Eddie turns 18 today. I fought as hard as I could against this; I guess I didn’t fight hard enough. Little bugger always has been stubborn.
I had this big, long blog written about Eddie’s coming of age birthday. The thing just kept getting longer and longer, taking more turns and twists, until I ended in a place that had nothing to do with the start. I read it over and over, and I thought, “What is this pile of crap?”
I nixed that blog post, and settled for a short and sweet Facebook post for Eddie. We also gave him a basket of food. Food is what you give a boy who wears rags and who has no appreciation for basically anything you can purchase. For kids like that, the grocery store has everything they have ever dreamed of getting for their Birthday and Christmas. Merry Christmas, my son. Here’s a gallon of chocolate milk.
I thought I was done with the whole hulabaloo 18th Birthday extravaganza. No such luck. I can’t stop thinking and pondering. I keep thinking there is just something I need to say. Really, it a nuisance to be me.
I went back to the drawing board. I looked at that knotted yarn ball of a blog post I wrote, and I asked myself why I couldn’t just sum it all up simply. What exactly am I trying to say, anyway? How about a short version?
I will try that.
The point I most wanted to make to my son and to myself is this: I have made mistakes. I’m sorry for them. I want to tell Eddie what those mistakes are. Just in case there’s the tiniest chance he could learn from them. I know I sure have.
That’s what I’m going to do.
Dear, little Eddie. I would like 18 do overs. If I could go back I would…
1. Understand that I did not invent childbirth. Moms have been doing it since time began, with a lot less medication. I might add. I should have been more humble. I’m glad you were too young to remember all that.
2. Know that people can teach me things. There is a limit to my knowledge, and you could benefit from me keeping an open mind. When you were a baby, your doctor mentioned that you might have an allergy to dairy. Someone else suggested I take you to a chiropractor. Sounded like witchcraft to me.
I’m exaggerating. But, I did dismiss those suggestions immediately; I thought I knew all there was to know about how to keep you healthy. And, well, you saw how that turned out.
3. Know my value was not dependent upon your performance. When Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Belmore, told me me you were adorable, but driving her crazy, I should NOT have lost full night’s sleep over her comment. I was NOT failing as a mom, because you thought it would be fun to make your friends laugh by putting M&M’s up your nose. That was on you, kid. All you.
4. Embrace your mistakes. Expect them. When you made mistakes, I didn’t need to get so worked up. Each mistake was an opportunity to teach and to learn. Oh, so many, many blessed, stinkin’, freakin’ opportunities to learn we had. Right, sweetheart?
5. Eat more kale. I’m nervous I won’t be able to think of 18 do overs. I am going to have to make some stuff up.
6. Trust myself. Wow. That would have been awesome. Because, sure, on the one hand I thought I knew everything, on the other hand, I was a nervous wreck. I wish I could have relaxed and trusted my instincts. I wasn’t at all sure that I was equipped to raise a human being.
7. Serve others. Gosh, I’m selfish. I’m sorry, Eddie. I don’t like saying it, but if I can’t be unselfish, I might as well be honest. I have been planning to have us work at a homeless shelter for about, um, let’s see…18 years.
There were lots of things I meant to do to help you get outside yourself. But, that would have meant I would have had to get outside MYSELF. BIG.HUGE.REGRET. Total mistake. I’m sorry.
8. Teach you how to play the harpsichord. You would have been a natural. How am I doing? We almost to 18?
9. Know that struggling makes you stronger. This was a biggie. I mistakenly thought my job as a mom was to protect you from struggling of any kind. Unfortunately, God found a rough way to teach me I was wrong.
I read a story once about a mom with a disabled child. This wise mom was standing with a neighbor in her back yard. The Mom’s disabled son was trying to play with his siblings on the swing set. Her son kept trying to climb the ladder up to the slide. Every time he tried, he would fall down. Eventually, his skin was bloody from the effort. The neighbor was thinking that this Mom was awful for not helping her disabled son. After many, many attempts, this disabled boy eventually made it to the top of the ladder. Success. He mastered the climb, and was gleeful on his ride down the slide. He finally knew freedom. That boy never needed help riding the slide again; he enjoyed confidence in being able to perform this act without help from anyone. His Mom knew exactly what she was doing.
I will NEVER get that story out of my head, because I NEVER would have been as smart as that Mom. I would have slung your disabled body on my back and gone down that slide with you until you were 75 years old.. I would not have had the insight to know that allowing you to struggle was a gift I could give you.
Well. I guess I know it now. You’re on your own, kid.
10. Choose your friends. You probably don’t like this one, but I’m not gonna make stuff up. This one is important. I guess I don’t need a do over on this exactly, because I was pretty good at it. I just don’t think I should have wasted time feeling badly about it. I’d do it again.
Let’s face it, you like shenanigans. You like other kids who like shenanigans. You weren’t good for these shenanigan lovin’ kids in large doses, they weren’t good for you. That’s fact. You needed to be protected from yourselves.
11. Give you more home perms. Truly sorry I didn’t do this. You really coulda been something.
12. Banish fear. This would have been huge. I shudder to think of how I have been ruled by fear in my life. I thank God for the things he’s showing me now. The confidence I have in Christ’s real power to move and change things in real-time, is growing every day. God healed you, Eddie. Do I need more proof? I don’t. There is no place for fear.
13. Embrace natural consequences. Ever heard of ’em? No. You haven’t. I never let them touch you. Mistake.
14. Pray more. I prayed a lot. Wish I would have prayed more.
15. Hug you more. Hugging you now is like hugging that steel pole in the basement. I can tell it’s not your favorite. That’s okay. I get it. But, even if you don’t remember this, I promise you USED to like hugging me. You liked sitting in my lap, and I was your favorite. Hard to believe. I know. I’d like to go back and hug you some more.
16. Raise a herd of emus. I always knew it. But, I ignored that little voice. Please, #18. Where are you?
17. Root for others. I mostly did this. I wish I would have done it more. I think the healthiest, most awesome kids in the world, are the ones who have parents who root for their kids’ friends. Parents who don’t privately compete. Mostly I do that, but sometimes I mess up. Yeah. That’s ugly.
18. Not forget that I was on a temporary assignment. My job was only to train you. I was in charge of the dress rehearsal. The part that gets you ready for the real thing…adulthood. I mistakenly thought I got to do the whole thing. Oops.
That’s it, kid. Those are the things I would do over. A lot of Moms would have different do overs. Theirs would say things like they wished they would not have cleaned the house so much. That’s a good one, right? I wish I would have cleaned less. I know. We’re both laughing.. Or, I could have said, I wish I wasn’t such a perfectionist. This is funny stuff.
“Good enough” has always been my motto.
I hope you don’t think I’m beating myself up over this stuff. I’m not. Remember? “Good enough”. Plus, mistakes are an opportunity to learn. But, I can’t exactly learn if I don’t acknowledge my mistakes, right? That’s what this is about. Learning.
Watching you and your siblings grow is the single greatest joy of my life. I look forward to many more years of trying to manage your life, and the life of your wife and kids. Set up an extra room for Mammy, kiddo.
Some lessons take longer to learn than others.
Happy Birthday, son. I love you.