Once upon a time I thought I'd write you these letters regularly. I was going to sit down every year, if not every month in the beginning, and compose an eloquent, moving letter, full of your growth and my love and bits of everyday life.
I think if you search the archives of my blog, you might find one other letter, written when you turned two. There are a lot of things I thought I would do. The mother, and the writer, I always imagined myself to be have so far turned out to be very different from the reality...
And now you are six. We took pictures outside our back door before we left for your first day of school this morning, and I didn't have to coax a smile out of you. You couldn't wait to strap on your new backpack; you anticipated what I would say after you got dressed and proclaimed for yourself how handsome you looked in your uniform.
I walked you into your kindergarten classroom, and as I helped you unpack your supplies and took a photo with your new teacher, I was astonished at the difference between this day and the first day of preschool. A year ago, you were clingy and anxious, tear-filled eyes begging me not to leave you in a strange new place. Today I was amazed at the calm, confident, excited little boy who grinned for pictures, gave me a big hug and cheerfully waved goodbye.
I wasn't quite the cliche of the choked-up mom who drops her baby off for the first day of school, then runs out to her car and cries, but my mind and heart were a tangled jumble of emotions. I am not sorry to see you grow up; five has been my favorite year yet, ever so much better than the newborn stage or your toddlerhood. You are fascinated by this, since your daddy and I have both expressed it to you, and frequently ask us to tell you again: "Why do you like it best when I'm not a baby?"
Because, son, I love to see the pride on your face when you show me your newest Lego creation. I love to marvel at your insane sense of direction in the car, at your ability to assemble models made for kids twice your age, and wonder what God might do with this spatial intelligence of yours.
I love your tender heart, your deep desire to please your daddy. I love that slow grin, a sweet mix of shy modesty and thrilled pride, that spreads over your face when I kneel down to your level and affirm something great I've seen you do. I love it when you spontaneously thank God for the beautiful day, when you thank me for dinner without prompting, when you exclaim, "God is helping me obey!"
I love sitting next to you and having you look up at me and smile for no particular reason, your brown eyes crinkled up. I love your affectionate touches, and let's be honest, I do love your lavish, sometimes-absurd compliments. There's nothing like stepping out of the shower and hearing, "Mama, your hair looks pretty!"
I love your obsession with numbers, and the way you work carefully, methodically, determined to do it exactly right--though my heart hurts when I see my own perfectionism magnified in your quickness to get upset with yourself over one tiny mistake. We can blame your dad for some things, like stubbornness, but I'm sorry to say I have to take all the credit for your unwillingness to do anything you can't do perfectly, immediately and easily.
I love your love for books. I pray God molds it and grows it into a love for His Word and a lifelong enjoyment of learning. I love hearing you sing songs you've heard once, repeating nonsense syllables instead of the actual lyrics. I love those sweet moments when you encourage your brother, when you share with him, when you make him giggle.
So no, I don't miss the beginning. I enjoy dates with you, conversations with you, far too much. I am excited to see who you become.
It just feels so...final, in a weird sense. A whole chapter has ended, and I am full of guilt over all the ways I've failed these last six years. My stomach feels faintly sick at the thought of how much has been lost: how much time I have squandered, how many opportunities I have missed, how much I could have done, but didn't.
I pray that our compassionate, merciful Father will restore these years that the locusts of my selfish sin have eaten, that He will bring beauty even in the face of my failures. I pray that my weakness will mean you know how often repentance is necessary and how desperately we all need a Savior.
No one will ever accuse me of being Super Mama, but I'm comforted by Ann Voskamp's recent reminder that you do not need a Super Mama--you need a mama who needs (and has!) a Super God. And so I pray most of all that as you grow into a handsome, bright, funny, sweet young man, you will also grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. I pray that when you fail, you'll fall on His perfection; I pray that when you're hurt by others' failures, you'll fall into His compassionate arms. I pray that you'll know His love, that you'll be changed by His love, that you'll love others with that kind of love. And I pray you will know how very much your messed-up mama loves you, sweet boy. I love so many things you do, but mostly I love you because you're mine. Because you're irreplaceable Elijah, God's gift to me and to the world.