river : mine for eight years

Hey River, my sweet boy. Today was your eighth birthday. Get ready, because I know I've said this in previous birthday letters to you, but eight... EIGHT. It just sounds so big. I have the plan to someday print all of these up for you in a book and give them to you when you're an adult. Maybe when you're eighteen. That's only ten years from now. TEN. That's not long. That's double your sister's age. That's how long you've been alive, plus two. That's only one year longer than Daddy and I have been married. And you know when we got married? A couple weeks ago. Because that's what it feels like. 

Someday, I'll be sitting there, formatting a Shutterfly book or whatever new fangled website there is, with tears glistening in my eyes by the light of my computer screen, as I copy and paste this eighth letter. I'll think, "Oh goodness! That's right. I remember this day. That seems like just yesterday. Oh how the years pass so quickly. It's almost cruel. What would I give to hold the long, lanky body of my eight-year-old River, or hear his tiny eight-year-old voice, or see him scaling a wall out of the corner of my eye even though I've told him ten dozen times not to climb the walls? Why wasn't I more patient? More understanding?"

Oh, the regrets, my sweet boy. I'll have them. I already do. I don't think a single mother doesn't have a regret or twenty. But you know what the regrets remind me of? They remind me of grace -- beautiful grace. Both yours and God's. Grace to start over every day. Grace, every time I say I'm sorry and you throw your arms around my neck and kiss my cheek and say, "It's okay, Mama. I love you."

They also remind me of the gift you are to me. They remind me that everything -- every frustration, every tiff, every sleepless night, every argument, every exhausted moment -- was completely worth it. That even though those may have been the hardest days, I would take those hardest days in an instant. I would relive them if I could. Can you imagine that? My hardest days with you are still my best, best days. Someday, my door frames will be clean from dirty foot streaks because you'll be 18 and definitely (hopefully) not climbing my walls anymore, and the funny thing is, I'll probably miss it. I'll chuckle to myself and probably wipe a tear then, too. Because everything you do, everything you touch, means something to me.

River, every year, I sit down and think about the wonderful, unique things about you that I love, the things that make you YOU. And nearly every year, they're the same. From the time you were one-year-old, I have known you through and through, my little person. It's mysterious, this mother's knowing of her child. This year, I want to say how proud I am of you. You've worked so hard in school, and I love seeing your love of reading blossom. Part of me takes pride in that, because I taught you to read, but part of me knows I had little to do with it. It's your own hard work, determination, and bright mind that has accomplished this. I just gave you the tools. I want you to remember this about everything you do in life. You are capable and clever. You will do great things.

You are snuggly, sweet, and positive. You are compassionate, empathetic, and kind. You are brave, daring, and energetic. You are analytical, clever, and perceptive. You fix things. You figure stuff out. You need proof. You don't need approval. You do things because they make you happy. You explore and design and invent. You are wise and know you are loved by God.

You are good. You are created by God, and you are good, and needed, and you have purpose. Right now... not in the future. Right now.

I love you, River. Happy birthday, my sweet boy.

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