big brother to a toddler is at times overwhelming. Just yesterday when we were watching a video all about trains, Zach, every 5 seconds would say, "Eye-an, train! See! Train!" and he would keep saying it until you said, "Yeah! That's right, Zach! A train!" And every time, you did it. You didn't let him down. About midway through the video you said, "Mommy, its annoying to have to talk to Zach through the whole movie! I just want to watch it." And I said, "I know, Ryan. You don't have to keep talking, you can just listen." But you know what? You kept talking to Zach. You put his joy above your own. And moments like that, Ryan, are when I am most proud of you! When you show that you can be selfless and caring. That you can put others before yourself. That's when I stop and think, "Hey! We might be doing this whole parenting thing right after all." 



And Ryan, never in my life have I ever wanted to do anything more right than to be your Mommy. Your Nee-Nee has often said, "If you get it right with the first one, the rest will fall into place." And well, I think she's mostly right. I don't say that to put pressure on you. It's a pressure I place on myself. As I described above, you already have a great influence over your brothers, and so, I know that helping you to become the best person you possibly can be is not only the best thing I can do for you, but also when of the best things I can do for Zachary and Connor. And so, every day, I try my very, absolute best. Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I yell (I hate when I yell). Sometimes I am not as patient as I should be. Sometimes I am easily distracted by your brothers, the telephone, or life in general and I don't give you the time you deserve. Sometimes when you and Zach both do something you shouldn't, I unfairly get more upset with you than with him. And for these, and many other mistakes I have made, I am sorry. But I also know I will continue to make mistakes despite my best efforts to learn from them. And I hope that in making mistakes and acknowledging them that I will help you learn the gift of asking for and giving forgiveness. You're getting to an age now where you clearly point out the mistakes I make or injustices I display. Please, please don't ever stop calling me out on these things. This is how I learn and how I will become a better Mommy. I promise, I will always, always try to do better. 




Speaking of always trying, I love watching you in school. You're in your second year of pre-school this year. Your teacher is Mrs. Scott-Kem and you just adore her. Because your school is a co-op, I get to go to school with you sometimes. I love how you are always engaged and eager. You listen and ask excellent follow-up questions. You are excited about all the projects you do and you play so nicely with the other kids there. You love school, and you love learning. You're beginning to read, and I hope you will grow to love reading as much as your Daddy and I do (even if I don't read nearly as often as I would like to ever since having little people to take care of). Reading opens up a whole new world of adventure and possibility and I can't wait to watch those doors open for you. 
You and your amazing teacher! 
Every year when I write this letter I always struggle to determine if I have really captured you in this moment in time. And tonight as I think about capturing you, I can't fully do that without talking about all the family members whom you adore. One of the best things about being a Mommy has been watching you (and Zachary and Connor) develop relationships with NeeNee and PopPop. And what a relationship you share. They adore you and you, them. Today they played "Cat In the Hat-I Can Do That" with you. And as I watched NeeNee get down on the floor to wiggle underneath the "trick-a-ma-stick" I thought about how very lucky you are. I watched you snuggle into the crook of PopPop's arm as you watched a video about Volcanoes. You are simply at ease with them. NeeNee and PopPop would do anything for you. And I think you know this. And not just in a self-serving "can I have a Popsicle or a piece of gum or whatever kind of treat you can think of" way. No, you deep down know you can depend on them and trust them, and the fact that you have that kind of relationship only serves to make you a better person and helps me be a better Mom! 

 




You love your Grandma and Grandpa fiercely too. You ask to call and talk  to them often and when they visited recently for a very brief period you truly mourned their absence when they were gone. The next day in a sad, quiet voice you said, "I miss Grandma and Grandpa." I know because they live far away in CT that they worried about being able to develop a special relationship with you and your brothers. When you were a teeny, tiny baby I told Grandma about my own Grandma who lived in Massachusetts and how I had such a special relationship with her exactly because she lived far away. It made the time with her so very, very special. I see a similar relationship developing between you and your grandparents and I couldn't be more pleased. 

You also just adore your cousins Caitlin and Julia. When we get together for family gatherings you always ask, "Will Caitlin and Julia be there?" And when they are, you are just overjoyed. You are the three musketeers (with a side-kick named Zach). You play together so nicely and I just love watching these relationships develop. I hope you will always love and depend on your cousins for fun and friendship and learn that you can turn to them when you need support, a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on. 


Your little cousin James is another favorite. He'll be soon joining the band of crazy kids at our family gatherings. Right now he sits patiently as you and Zach ooh and ahh over him. And while you can't yet play with him fully, it is clear how much you love his "little pumpkin head" as you so lovingly called him in his earliest days. 



Your Aunts and Uncles adore you as well. Auntie Cindy, Auntie Catharine, Uncle John and Uncle Mark all called you today. And every time you talked with them directly or listened to a voicemail from them you just beamed. Ryan, you are surrounded by so many people who love you so fully, for exactly who you are. Do not ever forget how loved you are! 

Ryan, you are such a special boy. You're confident and assertive. When you need something, like a cup or a straw when we go to ZuCoffee for Hot Chocolate, you go and ask for it yourself. You walk confidently up to the too tall for you counter and say, "Excuse me," until they hear you. You then politely ask for what you need, always saying please and thank you once you get it. During the Holidays when we would go to the train garden at Homestead Gardens you had no problem asking the Engineer to put a different train on the track. I taught you that it never hurts to ask because the worst thing they could say is "no." And yes, sometimes they did so no, and you always took this slight disappointment in stride, just saying, "oh, ok. Thanks." Never ever stop being assertive. Don't hesitate to stand up for yourself and for others. I see these qualities developing in you and I couldn't be more proud. 

And Ryan, as proud of you as I am, this isn't to say you are perfect. You are a little boy who is full of passion and desire to do things well. As such, you sometimes get easily frustrated when you can't do something "the right way" the first time. This makes you grouchy or irritable. You get appropriately (and sometimes unfairly) frustrated with Zachary. You don't always listen the first time you're told to do something, and sometimes you even ignore me on purpose. You're not perfect, and I would never expect you to be.  As I tell you often, even when you've made a mistake or a poor choice, you're always a good boy. And I will ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS love you. 



Ryan, today we celebrate your 5th birthday, and the day, 5 years ago when I became a Mommy. You, you my sweet boy, and you alone made me a Mommy. It is an honor and a privilege to be your Mommy. It is the most important role I will ever play in life. 

Never stop loving so fiercely, Ryan. Keep being the joyful, kind, energetic, thoughtful little boy that you are. Happy 5th birthday to my beautiful son. I love you more than you will ever know.

Love always, 

~Mama 

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