To my James, upon turning 7.
7 is very different than 6.
Not just on a number line, but in your life, my sweet, sweet, first born son.
You are so big now--not just too heavy for me to carry from the car to your bed if you fall asleep on late night car trips, but your spirit, your heart and who you are becoming as a person.
James, it makes me cry to say it, you are growing up.
This year you are conquering your fears and learning the pleasure of mastering the things that once held you captive. You are braving the waves with Daddy, paddling your boogie board or swimming to the buoy all by yourself, and making Mommy and Daddy nervous wrecks as boats sail past you, leaving you bobbing in their wake.
Once upon a time you vowed you'd never play baseball, or any other game where you might lose, and just look at you now, all suited up in catcher's gear, behind home plate.
That ball comes in fast, doesn't it?
But Coach Danny told you to get in front of it and you did.
And when you stand at bat, those same balls sailing toward you from the pitching machine don't even make you flinch.
In just a few months I've seen you learning to control those emotions, anger and disappointment, when you get thrown out at first.
I can still see them all over your face.
And my Mommy heart wants to run to you and hug you and say, "but you did your best, son."
But I don't.
I let you work it out yourself.
And you do.
Before you go back on the field, Daddy or I gives you a high 5 and say, "get em next time."
And you do.
I love the way this sport has become one more thing you are passionate about, like drawing or Legos.
I love the sound of you throwing the ball against the garage.
I love to see you teaching your brother to play catch and organizing a pick-up ball game with your buddies. James, you are becoming a leader.
I love your juice stained lip at the end of every game.
And I won't tell you that Gatorade is not really called Grenade, even though a 7 year old should probably know that.
You, my boy, are an adventurer.
A new trail, a new road, a new place brings you such excitement and joy.
It is one of my dearest hopes that you never loose that.
I will do all that is in my power to nurture that in you until you leave us one day to explore on your own.
(But promise me you'll come back sometimes.)
I love the conversations we have.
As always, James, you are a thinker.
But as you grow, I notice the things you think about becoming more challenging, to both of us.
Sometimes the topics aren't hard to deal with.
Like when you asked me about retirement.
You understood that Daddy is saving for retirement, "but how will you have any money for retirement, Mommy? You don't even get paid for your job!"
A solution was quickly devised.
"I'm going to build an extra room at my house, upstairs, where you and Daddy can live for free. Then you can just buy food and help me take care of my kids."
You are so much like your Daddy, vowing to take care of all the parents, when the time comes.
But other times there is no solution, and I can see how much it hurts your soft heart.
The way your eyes welled with tears when you learned Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed, and then Martin Luther King Jr. I knew you felt the injustice of it.
Sometimes growing up is hard.
And that, my dear boy, is the way I have seen you change the most this year.
There have been times when you have seen your Mommy sad, crying even, or overwhelmed by this little life of ours. You softly come up behind me, and pat my back.
"Is there something I can do to help you Mommy?"
And I have to try very hard not to cry even more.
You are learning that you can make a difference in someones day with thoughtfulness.
I love when you surprise me with these notes.
Often, for no reason at all other than you want to brighten my day, I find one sitting on the kitchen table, with my name on it.
You messy handwriting, (it's not your favorite subject) makes me smile, just like the backwards J you still do--often.
And I open it up and see you named your pirate ship after me.
Just like a sailor with a heart shaped tattoo on his arm.
I love that.
You are learning, James to care for others.
After 7 years of teaching, I am watching you apologize without me prompting you to, to offer help without reminders, to hug your sister or brother if they get hurt, and to say things like, 'no, I wouldn't like any. But thank you for offering." These are proud moments for a mama.
Last night when you asked me to climb onto the top bunk and rub away the growing pains from your feet and legs, I fought back tears.
I remembered rocking a little boy and singing Sweet Baby James to him.
You're far too big for my lap now.
But I am thankful you still need a Mommy to rub away the aches and that you let me softly sing, Sweet Baby James as I did.
I know I won't always be the most important girl in your life, and I don't want to be.
But right now, I'll enjoy every minute of it.
My life became richer and so much more beautiful the moment you were born, James.
And you continue to make it that way every day.
I love you son.