It's the day before my boy's 6th birthday. The countdown has been going on for months, and it's hard to believe the date has arrived. It's hard to grasp this milestone in itself. There's something that's so big about six. Brady is definitely his own little person, with his own (strong) ideas. We see glimpses of ourselves (his proclivity to wake up singing and chattering, like John; his meticulous way of categorizing things like dates, like me), but his likes and talents are his own. He can be so BIG in some ways...his pride in learning to tie his shoes and getting his own water, the ways he cares for and helps his sister, the love he has for going off on the bus to a full day of school. And yet, there is much growing left to do (and sometimes less ability to listen as we instruct him). I'm still glad for the feel of his small hand reaching for mine, and for his interest of sharing much about his day with me.
On the eve of his birthday, I'm taken back to the day before his birth. It's ingrained in my mind as it was so life-altering. And yet, it's hard to remember with much detail the days and years before. John and I have many half-joking conversations in which we wonder, "What did we do and what did we talk about before we had kids?" We've now reached the point in our almost 10-year marriage where we have been parents longer than we have been a couple without kids. In hindsight I sometimes miss those carefree times when we could have a conversation without interruption, live by our own schedule and interests, and indulge in hobbies and rest. The thing is we don't appreciate it while we're in the moment (which is probably why I can't understand when people tell me I will miss these crazy child-raising days someday!) I am grateful for those early years with John in which we built our foundation as a couple and continued to deepen our friendship. But I'm also grateful for parenthood, which has developed us as true partners, built more trust and understanding, and also helped us to lean on one another (and also dream of an empty nest one day!)
I remember that day before, struggling to get through a massive to-do list, while believing we still had two weeks to prepare. Ready for the pregnancy to be over, ready to meet the son we had dreamed of for years, yet not truly prepared for what was ahead. I still laugh at the memory of that to-list left on the table, where it would remain for our week-long stay in the hospital, and remain there to greet us on our return (my wonderful in-laws had completed some of the remaining projects in our absence). That list has a prime spot in Brady's baby book, my first clue that babies have their own plans (that often don't match ours), and that much of parenthood is out of our control.
Having a baby has changed us, but even more so, having Brady has changed us. He has developed such a deep love in us from the beginning. He has taught us about protecting and sheltering since his early difficult days in the hospital, and his many sick days over his first two years. But he has shown us his own determination to fight, and has made us stronger as a result. He has opened me up to more playfulness and kindness as his sweet and loving spirit is such an inspiration to me. He is teaching me that nothing is more important than now. As the Matthew West song says,
"Now you're here and everything's changing
Suddenly life means so much
I can't wait to wake up tomorrow
and find out this promise is true
I will never have to go back
to the day before you"