Friday, October 3, 2014

Happy Birthday Oliver


Last week you turned five.

As always, I struggled to find the right words to write to you. I started two separate letters, but I deleted them both because I couldn't say anything I really wanted to say. You've been feeling left out since the baby was born. I haven't had the time for you that I used to have. It's true that you're getting the short end of the stick, and I feel guilty for that. So many times you ask me to do something with you, and all I have to offer you is an excuse.

I have to feed the baby right now. 
Colin is being naughty right now. 
I have to get dressed before we leave for school.

You always accept that I'm busy. I can tell you're disappointed, but you accept what I say with such maturity. "Maybe later," you say, and it breaks my heart. I wanted to write something to tell you that this situation is temporary. That I've always got time for you even when I don't. I wanted to write something that would shout to you, You're not left out! You're special! I love you just as much as ever and I always will!
I wanted to write those perfect words, because I mean it. All of those things are true. I wanted to write those perfect words, but they just couldn't come out. Nothing was good enough. Nothing conveyed exactly how much you mean to me, whether I have 2 minutes to spend with you or 2 days.

The truth is, out of all my boys, I struggle the  most with parenting you. I'm not even sure if I'm supposed to admit that as your mom, but there it is. I have a hard time knowing exactly what it is I should be doing. Don't get me wrong - it's not that you're a difficult child. You're about as far from being a difficult child as could be. You are so loving and kind and helpful and smart. You can be more patient than a 5 year old has any right to be.

But the thing that I struggle with is that, with you, we're always exploring a new frontier. You're the first five year old I've ever had to parent. You've always been the first to go through each age and stage with me, and you've had to put up with every novice mistake I've made along the way. Every unknown phase is, for me, intimidating. It seems like the older you get, the harder the issues become. You're stuck being the guinea pig while I learn how to navigate in deeper waters, and that kills me.

Tonight you wet the bed (which is completely out of character for you, you've been potty trained since you were 2.5.) and you were completely distressed. Your dad called me in to come comfort you and calm you down. And for the first time in a long time, you sat in my lap, just wanting to be held. It was such a simple solution, holding you. So I did that. I held you on my lap and you said to me, "I'm just having a hard time." I said to you, "It's okay. We all have a hard time sometimes."

After holding you for a minute you were calm again. I helped you into a clean shirt and I tucked you into your bed and I went back upstairs to my bed, but even at 2am  I couldn't stop thinking about sitting down on the floor and holding you in my lap while you pulled yourself together.

At five years old, your world is still small, but your brain is getting so big. I'm often not able to hand out black and white answers to you anymore. When you were younger, explaining things was so much easier.

If you bite, it hurts people.
If you run too fast, you will fall.
If you touch the stove, you will be burnt.
Everything you wanted to know used to have an answer that I understood and could explain. But now, you're starting to ask things that I can't always answer.

People who love you can still hurt your feelings.
Sometimes people are rewarded for doing bad things.
Life isn't fair.
All of these confusing things have been going around and around in your head lately and I've felt like I was failing you. Failing you because I didn't know things any better than you did. Failing you because I have so much on my plate right now that you unfairly get pushed aside, punished for your good behavior and self-sufficiency.  But tonight while I laid in bed listening to the rain, I remembered what I said to you:

"It's okay. We all have a hard time sometimes."

And that's the truth. We all have a hard time sometimes. And that's okay. Now is a hard time for all of us as a family, but you still have your place. You're still my big (little) 5 year old. I'm still doing my best. You're still doing your best.

And that's totally good enough. You are good enough. I couldn't imagine doing this without you, my oldest boy. My steadfast sidekick. The Biggest Brother.

Every day I am grateful for you.  You are so loved, and you shouldn't doubt that for a second. 

Happy birthday, Oliver.

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