My oldest son graduated tonight. This is important for a number of reasons, and I think it deserves a small testament. It seems like the closest thing we have to a rite of passage. I’m proud enough to make this an open letter.
Dear Little Friend Zach,
From the moment I knew I was pregnant, from the time I suspected I was pregnant, I loved you. I imagined you. I apologized for dragging you out of the ether into the now, and for not feeling joy at your existence. I was terrified and amazed at what we had done.
Your dad and I were firmly convinced that we weren’t ready for making a family. We decided we wanted to give you up for adoption. It was the option that seemed to make the most sense. It seemed mature and generous; reasoned and sane. But oh, my god, the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth that ensued when we broke the news to our families.
It wasn’t like I had imagined. They were gnashing and wailing and beating their chests at the thought of giving you away. You were theirs as much as ours, it seemed. And reason didn’t factor in quite so much. What a hard couple weeks those were while we discussed what to do. Your grandmas begging. Grandpas offering unconditional assistance but behind the scenes encouraging the grandmas.
They won. We agreed. But decided we didn’t think we could handle trying to raise a baby while I lived at home. I moved into an apartment at 2216 Harriet with your dad. I was 8 months pregnant. You were growing, wiggling and healthy in my belly. I gained almost 40 pounds. I was19 when you were born. You created a family. If there was no you, there almost certainly would have been no Holly Avenue Morgans.
You were the dream baby. Easygoing and happy. Alert and active. You’d sleep anywhere. All you needed to be comfy was a diaper service diaper to hold, and a pacifier. You were everybody’s baby. While I finished school, Grandparents provided daycare, aunties and uncles doted, and Dad went to work.
Now you’re big. Bigger than me, bigger than Dad. And strong.
I’ve been thinking. I was always worried about spoiling my kids, so I think sometimes I overcompensated by being critical and tough. This happens to me with people I love. I saw you through a filter of love, love, love, but I worried that other people wouldn’t know. That they’d see you do something stupid, arrogant, mean or lazy and judge you based on only that. So character flaws and mistakes jumped out at me and I may have spent more time correcting than cooing.
I also tend to be emotive. I think I overcompensated by not heaping praise and affection on you. You didn’t help the cause by pushing away from almost the first day you were born, so you could see the world. Now that you’re taller than me and covered with unsightly man-hair, I have to steal hugs. I hope you don’t mind, and that you hug me back some day.
So now it’s time for me to say some of those lovey dovey things you probably don’t care to hear. But later you might, so save this letter.
I’d like to say thanks, I’m sorry, I’m proud, I love you, you’re beautiful and I wish you well.
I’m sorry for the times I lost my temper. I’m sorry I put your grandparents through the thought of you being shipped off (open adoptions were not de rigueur). I’m sorry for the day that the you got stuck on the wrong bus and your tummy felt like mashed potatoes. I’m sorry the squirrel you brought home in your arms had a broken back and had to die. I’m sorry the squirrel we watched fall out of the tree at Gramma’s house, and land on my car had to die, but proud that you were willing to help him along gently.
I’m sorry I couldn’t stop girls from breaking your heart, bullies from breaking your spirit and depression from breaking your stride. Sorry Ezra isn’t your friend anymore. Sorry that while you were a young teenager you forgot how to laugh and smile for a while and dad and I couldn’t remind you. Sorry your kindergarten teacher didn’t like kids.
I’m sorry your gramma had to die on you. She loved you best, because she always felt like you were actually hers. You weren’t. But until there was Bailey, there was you. I’m sorry you loved her, but not sorry. I’m proud that when she was dying, you were old enough to understand, young enough to cry. Man enough for the crying to break you and whole enough to recover. Call me crazy, but one of my proudest and saddest moments was watching you sit by what was left of my mom and your gramma, fold your tall self over and lean your head on her arm and cry.
Thanks for coming up to my room or searching me out to tell me about your day. Thanks for noticing the neighbor boys, for liking them even though they were little and you were big, and reporting their cutitudes to me. Thanks for having me cut your hair. Thanks for laughing until you cried at my puns and stories.
Thanks for choosing The Land Before Time as your favorite movie and wanting to watch it every day while I made dinner (“many things do not fly” being a quote from that very movie). Thanks for being nice to the retarded guy in the neighborhood. Thanks for bringing baby animals home and for dumpster diving.
I always worried that I’d never be able to have fun with my kids. Enjoy their company and have them enjoy mine. So much of parenting is drudgery and every-dayness. Whining, commands, reminders and bickering. Thanks for the times when we both laughed so hard we cried and our sides got stitches. You can’t imagine the relief that washed over me the first time that happened.
I love you and wish you well. I’m glad you’ll be close. I hope you feel comfortable visiting unannounced, unbidden as you were when you showed up 18 years ago. Know you can always come back (but the chore list will get progressively longer if you seem to be getting too comfy). I love you.
Zach says he’s going to move out in July. I wish him well, and I will miss him. Really.