You were up at two o’clock this morning.
I heard your Dad in the hallway, trying to reason with you, trying desperately to explain that it wasn’t time to get up yet, that you shouldn’t have woken your sisters and brought them to your room to wait out the waning hours of your being seven, that we weren’t going to start a birthday celebration in the middle of the night. Not to be outdone, you were trying to break in, the rising note of frustration in your voice attempting to frame your argument, knowing that if you had the chance to lay out your points you could convince him you were right to be awake at such an hour.
It seemed about right to me.
Sleep has never been your thing. When you were a baby, we tried everything- co-sleeping, white noise machines, baths before bed, baths during the day, swaddling, rocking, singing. You seemed to enjoy the singing, but your eyes always flew open again when it stopped. You hated to be put down, but you hated sharing a bed with us, too.
I think you just want to be awake.
I think you can’t stand the thought of missing something- not a single moment.
Your brain runs at top speed all the time. Our dear friend, who knows you well, says it is like you never have just one tab open at once in the computer of your brain. You’re always working on a multitude of things, switching back and forth between your tabs with ease.
Sometimes the rest of us get left behind.
Sometimes this really frustrates you.
I don’t know exactly what it feels like to always be waiting on someone else to catch up with your train of thought, but I try to imagine so that I can help you. I do know what it is like to always be waiting on someone to put on his shoes or brush his teeth or find his library book, so maybe that helps a bit.
I thought I knew everything about being a mother before I met you, and then I realized I knew very little. I learn a bit more each year, but mostly, I unlearn things I thought I knew about children.
You have taught me so much that I never expected to learn.
People often talk about the joy of seeing the world through the eyes of a child. Seeing the world through your eyes has been an experience, for sure- a hilarious, baffling, exhilarating, disconcerting, illuminating experience. When I hear you wake up every day, usually long before the sun is awake, I have no idea what will happen, but I know to expect you to be wide awake and more than ready to take it on.
The most important thing I have learned in this adventure of being your mother is to assume positive intent on your part. I'm not always good at this, but I'm getting better. You’re a scientist. Everything you do has an aim. Most of the inscrutable things you have done over the years have been for one simple reason: you want to find out what will happen. When you tried to duct tape yourself to the ceiling, following a careful diagram you had drawn and scaling your dresser drawers to put yourself as close as possible to your goal, it was just to see if you could. When you colored on
the walls and furniture or dropped my cell phone into the fish tank or painted yourself blue or stopped up the sink with paper towels and seashells and Kosher salt to make an ocean, it was all about possibility.
There are a lot of possibilities. It’s impossible to guess which one you will tackle next, so I’m often stunned and caught off-guard. You have never met an adventure you didn't love...and if one doesn't naturally present itself, you are really good at inventing them.
At eight, you seem so tall to me. I don’t recognize your feet lately. But your hair still sticks up in just the same way, and your nose still wrinkles when there’s cheese involved in dinner, and your eyes still crinkle around the edges when you are pondering a serious question. You read through piles of books at a rate that astonishes me, so fast that I find myself doubtfully quizzing you sometimes to see if you really read that whole book.
You definitely did read the whole book.
You’re quick to tell me if you’re not going to finish a book.
You’re quick to tell me a lot of things you aren’t going to do.
Even when you're feeling disinclined to follow directions, I have to admire your grit. You commit to your position and you defend it to the bitter end. There's so much I admire in you- your zest for life, your thirst for knowledge, your strong sense of justice.
But you’re often agreeable these days, and you're willing to help out with lots of things now, like returning things to the library or running in at the post office so I don’t have to get everyone out of the car. You bake delicious cookies and start your own laundry in the washer. You unload the dishwasher and put the things away. You can play Star Wars on the piano and you dig giant pits in the backyard looking for fossils or treasure. You make movies and write screenplays and ride your bike to the country store and ride waves onto the beach and take showers all by yourself.
Today, like most days, I don’t know what is going to happen when we all wake up, but I know that you are going to be amazing.
Happy birthday, my Sam. I love you. I can’t wait to see what the adventure of being 8 will bring for both of us.