We are celebrating Baby S's third birthday this week.
I am much more emotional leading up to this than I ever expected. I mean, I'm frequently an emotional hot mess, so it shouldn't be surprising, but I still caught myself off guard when I started sniffling and gushing sentimentally in my head over all the little things this weekend.
We try to make kid birthdays a big deal in our house. Josh and I decided that we would do birthdays big when we got into foster care. We realized that we might have a child in our care some day who had never celebrated birthdays before and we wanted to make sure they'd have a special day devoted just to them. Knowing there would be a lot of very hard moments meant that we needed to be prepared to party hard when there were causes for celebration. And now, we realize just how hard it is just to get through each day sometimes, and stacking 365 of those days together is certainly a very big deal!
The rest of this is for Baby S as I celebrate his third birthday. You are welcome to tag along, friend, but know that this is my heart for my little boy today!
Baby S, today I am celebrating you. Today I am writing to you so that future you knows how very proud your Mommy and Daddy are of you. I want you to know that you are so very loved. You are so very wanted. You belong. You are an incredible little boy.
Baby S, your birthday is a big deal because you are a rock star. You have gone through more than most adults I know, yet you are the most joy-filled person I have ever met. You are motivated by your love for those around you. You want to be smiling! You want to make friends. You hold no hard feelings against people who have caused you past pain. You love so unconditionally. You play with every kid at the playground, and when they feel uncomfortable around you and don't know how to act, you keep inviting them and keep smiling even as you're asking me why they won't come and play. You don't dislike children for treating you differently. You just keep loving them and keep smiling until they give in and realize what a sweet, fun little guy you are!
You are a rock star because you don't compare yourself to others. Your brain and your mouth fight as you try to make the sounds you are thinking, but you're never upset that Baby Gigi is making those same sounds already, and you love that Big Brother A can tell you so many things. You've been fighting against trauma and change for forward progress your whole life, but you've never given up, because you are strong. You are capable. You want to grow and you will work relentlessly to do so! And you are going to make it. The past six months have been incredible. I am blown away by your progress already! I mean, Dude, yesterday morning you begged me to bring you to McDonald's on your way to school! How is that even happening??!
As if burgers weren't reason enough to love this place, you've now learned that sometimes McDonald's has a giant playground full of happy children. Why would you ever want to be anywhere but here?!
Your birthday is a big deal because you've gone through challenges no three-year-old should already have faced, yet you find the energy and the willpower to fight for self-control. There are grown-ups who choose not to exercise self-control because of what they've been through, but not you. You want to make your life good! I love you so much for that. I celebrate that about you and with you! Thank you for letting Daddy and I push you harder than anyone else, and thank you for responding so positively to our pushing. Thank you for growing! Thank you for letting us love you by believing that you are going to make it.
You are amazing for your love of other people. You are amazing for your trust. Again, grown people aren't always as strong as you when it comes to trusting those who have caused past hurt (intentionally and unintentionally), and you are an example to me. You show me unconditional love and acceptance. You show me pure joy at seeing your people, and when it's hard to be happy to see someone, you fight to make new positive memories, because that's just so you. You worry for the happiness of others who seem sad. "Cry" was one of your first words, and you go to comfort people who are hurting. You, who couldn't stand still long enough to know someone was in front of you and used to plow straight through people in your path just six months ago! You are resilient and loving and incredible.
You fight for your developmental milestones, but you're still a three-year-old boy! I love that about you. I love that you pick up spiders and laugh when they try to run away because you like catching them again. I love that you like worms and digging in the dirt. I love that you want to pick up every stick we see when we're walking. I love that you are obsessed with Lightning McQueen ("eeeen!") and all of his friends. I love that you love dogs so devotedly and that it makes your morning every time you see one outside during breakfast! (No, buddy, we're not getting one, even though Big Brother A did say that getting a dog would be the best birthday present ever for you. He's right, but Mommy doesn't like dogs. Thanks for loving me through that one, too, buddy!)
You sleep through the night. You love your family. You have favorite toys. You sit and eat balanced meals, try new foods, and randomly refuse things you used to love like any kid your age. You eat with your spoon and (sometimes) drink from an open cup. These are skills that you had to fight for. Some of these are rights that you had to fight for. But you don't hold any resentment; only joy. I love that about you. I celebrate that about you!
Everyone who works with you knows that you are special. You have a light and an energy that is beyond normal. It's beautiful and incredible. When kids ask what is different about you, I hope that is what they settle on, because it is what blows me away. God has uniquely made you into a precious gift that will just absolutely change the world, little man. People feel loved when you smile at them. They feel joy when they see you light up. They want to know you more and they see that you are worth fighting for. And even though sometimes you are a *little* difficult, life is always better with you than without you! That's not just me saying that, buddy, but everyone who works with you.
I love you because your hard things are there, and they are hard, but they don't define you. I love that you are so resilient, so capable of healing. For a little while, when you were gone, your light was almost out. That was one of the scariest and most devastating things I have ever experienced. I'm sorry for all you've gone through, but I can honestly say that the picture I have of you in my mind - unresponsive, uninvested, joyless - that picture will always make every single beautiful moment a thousand times more beautiful for me. That picture will be the difference between "that was neat" and suddenly realizing I'm crying again. Almost losing you helps me to appreciate having you. I don't mean losing you to another home - no, buddy, we were truly on you and your birth parent's team, and we weren't wishing failure on you. I mean almost losing that joyful little person inside who fills our hearts with a thousand times more energy and joy than I ever thought a single person could bring. So today, as I celebrate you, every victory is multiplied in my mind. Every battle you have won means even more. When I say I am proud of you, little man, multiply that by one thousand, too, and maybe you'll start to catch a glimpse of what I see when I see you.
No blog post could ever capture my love for you, buddy. No words could show future you the joy you bring into every room. So all I can say in conclusion, is that I am incredibly blessed and joyful to be celebrating this year with you. I love you to the moon and back, sweet boy.
With all my love,