We found out you were a boy on Christmas Day.
Your dad and I sat on our off-white slip-covered couch with my parents behind us, our family in Atlanta in front of us on Face Time. We opened the nondescript manila envelope and pulled out a small green square of construction paper, folded one time. The ultra-sound technician had written "It's a Boy!" on it.
Surrounded by close family, we all found out together. We were over-the-moon excited. You were exactly what we wanted. Though of course, we had no idea how you’d actually turn out.
Your sisters Alexa and Parker came first. They were wonderfully cuddly, adorable and perfect baby girls. One more girl would have been a blessing, sure, but we really wanted a boy. We were certain we’d try for three kids, we just weren’t sure we’d be blessed with a little man.
Oh, but we sure have been.
Shane, you’re just a few short days away from your first birthday… mere hours that will fly by as quickly as the first eight thousand did. We’ll have our family over to celebrate, and you’ll try cake for the first time. You’ll squish it between your fingers and smear it onto your round little face. Your big blue eyes will light up with sheer delight.
I, on the other hand, will be busy holding it together. Busy, trying not to forget. I want so badly to remember every. single. moment.
I want to remember your soft skin and the way it feels when your puffy little cheeks brush up against mine. Your chubby little man arms and the rush of love I feel when you wrap them around my neck. I’ll try to remember actually enjoying your baby breath, not yet stinky and laced with teenaged angst.
You’re so determined. I watched you just this afternoon, as you tried to get my green Starbuck’s straw back into the hole you pulled it out of. You didn't even get close, but I admire your tenacity.
Your heart is so sweet, son. I can tell. The other night, as I laid you down in your crib, I brushed the hair off your forehead with my fingertips then rubbed your chest, which is only a little bit wider than my hand. Suddenly, your chubby little fingers gripped my hand like your life depended on it. You wouldn’t let go. All ten of your fingers held on for dear life, grasping hard to make sure I didn't try to get away. I know you didn’t want me to leave, and I so badly wanted to stay, but your sisters needed my attention too, so I had to go.
Let’s be honest though, you are pretty pitiful. Your first cold was just a few months ago… your eyes swelled up and reddened, your cry turned raspy – a high-pitched squeal of desperation. Pitiful as you were, it hurt me so badly to see you so sad.
You are only a man, which means you’re actually a really big baby. You whine when you see me (until I pick you up). You whine when I leave the room. You whine when you’re hungry… which is like 16 times a day. But for me, accompanying each of those whines is a visceral satisfaction that is you needing me.
I love your dimpled chin… the one you share with your sisters, a gift from your dad. You’re a beautiful blend of your parents – Dad’s curls and Mama’s blonde.
Odd as it sounds, I even like wiping the dirt from the folds of your neck (please believe that won’t last forever).
You’re one funny dude. You cracked yourself up when you discovered the sound your tongue makes when it clicks against the roof of your mouth.
You laugh when I laugh - and that, my son, is one terrific trait.
You’re bashful. It’s adorable how you turn your body and bury your face when the attention’s on you. Sorry son, but you’re one handsome dude. You’ll be turning many heads in your days.
I hope I remember your sweet little voice. The one that speaks those sweet nothings… the “da-da-das,” “ma-ma-mas,” and “ya-dee-da-ma-na-nas.” It’s the most beautiful nonsense I’ve ever heard.
The way you look at your dad and mimic his movements is really amazing to behold. You’re going to turn out as sweet, silly and handsome as he is, of that I am sure.
Part of me wishes I could keep you little forever, but of course that would mean you wouldn’t get to take your first victorious steps. You wouldn’t make your first friend or feel your first kiss, or survive you first heartbreak.
No, I won’t hold you back. You’ll get to squirm from the embarrassment of life. You’ll get to relish in the joy of it all. You’ll win some, and you’ll lose some. But mark my words, as long as I’m around, you’ll feel loved.
This journey you’re about to embark on is as long as it is treacherous, short as it is magical. And it’s all so devastatingly glorious.
Yours – a story yet to be told – begins here. But it also began an eternity ago… God has a plan for you. He might even have one for me, believe it or not.
You see, life is a series of ups and downs. You’ll experience doubt, fear and insecurities right alongside the moments of joy and passion. Through it all, I hope you'll remember me.
I hope you stay kind forever. I hope you remember that we love you and that you get to make your own rules.
You get to define your own life.
Choose wisely, my son.