Now I can’t tuck you under my chin unless I stretch up on tip-toe. But really, you never sat on my lap for long, anyway. You’d indulge me, but then you’d spot my lovely husband and dive for him. You really loved him. And he can definitely still tuck you under his chin for a few more years. Ha-ha. You’re not really sooo big, are you? (Just kidding. We don’t tease.) (But I love the way you cock your head and smile sideways, at those times that you do let me tease you, just a little.)
You took us by surprise. We didn’t know you’d be our (not-our) baby. Aside from that period where I found people to pay me for three- or four-hour stretches to love their babies, I’d never really had a (not-my) baby. I didn’t plan for you to be so wonderful. I didn’t know that as you figured out how to crawl and walk and talk, your parents would become some of my very best friends. We didn’t plan to grow so attached to you and your family but you and your open smile and your welcoming home and your parents’ generous hearts (and fierce domino skills), you made me pay attention that babies are pretty cool. Toddlers, too.
Remember that you used to call me _obin? Whew, those beginning consonants are rough. Good thing you were cute.
(Your mom still says that a lot about you.)
You turn ten years old today and you might think this is about you and not me, but I have to say, I find that astounding, that you are turning ten years old. I remember rocking you to sleep and now you open doors for me. You are turning into such a mensch, albeit a tall one. I remember snatching small choking hazards out of your grasp and now you snatch small choking hazards out of my baby’s grasp. Isn’t that astounding?
(You’re so good with my babies.)
Let’s talk about my babies, while we’re at it. I love how excited you are when I carry a baby into the room. I love how you want to hold G, and kiss him, how you lower the volume of your voice when he’s near. I love how you watch that he doesn’t choke.
I love how in shul, E knows she can ask you to read a book to her, and you will. I love how she is comforted by knowing that when she goes to kindergarten next year, you’ll be in the building, too. And do you remember that you named her? That was the most astounding thing. We had a name picked out for her, but of course you didn’t know it. But I was there, quite pregnant, and your mom was telling you that there was a baby girl inside me, and asked you what you thought we should name her. And then you said with quiet certainty just exactly the name we had been saving for the day of her birth. Somehow, without knowing, you knew.
And then there’s L. You know she adores you, right? You know how often she asks for a playdate at your house? It’s not because of your three younger siblings. It’s because of you. When she walks into a room and sees you standing there, she shouts Mines! (like ‘mine,’ but moreso) and runs to wrap her arms around you. I do believe she would like to marry you, and never mind the seven-year age difference. Don’t worry, you don’t have to answer right now. But while you contemplate the possibility, I love how you treat her like a big girl instead of the pesky preschooler another boy your age might see her to be. I love how you take the time to bend down and give her the hug she wants, how you’ll hold her hand, how you’ll escort her to the potty. You are astounding.
Do you remember when you chastised me at the dinner table a few months ago? The kids weren’t sitting anymore, any of them, having gone off to play, but they were continually wandering back for a sip of water or a toy dispute to be mediated. The adults were talking and you were there, eating your eighteenth piece of chicken. I was relating something that had annoyed me on television, some political punditry, and you admonished me.
Robin, you shouldn’t say ‘crap’ in front of the children.
And you were right, of course. I love how you’ll take me to task, how you have the self-esteem and moxie to take on an adult, how you care for the welfare of the littler ones (and how you so cleanly separated yourself from that category).
Your siblings are very lucky to have you as their big brother, and I’ll go ahead and add that my three little ones are very lucky to have you as their (not-their) big brother, too.
There are a few vestiges of childhood still swirling in the thinning altitudes around you. I love how there are some ways in which you still fiercely preserve your innocence, and on that note, let’s talk about puberty.
I know you don’t want to. I know. So let me just say this: in the coming years as your body changes, if your hair begins to twist tightly again, will you let me just once reach up and pluck a coil for old times’ sake? Just to feel it sproing again?
Happy birthday, you very, very big thing.