You turned five a few short weeks ago. Presenting yourself in my doorway wearing only your Monsters’ University tighty-whities and throwing your hands up in the doorway, you proclaimed, “It’s my berfday!” And, then, you put your hands on your hips and asked, very seriously, “It is my berfday, isn’t it, Mama?” I told you–finally–yes, it was your birthday, after at least 52 days of having to tell you it wasn’t. And I asked you to come crawl in my bed and pretend you were still sleeping, because you’d woken up before I had a chance to make up your customary birthday tray of doughnuts sparkling with birthday candles, a Star Wars birthday balloon, and a pile of tiny packages wrapped up in tiffany blue paper (because I ran out of birthday wrapping paper). You would have to wait patiently in my bed for your birthday breakfast. As I left you, tucked into my bed watching cartoons, and walked down the stairs to arrange your birthday breakfast, I wondered, with tears in my eyes, how we arrived at five years old.
Waiting patiently has never been something that has come easy for you. It hasn’t been easy for your mama or daddy or brother, who have waited for you, on you, and about you. Waiting on you has been the test of my lifetime. We have waited to see if you would be born breathing, waited to see when you could come home. We have waited for surgeries and milestones and doctors’ appointments and test results. But I didn’t wait for this day: five. Honestly, I was too busy holding my breath to wait for the normal things for you. And now, after all we have waited for, this enormous step for you comes like a shock to my mama heart.
When they said you were ready for kindergarten, I asked a million questions. I practically begged them for a reason to hold you back one more year. I even asked the vice principal for an opinion. I kept thinking that if you had been born closer to your due date–in September–you would be waiting another year for kindergarten. But that wouldn’t be you to wait, would it, son? I even took the issue to my therapist. She looked at me and said, “Taylor, you already know the answer to this question, don’t you?”
This question of you. To everyone else, you were a question. But never to me. To me, you were an emphatic exclamation point kicking inside of me. To me, you have always been a solid bet. A hard kick. A sure thing.
We have lived in this question of your life now for five years, son. We learned to live like very few people get to: on the edge of our seats, taking nothing for granted. We planted our feet in the promises that gestated with you. We shook with fear as we gave you away to doctors; we cried through fear-filled prayers while waiting for you to return to us. We held our breath while we tiptoed into your room so many nights to make sure you were breathing. We lingered, over your sleeping, rising chest, and prayed over you as you slept. We have begged God to let you live, to let you be a brother to Abraham, to let you be a sign that He is not done doing good in this world.
Born three weeks early, you made the cut for this year’s crop of kindergarteners. And in the end, after four quarters of pre-kindergarten, after I watched you begin to sound out words and add up numbers, after four quarters of assessments, after you had proven yourself to yourself and to your teachers and to your reluctant mama, you’re going.
But I never saw this day coming, even though it’s all I’ve been praying for since your diagnosis, just five years and four months ago: the day I pack you a lunch (because you were offended by the very idea of half-day kindergarten), grab your hand, and walk you upstairs to the elementary school.
And on this day, this day of jubilation, this day of victory, I’m unraveling my heart from yours. And finally, you are going to beat on your own.
You’ve been doing it for a while now, but I’ve been stubborn. I’ve grown accustomed to our intertwined hearts, beating against each other these past years. I have grown accustomed to being tied to you in a way most mothers never have to be tied to a child. I achingly gave up all remnants of my freedom to walk this journey with you. I learned to bend my will and kneel my spirit more on your behalf than for any other. Your life and your beating heart persisting alongside mine gave me more reasons to grow and be strong than any other obstacle I have ever faced. Loving you transformed me past my own will, much like a stone being rubbed smooth in the pounding surf.
You have taught me courage; you have taught me strength. You have given me more will to fight than I knew I had. You have taught me faith that burns quietly, and a love that keeps failing but never stops trying. Our two hearts beating together did that. And now, that part of your (our) journey is over.
And now, it is time to unravel us. It is time for you to start your story, to learn and to grow in a world all your own. It is time for your mama to go find her own story in those hours you’ll be away, to find her own new place in the world. It is time for her to take this strength, this smoothed out stone of a heart, and find others overwhelmed in the crashing waves.
I often envision you and your brother as the men you will be. I see little glimpses of these men in the way you move your bodies sometimes, in the lines of muscle forming under your silky soft skin. I know that in so many ways, this day of letting you go is the first step along your journey into manhood. But I also know you will still need my kisses and my lunches and my birthday trays for quite some time.
Know that the importance of this, your kindergarten adventure, is not lost on me. The importance of the promises being lived out, of the miracle you are, represent God’s faithfulness born into the world again. And we will tell this story, my son, for generations: the story of a broken-hearted warrior born into a broken-hearted family. We will tell the story of how our God heals broken hearts by birthing miracles. You, son, are that miracle.
As you begin this journey in this big and fabulous world, don’t ever forget the promise you are. When the dark bears down, do not forget that you were formed for pure light. You were formed to prove to the world that our God still lives, the boy whose name means “God Has Heard, Announce, Proclaim”.
So give me that dimpled hand, and let me walk you up those stairs to kindergarten. Let me get you seated in that big boy desk, and put your supplies right inside. And let me loose these last few strings that have held us together, held my heart and my attention and my breath for all your life, and let me begin to let you go. I will always be your Mama. But you can beat on your own now, baby.
And I will learn to beat again on my own. I’m sure of it. Although, it might take me a while to find my new rhythm. If you and your brothers have taught me anything, it’s to be brave and to believe and to always keep dancing.
But now says the Lord,
He who created you, O Jacob,
He who formed you, O Israel,
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you,
I have called you be name, and you are mine.
Goodbye now, my son. Goodbye to our time together, where all we had were too broken hearts beating together. Your daddy, Abraham, and I have walked beside you through these growing, fighting, scary years. We have loved you and held you and believed for you. We have been your world.
Now, go. Find a brave new world that’s just for you.
And come home and tell us all about it.
Godspeed, our Miracle son. You’re on your way.