mine for five years : river

River, if there's any time in the world that I'd want to re-live, it's every moment of the the past five years. I think this is the first birthday of yours for which I've cried. A part of me is so excited for the years to come. I've loved watching you grow and become this kid... a kid with a sense of humor, a little bit of attitude, yet the same little toddler I watched toddle around outside buck nakey three years ago. But another part of me truly mourns the end of your fifth year. I wish, I wish, I wish that you could stay my little boy forever. I feel like I'm just now realizing how quickly this all passes. Didn't I just pull you out of the water and into my arms a few months ago? Wasn't it last week that you would take my face into your chubby little hands and give my nose a suckle? Wasn't it just yesterday that you still walked zig-zaggy because your feet were just a bit too fast to keep up with where you wanted to go?

You've always been so bright. Bright eyes, bright mind. River, for the past five years, I thought there was so much to do. That I had to teach you this and that so you'd be ready. I celebrated every success. I celebrated when you walked at nine months. I celebrated when you taught yourself how to use the potty at a year and a half. I celebrated when you scaled a big-kid rock wall when you were barely two. I celebrated when you learned how to talk, really talk, and actually hold conversations with people. I celebrated when you learned how to spell your name. I celebrated the first time you came to me and said, so very proud of yourself, "Mama! Two plus three is five!" Your whole life has been a celebration. Every little piece of it has made me so completely happy and proud.

But I've made a mistake -- I've always looked forward to tomorrow while almost missing what's right in front of me. When you were in my belly, I wished so desperately to hold you. (My precious boy.) When I held you, I couldn't wait until you could sit up on your own. (My strong boy.) When you sat up, I couldn't wait until you could run and play. (My healthy boy.) When you could run and play, I couldn't wait until you could talk. (My beloved boy.) When you could talk, I couldn't wait to teach you about nature and God and life and everything else under the sun. (My bright boy.) There's nothing wrong with that, necessarily. But in looking forward constantly, sometimes I forgot that the little boy that was right in front of me was changing so very quickly, quicker than what I would one day consider comfortable. Except I didn't know it at the time.

I didn't know that one day, I'd be sitting on the couch just after your fifth birthday, wishing so desperately, so fully, to tears even, that I could go back and squeeze that tiny baby. I wish I could put a hand on my brand-new-mommy shoulder and say, Hold on. Understand that it passes so quickly. That someday you are going to feel like you've woken up from a dream and wonder how much story fit into such little time.

River, did you know that when you sleep at night, I still come in and kiss your cheek and stroke your hair, and in that moment, you look tiny to me once again? In fact, I don't believe there's been a single night of your life when I have not done that. My love is with you always. And you are always with me. You will always be a part of me. I love you so much, it's heartbreaking. It's a wonder God entrusted mothers with this kind of love. Did he think we'd be strong enough to handle it? I don't know, but I suppose we are. I haven't crumbled under the weight of it yet. It's a hell of a lot of love, though.

On your birthday, I wanted you to feel so happy and so loved. Five is a big number for me, as it is you. Five is the age of remembering. It's a good age. This may be the first birthday you remember. You'll probably remember the Spider-Man balloons I blew up and threw all over the living room, even though to me, that was the smallest detail. This is the age that shakes me. As a mommy, I believe this is the age where I need to stop Making Mistakes. Because you might remember. But I will continue to make mistakes, and I hope your sweet little heart will continue to forgive me. And I hope you always know I tried my best.

It's funny how motherhood takes over. Before you, my sweet boy, some the most important things to me were to one day travel the world, write some books, have a pretty house, and be a mommy. But then when you were born, I not only wanted to be a mommy, I wanted to be the very best mommy. And it was all that mattered. I no longer cared half so much to travel the world and write some books and have a pretty house; as long as you grow up knowing that I love you, that I am on your side, that's all that matters. As long as you grow up with beautiful memories, loving others, loving God, that's all that matters. That is enough for me. The little people in this world -- you, and Austen, and Baby -- you are everything to me.

I love you so much, River Jeremiah. In case on bad days, on days where I yell a lot because you keep jumping off of furniture and spilling cereal all over the floor and shouting really loud songs and driving me really crazy -- in case you don't know it always... I always love you. I always love you. Please, stay little for a long time this year, okay? Don't get too big, too fast. Happy, happy birthday my little boy. My sweet boy, my precious boy, my beloved boy. My boy who grows so quickly.

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