Well, I was personally tasked with writing a letter to my 9 year old, 4th grade son, to be read aloud by his teacher to his class. The format was flexible. I had a blank slate. I procrastinated until the last minute.
I have written many letters in my lifetime, but I don't think I've ever had such a hard time starting a letter before!
This is a hard assignment. I will have to speak to your teacher about that. Parents should be given easy assignments because our brains are old.
Why is it hard? It's hard because almost 10 years of awesomeness is hard to put into words. (at least into words that will fit on the amount of paper in the printer, and not keep your friends from missing recess). It's hard because there are literally thousands of memories that come to mind when when I think of you. It's hard because I have to choose the things that mean the most and tell them in a way that other people will understand. It's more complicated that it sounds on that little sheet Mrs. Morrison sent home.
So, I think I will talk about some times when you made me very proud. Why did I choose proud? Why didn't I choose the times when you made me laugh (because there are lots of those.) Or the times you made me so mad I had steam coming out of my ears? (because there are a few of those). Because proud is what parents really love. I'll tell you a secret. Nobody has a baby and immediately knows how to be a parent. You have to learn it. You have to figure it out as you go along, day by day, moment by moment. Many, many times, parents are convinced they are doing it all wrong. But in those moments when our children make us proud, well, that's when we know we must be doing something right.
When you were just a baby, you would sit in the bathtub and play with these stick on foam animal shapes. You learned all of your animals in the bathtub. Cow. Horse. Duck. Sheep. I was convinced you were the most genius of babies. You knew your animals! I was so proud.
Your sister was born. You came to the hospital and peeped at her through the plastic window of her hospital crib. You held her, very very gently in my lap. You patted her soft little head and said “baby sister” over and over and over. You were a loving and good big brother, from the very first minute. I was so proud.
You went to preschool. You were independent and carried your little backpack right into the big schoolroom and didn't look back. You didn't cry or hold onto my leg or even wave “bye”. You were ready. You seemed like just a baby to me, but you walked into that classroom and sat down and I was so proud.
You learned to read. You learned to do math, and spell, and understand science. I watched your understanding of the world around you grow. Our conversations were interesting, and made me think. You sometimes told me things I didn't ever know before. In those moments, when you teach me things that increase my own knowledge, I am so proud.
You became an athlete. You went from a baby in a swim diaper at the Swim School, to attending the State Meet with your swim team last year, and running, biking and swimming in your first triathlons. I love watching you glide through the water, a far better swimmer than I will ever be. I love watching you poised on the blocks, waiting, ready to spring into action and dive into your race when the horn sounds. I love how confident you are in the water, and how you always strive to improve and understand how to be better. I see you being a good student to your coaches and a good teammate to the other swimmers. I see you pushing hard and crossing that finish line at your races, and I am so proud.
You became a Scout. From the moment you learned the Cub Scout motto, and the promise, I knew that you would be an excellent scout. You are all of the things the scouts stand for, and I love watching as your love of nature, camping, paddling, archery, and the outdoors get recognized and celebrated in Scouting. Every time you race a cubmobile, a pinewood derby car, earn a belt-loop or medal, or even just stand respectfully at attention, giving the scout salute to our flag, I am so proud.
You began receiving your sacraments. From your baptism in the dark during Hurricane Rita, to your Reconciliation and First Holy Eucharist, I have watched you grow closer to God and to his Son. Your reverence and love of our Church makes you very, very special to me and to God. You will soon become an altar server, and when I see you up on the altar, I will be so proud.
You became, along the way, a person of great empathy. Empathy is a rare quality in grown ups, and even more rare in a child. I know you know what I mean by empathetic. It means you are able to put yourself in someone else's shoes and feel what they are feeling. Good or bad, you are able to think of others and understand how they feel, and how best to be their friend or family member at that time. So many times, I have come home from work tired, and worn out. So many times my own child has patted my shoulder in a way that makes me feel understood and comforted. Many adults never figure that out, and you have figured it out already. Having a child who cares about the hearts and souls of other people makes me incredibly proud.
You grew and grew, and you are still growing, though I hope your feet slow down soon! Some moms don't like their babies growing up. They cry with each little growing-up milestone. I didn't cry because you were growing up. Never. I still love watching you grow. Each new year is full of new experiences and things you can do that you couldn't do before. I love seeing what you do, and what you are becoming. Maybe next year, you will even learn to keep your room clean and pick up your shoes and socks out of the living room. And I will be SO proud.
I suppose it was a success. My son smiled ear to ear at carpool. He read his letter aloud to his sister. He proclaimed it "the best letter yet....but longer that average."
I share it here, because it was never intended to be private, and because I am SO proud of him.