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Monday, February 9, 2015

Dear 5-year-old Owen,

Dear Owen,
You are the Big Five now. Five full years, a whole hand, a real life high five, that you are indeed. It seems like yesterday that the doctor lifted you up over the C-section screen and your father said in the sweetest voice I'd ever heard from him, "It's a BOY!" He never stopped smiling after that moment. You lit up our lives that day like you do still now.

Of course it's not all sweet... you know how the story goes, you giggle at it and squint your eyes when you smile (just like your mom, I might add, I gave you that smile, it's something I'm proud to claim). You say "Tell me about how I peed on the doctor! Tell me how I peed on everyone!" Yes. It's true. Your claim to fame, your first moment in this world... well, you peed across the room as they took you to be weighed and checked out.

You made us laugh from that first moment, and we haven't stopped laughing along with you since. 

It feels like you were just in my belly, kicking me "like a soccer player," they told me, "you'll have your hands full with this one," they told me. Isn't that the truth?! You've been a busy boy since the beginning. Except that you are the best sleeper on the planet, sleeping through the night at five weeks young. We have been so lucky with you, little man.

I remember thinking when I saw you, "I'm a mother. I'm a mom now. I have a son." Nobody else can say that, not even your sister. Nobody but you can claim to have given me the coolest title on the planet - Mother. That's pretty special. 

You and I will forever be bonded in a special way because of that, like my mom and me are.

I am thankful to you every day for teaching me how to love so deep, so grand, so wide. To the moon and back, really, truly. I understand that idea now... because of you, sweet boy.

I'll admit being first-time parents, with you, we had no idea what we were doing. We made some mistakes along the way, like when I was so dead-set on breastfeeding and you were starving in the hospital and you screamed... and I wouldn't give in to formula until a bit longer. And then we figured it out our own way, didn't we? I pumped for a year for you. Something I'm really proud of. You weren't interested in nursing. So what, right?

We figured out another way to do it. Not the straight and narrow, not the cliche, not perfection, but we figured it out, didn't we? In our own time and on our own accord. 

Same with when you went through a weird phase of hitting for 10 looooong months. I hated that period, not gonna lie. But we figured it out. People told me to try this or that, I didn't want to. I overreacted, I should have ignored more, I had no idea what I was doing! But we managed. Somehow we came out on the other side of that terrible phase, and we're both stronger for it, I swear.

See, that's how it's been with you. You've taught me to listen to my heart, not hear the negativity or the worries. You've shown me that following your heart and your own mind is all that matters. You've taught me to focus inward, to really see what's important... our family... nothing bigger or better than that.

Before you, I told everyone I didn't care what they thought about me. I wore what I wanted in high school. I found my own way in college. When planning a wedding, I couldn't care less if people didn't like the colors I had chosen. Yet, even still, I did care, a little bit. And then there was you... this little man with an agenda of his own, with ideas bigger than life itself it seemed. You, this demanding, creative, curious little guy who made me finally realize it's ALL about us, nothing more, and what makes us happy in this moment.

It took me a while to learn that, but you guided me. You never care what others think. Sometimes we have to reign that in a bit, but honestly it's the coolest thing about you. You are a free spirit. Energetic. Bouncing. So ready to take on the world. You've had that look in your eyes since the day we met. I remember feeling like it was so strange when you were born and you'd look up at me and Dad, like, "OK, let's do this. Let's have some fun." My parents always told me I looked like that when I was born, looking up at them thinking, "Who the heck are these guys?" Wiser than your years, for sure.

You made me happier than I'd ever known. Your dad made me pretty darn happy before you, but when you came along it was this whole new adventure. We weren't pros. We didn't have it all perfectly figured out. We struggled that first year to manage all that we wanted and needed to do for you and our new family of three. But we figured it out... and you made me smile more than I'd ever imagined.

Watching you grow, snuggling up with you on the couch, rocking you to sleep every single night, seeing you ready to greet me in the mornings while standing up in your crib - it was pure bliss. It was HARD. Motherhood has not been a walk in the park. It's hard to work full time and be a wife, mother, friend, etc.

But your smile always brings me back to feeling centered. I know what my purpose is when I'm with you. 

I feel the same way about your sister, but there's something uniquely from you and special about how you made me a mother first. I am forever grateful.

From the start, you've been curious. You've been loud and silly. You giggle the best laugh. You make everyone around you smile. Your energy is contagious. It's the coolest thing about you, I have to admit, and I'm so proud when anyone says it matches the energy people see in me. Of course, you have far more energy than your old momma here, but I'm happy to see that some of it is straight from me.

You've always looked just like Dad. Within an hour of birth, nurses who'd just met us were saying how much you looked like him. I loved it, but admit that I got jealous. I was waiting to see me in you. I'd carried you in my belly, after all, don't I deserve some credit?!

But I see me in you every day now. I see it when you smile... how your eyes get squinty like mine do when I smile. I hear it in your laugh, when you screech and talk super loud ... like you already learned the Italian Way of yelling when talking. I see it when you run everywhere you go, bouncing here and there like Tigger, never slowing down, always ready for the next adventure. I know you're part me when I watch you sleep and suck your thumb and blink your eyes a little bit, as if dreaming of cool things to do when you wake.

I know you're a little me, but mostly your Dad when I see your sweet side, how you pick me yellow dandelions in the spring time, without saying a word, you just drop your shovel or Tonka truck and pick the flower and hand it to me with a smirk.

We've worried, your Dad and I, if we had enough money, enough time, enough things for you. It's not easy buying a house right after getting married, then having kids and managing two jobs, bills, etc. But you never care. You love everything. You appreciate the rocks outside and the sunny days. You LOVE the snow. You played with pots and pans for a while there when you were little. A piece of string is your favorite thing lately, and scrap paper to color on leads to you making the coolest projects.

You've always seen everything in nothing. That I love more than anything about you. Everything in this world is a playground to you. Nothing is boring. You don't need TV or big flashy lights or noises. For you, the world is not only enough, it's AWESOME. 

You see things that I don't even know are there. When we're in the car, you find the tractors in the craziest places, even behind buildings, you know they are there. You see the red flower in a huge field of green. You find the cows that are laying down and you can barely make them out. You see the green apple in the bunch of red ones at the farm stand.

You find the different, the unique, the special. It makes you stand out in a crowd. I love that most of all. You are YOU. Always yourself. It's my biggest goal in life to help you feel like being yourself is enough, awesome and so perfectly amazing. We may not be getting everything right about parenting, but we have succeeded in making you feel like you are AWESOME.

How someone could laugh so much is beyond me. It's all you do! Everything is funny with you. I hope that you keep that sense of humor. I hope that you help to make others laugh, so that you make the world a brighter place. You certainly make our world a brighter place.

There are days, moments, where I'm just done. I have lost all patience, no sense of humor left. There are hard days in motherhood, in life. And there you are. Making me laugh... with the silliest things, that really shouldn't even be funny but they are with you. It's a gift, it really is. It drives me nuts, sometimes I say your name a thousand times over "Owen sit down, Owen move over here, Owen, Owen did you hear me?" It is infuriating at times, can't sugarcoat that. But then you laugh and I'm done. I'm laughing, too, and it's all good again.

You make me see what matters. Messes don't matter, neither does getting somewhere on time or saying the right thing or staying quiet. Your smile and wide eyes full of wonder matter. 

Lately you are into Superheroes. And it's fitting, you being into superheroes and turning five. Five is huge. It's a whole hand, like I said, a real life high five that is YOU right now. It's pretty awesome.

And yet it's terrifying to me. Five is this whole other world, language, territory. I'm not quite sure I'm ready for it. In fact, I'm not ready for it. I've been super excited the last few weeks counting down to your birthday. I've been SO ecstatic. And all day today we celebrated in big ways - cake right at 9:03 a.m. for your birthday celebration during the moment you were born. We played and played and just had so much fun, letting you be in charge of everything, all your favorites for food, etc.

Then tonight, as we were getting you ready for bed and you were off the wall with excitement from the sugary cake you had and Dad was losing patience and we'd said "Owen, Owen, sit down, get pajamas on, come on, bud, Owen..." about 14 times too many already... I swooped in and sat in the rocking chair with you, turned out the light, and talked about our day. I sang ABCs to you because that's our song from when you were little. And I teared up as you smiled up at me asking me to tell you about when you were in my belly and how you'd kick me... and when you started talking about your friends at school and how you'll take the school bus next year... and how your favorite toy today was the Transformer, no wait it was the Spiderman Lego car that you built all by yourself...

Then I burst into tears... telling your Dad that you're growing up, and that's sad to me. Just like your first birthday, I was SO excited for it... then that night I took you out of your crib and rocked you while I sobbed, thinking about that hard and wonderful first year as parents.

I teared up realizing that it's going, the time we have with you. I'm not trying to be all dramatic... but we're five years in. And I feel like it's been maybe three, not five. And we're almost to 10 years old. Then you're this almost teenager... then you're graduating... then you're not living with us anymore... and I see it happening before my eyes, in a blink.

I want to slow time. I want to stay on playgrounds and with training wheels and with you having to hold my hand to walk in parking lots. I want to have to tie your shoes and pour your milk. I want to see your crooked handwriting as you learn to write your name. I want you to keep needing me around and calling me "Mama". 

I've noticed myself paying attention more lately. Wanting to hear every question you ask me, even when I don't know the answers. I see myself walking a little faster, trying to catch up with you, wanting to see what it is that you see as SO cool in the road ahead of you.

My New Year's Resolution was to make sure I got on the floor to play more. I've noticed in the last few months I play with you and your sister every day but not like we did before, on the floor every night like when you were little. You guys are too busy, in this room, then that room, upstairs then down, on the floor then the couch. I couldn't keep up anymore. Plus you have each other, you play so well. It was fine. But now I realize you're reaching the years where you won't want to play with me anymore. It's not here yet, I know, but it will be. So on the floor we get every day and I love seeing the world from your view.

It's the same reason why Dad always carried you, still does sometimes. And I would say "Put him down, he's a big boy." And Dad would say "Yup, but he is still my little boy and until he tells me to put him down I'm carrying him, someday he won't let me anymore."

So, here we are. 
The Big Five.

You are a big kid. You're not a toddler anymore, not an infant. You're going to school next fall. You're going to be a big boy. 

And while I know you'll always be my baby, I also know you're growing up. And that's a good thing. It's not bad, despite how I feel inside. I'm not losing you. I'm gaining this cooler version of you, the one who's entering a whole big world of opportunities. I get to watch you explore, learn, grow. 

We've called you our Growin' Owen since you were a baby. It's the best thing in the world getting to be your mom and watching you learn new things. 

I remember being SO proud of you when you finally learned to walk (at 17 months old!) and when you first rode your tricycle all by yourself (2 1/2 years old after your sister was born!) and when you first went potty ("I not wear diapers, no, I a big boy, I wear underwear."). I've been so proud of you a thousand times over. I can't wait to see what you do to make me proud in the coming years. 

"I took my love and I took it down. I climbed a mountain and then I turned around. And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills, until the landslide brought me down. 

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life? 

Well, I've been afraid of changing, cause I've built my life around you. But time makes you bolder, even children get older, and I'm getting older, too."

-Fleetwood Mac

You are sassy. You keep me on my toes. You've taught me patience. I had none before you, some days I still struggle, but you teach me to take deep breaths, "cool our bodies" and keep going. You play harder than anyone I've ever seen. You work harder than any little guy in the world, too!

You drive me crazy, sometimes it's hard to keep up with where you're going and so fast. You make me want to be a better person, learn more, do more, and see more. You make every day an adventure. You make me enjoy life so much more.

Keep smiling, buddy. I hope you always love to read like you do now. I hope you never stop snuggling and hugging me and saying "Love you, too, Mum." I hope that every single time I pick you up from school you have that HUGE grin on your face, as if to say, "I KNEW you'd come back to see me, and I'm SO happy to see you, and I can't WAIT to tell you ALL about what I learned today." I love that moment more than anything.

I hope you keep your promise to me. Tonight while rocking you before bed, in the rocking chair that we've rocked you in since you were born, tonight on your fifth birthday, you promised me you'd always talk to me and tell me silly stories. You promised me that you'd always love me and have fun with me.

I'm going to hold you to those promises, big man. Because you're still my baby, and I'm still your Mama.

I don't know what this next year has in store for us. I'm sure it's going to be lots of fun, along with some stuff that makes your old mom a little nervous. I'm new at all these first things like Kindergarten, remember, you're my first baby, we're not pros at this yet. So, help me along, will ya?

Keep that smile around. Keep reaching for my hand when we're crossing the street. Keep reminding me of things, like that it doesn't matter how dirty we get outside, it's ALWAYS fun and worth it! Keep showing me what love and life is all about, O. Keep making me laugh until it hurts. I'm forever grateful that I have you as my son. 

I love you, Bud, Growin' Owen, Oj, O.

Thanks for teaching me there's nothing to be afraid of with all this growing stuff.
It's ALL fun out there in this big world. I'm so proud of you.

Your Mama

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