To my Son (as he becomes a Man), on his 16th Birthday,
I don't even know where to start. I guess first of all, I would like to wish you the Happiest Birthday a mother could wish her child. There is just no real unit of measure to determine the extent of my love for you. You are without question one of the most decent, accepting, well-mannered teenagers around (and many of my readers have met you and agree). We recently had some time away together on vacation that was chock full of examples of how you have remained true to yourself and to the values I have instilled in you. That is, to always make the best of any situation, to be open and flexible to change, and to show respect for women (even if it means starting with your mother, grandmother and baby sister). The time has gone by so fast. I remember being just 18 years old when I got pregnant with you, and despite how bright my future was and how having a baby can (and did) make my life far more challenging than I'd intended, there was never a moment, not a single moment that I ever considered not having you. Truth is, I think I loved you before you were even conceived, and that is because regardless of my young age, I loved your father and that meant that you were OUR gift.
Finishing up high school with a baby bump (yeah, that's always a cute look - NOT!) certainly meant missing out on parts of my youth that I will never get back, but parenthood has by and large been my most favourite job. Dressing you up in the freshest clothing, making you do animated things for the camera like forming a fist and giving my friends a "daps", or goating you to say "Mama" instead of "Dada", are among the numerous memories I have of you as a baby. And as each day passed, and you grew and developed, I grew too. No "man" ever made me a woman. It was you. By giving me the chance to be a mother, YOUR mother, and trusting me to mold you and guide you, provide for you and nurture you. I had no manual, no instructions, and no idea how to be a parent, so most of what we did, we learned as we went along...but look at you Sweety, you are 16 - and we're still here - holdin' it down, after all these years.
At age 2, when the doctor's said they had to perform life-saving surgery on you to remove a pancreatic tumour that threatened your other organs, I thought my world was over. The pain, fear and anxiety of seeing the little boy made of my flesh, laying in a hospital bed with tubes coming out of every imaginable body part, pushed me emotionally and spiritually to places I had never been before. The seemingly endless wait for you to restore consciousness after your surgery to a room filled with your family that included your two grandmothers, your three grandfathers, your father, and sister was so torturous that many times I thought I wouldn't make it. When your toddler body woke up, with panic in your eyes from the lack of understanding what had happened, it was inevitable that when you scanned the room struggling to set your eyes on me, that I would burst into sobs when you whispered your first words directly to me, "You - lie down" as you pointed to the empty space beside you in the bed. I'll never forget it. I knew in that moment how powerful our connection was. And for the 2 months (2 long months) that you remained in McMaster's Sick Children's Hospital - I was there with you.
The fact that there is less than 20 years between us has also meant that we have experienced a lot of "firsts" together. I wasn't much of a babysitter as a teenager - shoot, I was already working my first real job at 14. So thanks to you, I changed my first diaper, cleaned up my first puddle of vomit, learned how to use the inside of my wrist as a thermometer, and how to crawl out of an awkward position from the couch without waking you. The flipside of this whole parenting thing is that I have also experienced my first grey hairs, several false alarm heart attacks and the loneliness of watching you need me less and less. It takes but an instant to fall head over heels deeply in (parental) love with your child, but it takes an eternity to let go. And I believe in some countries - you would be recognized as a full-fledged adult. (Thank Gawd we don't live in those places. Oh and keep your eyes off my car, it's perfectly fine just having one driver, lol).
Like your sister, you were forced to endure some of the residual effects of my demanding career, and I know it wasn't easy staying at a babysitter's until 11:30 p.m. some nights because I had to work, then getting up the next morning for school. But you are a soldier, and there isn't a single challenge that you have been met with that you haven't overcome. I realize it is YOUR Birthday, and the most appropriate thing to say is "Happy Birthday". But if I am really honest with myself, what I want to say to you is : Thank You.
Thank you for giving me a reason to be the best person I can be, to always have a reason never to give up on myself, and for allowing me to truly experience love like never before - because before you, I never loved anybody so selflessly. Y'know, like "throw myself in front of a moving bus" type love. I'm hard on you (sometimes) because I love you, and dammit, you are going to have the life you deserve. That's what moms do. We save you from yourselves. These next few years won't be easy ones for you babe. Girls, grades, sports, friends, parties, girls, college applications, part-time jobs, girls, image, peer pressure, and did I say girls? They will all play a factor in your life; some productive and some distracting. I just ask that you continue to use your best judgment, and don't worry about making me proud. Make yourself proud.
So great. I've now smeared my mascara with the flood of tears that started rolling as I typed this letter to you (I look like a raccoon now), but the most important thing I want to say to you Pumpkin is this, I love you with all my heart son. More than any letter could ever show.
P.S. Our recent family vacation was the single BEST time I have ever had with my children. I am addicted to making my babies' dreams come true.