Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy 5th Birthday, Andrew

Andrew.  Just writing that name conjures up all this emotion…a twist in my heart, an almost painful affection.  You have captured my mothering spirit in such a way, I can’t even describe it.  Happy 5th Birthday, My Andrew.

You are a child of such intensity – such passion – such fire in your heart.  I am grateful for your spirit.  What you’re going to become.  The way you’re going to brush aside the boundaries of your life. Or knock them down with machetes, more accurately.

Yes, there are moments…days even…when I wish I could push a button that slows you down.  Makes you stop jumping or touching or doing.  I fear sometimes that those moments will be the ones you remember.  That you will think back on your mother with hands on your shoulders saying exasperatedly: “Please…stop…jumping.” 

I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to be your best mother, and I’m not always sure I’m successful at that.  There are so many ways that your Andrewness runs counter to what’s easiest, tidiest, most convenient for a mom. 

But when I think about who I want my children to become…the grown up version…then I am filled with throbbing-joy that I was gifted with such a passionate, curious, active, scary-smart little boy.

You are this particular blend of your dad and of me, in ways that take both of us to the next level. 

You have that warrior-active side from your dad.  Love of being physical, sense of protecting your loved ones, and love for Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian, Terminator.  You want to protect the persons you love, even if right now that means toy swords against imaginary enemies.

But you also got my impulsive love for adventure.  That need to explore just how far you can push a boundary.  You are born to a mother who sneaked into Bosnia on a night-bus, the only woman in a bus filled with men, against the advisement of the American Embassy.  Who paid a man in Turkey $50 to borrow his motorcycle for a day, even though I’d never ridden one, and spent the day riding it along the ocean highway with no helmet…

Am I surprised that my child is now dangling upside down from a banister by a laundry-line rope? 

I have a love/fear mixed together for that side of myself, I suppose.  I cringe at the things I’ve done, the chances I’ve took, in the exact same emotional swirl that I am ever-so-grateful for that side of me.  I’ve done things, seen things, and experienced moments I NEVER would have experienced if I’d had more caution or insecurity.

And now that I am mothering that same blend of adventurous, impulsive spirit…oh my Andrew.  This is part of my mothering journey with you.  Teaching you to do those moments, but to wear the helmet, ride with someone else first.

God, I don’t know. 

I have so much joy about what is ahead in your life, Andrew.  I see that sparkle in your eye…the same sparkle that can overstimulate me at 8pm at night when I just want everyone to go to bed so I can grade papers…it’s the same sparkle that will have you throwing open your life into things beyond what we’ve seen or done.

You are truly an incredible human being.  You inherently love others…talking to everyone, smiling at everyone. The way strangers will gather around you when we’re out.  When we were at the Toyota Dealership the other day getting work done, I was talking to the cashier and then turned around.  I saw three workers circling you and talking about you – not even a specific about you, like your hair or shirt or something – but the essence of you.  I see that too.  There’s this light in you that draws people in. 

You are loved beyond any word I could type here.  There is not a descriptive phrase that could possibly sum up what we feel for you.  The adoration…the amazement…the way you have charmed our hearts. Happy 5th birthday, my boy. 

2011, you were quite a year.

I really loved 2011.  I didn't love it because it was easy or because it made any sense.  I loved it because in so many ways, I feel like who we are as a family finally crystallized.

What I learned:  When we believe in something, we will do anything to make it happen.

Whether it's Russian camp for Jack (1000 miles from home), or Steve going back to school for his CPA, the family somehow figured out ways to make it happen.  When Andrew didn't want to leave his Play and Learn class, we drove back an hour each way from Williamsburg to make sure that happened for him. 

Could our family be just as happy with less-extreme measures?  I've wondered that. 

But then I look at the Other End of these decisions that seemed overly-complicated, and I am overcome with gratitude for our feisty, impulsive, non-conventional ways.

In the thick of things, sometimes I wonder what the hell we're doing.  When I was orchestrating the complicated chain of command to send Jack to camp alone...including his solo flight on Southwest to Chicago to Steve's parents...the hand-over to my dad in Wisconsin Dells...then my dad driving him 4 hours to Northern Minnesota...

When someone else looks in on that and wonders, "Is it really worth it?"...I do understand that.  On the surface level, those efforts aren't really necessary. Will a week at camp at age 7 bring future fluency in this language he loves?  No.  He might not even remember a lot of it a year later.

But what I hope we taught him is that he can dream big goals for himself, and we will find a way to make that happen in his life. That we believe in his interests, the things he loves, and we'll take measures (financial and time) to help him do what he really craves doing.

Steve's career change certainly seemed risky and impulsive, too.  When I told Han, our friend from China, that Steve used to be a math teacher, she thought at first she didn't understand me correctly. "I am confused, because in China, you do not do this.  A man who has a family does not change jobs."   I laughed, and told her it's pretty odd in America, too.

But omigod.  Look at the other end of this. What if we'd said "no" to the uncertainty of it and didn't take this risk?  What if we'd edited our lives too early, because we didn't have a guarantee on the other end?

What 2011 taught me was to take those risks and keep believing, even through the complicated path towards making those goals happen.  Watching our savings whittle down without a new stream of income wasn't a great feeling.  That wasn't the part we signed on for, it was just a necessary step in the process.

But Steve getting that Deloitte offer...the chance to explore Richmond, a whole new chapter of our lives...finding the new schools for the kids and wondering about what lies ahead?

Even more so than a year ago, I really believe in what life can offer.  How truly magical it can be to make those decisions that aren't black-and-white great decisions, but feel very very right on a soul level.  How life can just explode into arenas that you couldn't even imagine. 

I love these children of mine, and I adore my husband.  And if their life needs something extra to be who they're supposed to be, then I will back them 100%.

And if it's the wrong answer?  That's okay with me too.  Because I'm seeing that things aren't etched in cement, they are molded out of play-doh that's filled with chemicals so it doesn't dry up. :) You can fix things.  Make new choices.  And close doors on mistakes and said: "Well, THAT won't happen again." 

All of it fills me with gratitude, and excitement about what's in store.