There is something special about being the youngest. I wouldn’t know from experience but I have observed it with Matthew from the day he was born. There is always someone, especially in a big family, looking out for you, someone who wants to show you the way, someone to learn from and look up to. Although he doesn’t always appreciate it, and we have to fight the urge everyday to give him help that he doesn’t need, he won’t know until he gets a little older how lucky he is to have these people on his team.
Sunday night, as we sat around the kitchen table, I took out 11 candles sticking them in the cake as I counted them for an early birthday celebration for Matthew. All of a sudden, my oldest, Lauren, who is 17, started shaking her head.
“Wait, he’s 11? No! He’s ten….” realizing her mistake as the words came out of her mouth and tears immediately filled her eyes. God bless that first born old soul of mine. She feels things so deeply and has always had a bittersweet relationship with birthdays because she understands the nature of getting older so well for a young person. Being almost seven years older, he was her baby too, she still watches over him in a mothering instead of sisterly way. Lots of psychology goes into that, and even though I tell her its not her job, it is who she is, and she can’t stand the thought of him getting older. The fact remains though, that he is and as everything has always been with Matthew, the milestones are a little sweeter because they have been a little more hard fought.
Sometime during these last 11 years, it became obvious to me that this baby of the family was here to teach us as much as we think we need to teach him. Birthdays are starting to make me sad too, in part because of the reminder that the family that started together is marking these special days separately and, as cliche as it sounds, it really does just go too fast. What seems to take the sting away is to be able to honor the amazing things each of these kids teach me in that year. There are so many I can't ever list them all, but hopefully someday they will look back and realize no matter how difficult some days can be, it is an amazing experience to be their mom. Today, Matthew turns 11 and these are just a few notable lessons from the highlight reel.
- Freedom and Responsibility are the key to courageous happiness. Every inch I have given you Matthew, you have risen to the challenge. As your mom, this can be so scary, especially given your history. When I watch you accept challenges and responsibility though, I see your confidence rise as you complete the task and nothing makes me more proud.
- Speak your truth without worrying about how it will be received. Bubs, often you have no filter. You say things that make us cover our faces with our hands sometimes and make your siblings look at me like “please make him stop!” It’s your truth and your thoughts and you just can’t hold them in. There is no build up with you. Over time, my job is to teach you how to regulate some of these emotions you feel and express but I will vote for your honesty over holding it in any day of the week.
- When it comes to your passions, dive deep and don’t let anyone or anything derail your pursuit. I have already written endlessly about your ability to pursue your passion with the water. For you to have figured out a such a young age something that stirs your soul and gives you purpose is a gift that most people don’t get until much later in life, if ever. Your example with this challenges me daily to pursue my passions with the same tenacity.
- The best way to learn is through experience. When you can see, feel, taste and touch it, I know you’ve got it. At this point, I don't see a desk job in your future. You are here for the live experience! I love watching you master the simple stuff that makes life great. Consistency, routine and great bbq skills will add up to a pretty good life. You remind me not to overcomplicate things.
To watch you today and know the challenges you have overcome my heart rests easy. You go out every day and figure things out in the way that they make sense to you. That takes a keen awareness and sense of self that I know I didn't have when I was 11. There is no greater blessing than being your mom, thank you Bubs for all of the wisdom.
Happy Birthday! I love you!