You turned eight this year; childhood is almost at the halfway point. The other night as you got ready for bed, you told me you were in a hurry to become a grown-up. You told me there were things you wanted to do, and I told you that you would become a grown-up in time, but meanwhile there were things you still had to do as a kid – there were a lot of things you should enjoy now as a kid. We talked about the kids’ meals you like, especially the ones that come with a cookie for dessert.
But I understand what you mean. I remember wanting to speed up time so I could grow up and become an astronaut. I never did become an astronaut. Instead, I grew up and became a teacher. And a mommy. And a few other jobs in between.
I tried not to keep the conversation going that night, because I knew it was your bedtime. We had already read our book. I gave you a “kiss, a nosey-nosey, and a hug-a-bug.” I rubbed your arms for a bit, gave you another kiss, wished you “sweet dreams until sunbeams find you,” and left your bedroom.
But I peeked in on you later that night. I do each night. I peek in on you when I awake during the night, I peek in on you when I wake up each morning. I peek in on you because I need to see you.
I don’t just cherish you because you’re Ryan; a kid who likes a crunchy tortilla but not the melted cheese in the middle that would make it a quesadilla. A kid who doesn’t like to sleep with any blankets covering him. A kid who likes to eat French fries but who won’t try mashed potatoes. A kid who reads Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Dr. Seuss books, and biographies about Jesse Owens and Neil Armstrong.
The older you get, the more I realize that I need you in ways I never thought I would. The truth is I need you for my happiness, my sense of self, and my sense of purpose.
I cherish you because of what you represent. When I look in the mirror, I don’t always reward myself with compliments and praise. It’s too easy to focus instead on my non-flat stomach, the stretch marks on my breasts, the scar on my left leg. But when I look at you, I see soft brown hair. My hair. I see bright brown eyes. My eyes. I see a strong, healthy, beautiful body.
You represent the best of me. You are my every-day reminder that I am beautiful, I am strong, I am smart.
You can’t understand all that now, and you don’t need to understand that now. All you need to know is that I cherish you. I will always do my best to make sure you are safe. I will always do my best to make sure you feel loved. I will always include your health and safety in all my wishes on stars, rainbows, birthday candles, and stray eyelashes.
And when you do become a grown-up, I hope you look back on your childhood and cherish your memories of our handball games, our Coffee Bean dates, and our games of “Ryan’s Supermarket.”
With all my heart and soul,