Dear Young A,
You? You, my sweet baby bunny? There is no way you can be five years old today. It’s not possible that it has been five years since I, bursting with child, ascended the very steep hill from the ice-covered parking lot (which was cheaper than the covered garage) to the hospital birthing center to get you out. Not possible it’s been five years since we brought you home, just 14 hours after you were born, right in time for you to meet Young J (your lifelong friend and great admirer) and for me to put him to bed with a lullaby.
So much has happened since then, Young A. Most recently, you learned how to read, even though we kept doubting you knew and thought you were just memorizing your books. Then this weekend you cracked open a fortune cookie and read your fortune all by yourself. “Now is a good time to finish up old tasks,” you read, with a satisfied, cookie-flecked grin.
Old tasks. What old tasks can you possibly attend to, my baby boy? Perhaps you could learn to stop crapping your pants when you’re having too good a time to take a break. Or maybe you can get back to finishing your milk again, my picky little bugger. Perhaps you can let your long-suffering big brother give you a kiss goodnight again, instead of the hugs you cruelly limit him to lately.
None of this comes close to evoking a true picture of you, my dear, sweet Young A. When you aren’t whacking your brother on the head, or inadvertently hurting your parents, you happen to be the nicest, most loving, eagerest to help and most empathetic little person. You adore learning. You love to cook. And dance. And make up songs which rhyme, even when you have to scat your way through three-quarters of the line.
You aren’t someone I would ever want to hurt in any way. And yet, without meaning to, I did. I got sick, and that made you worry about me. I’m not sick right now, but the memory of it is recent enough for you to still talk about it, to still nervously pick at your thumbs or your lips until they bleed, to mention dreams of monsters keeping you up at night (even if they aren’t, really, that we can tell). I could apologize forever for the uncertainty this caused, the way my illness shook your foundation. But it wouldn’t help, not really, because you’ve lost some measure of faith in me and it seems impossible it will ever return.
Tomorrow you will wake up, and see the birthday banner we hung for you. You’ll open some presents and maybe eat some cake for breakfast. And then I’ll need to do something I haven’t done, improbably, ever. I’ll have to go to work on my kid’s birthday. You don’t have school, and you’ll go on a fun outing with your brother and a lovely babysitter. God knows, I’m not the first parent in the world to face this. I know. But I’m trying to get all the crying out of the way tonight. For your sake, and mine. You don’t need to see me diminished in any way, if I can possibly help it. If it takes all year, I will make you trust in me again.
And yes – I’ll go to work, because you have informed me you want to take another trip on an airplane this year, and you know I will earn money that can make that happen. I will go to work to earn wings for you, for all of us.