“Mom, are you going to cry on my birthday?”
Yes. I cry every year. I cry leading up to it. I cry the night before, I cry the day of, I cry. I can’t help it. The magnitude and miracle that I get to be your mom…how could I not? You getting older is the very definition of bitter-sweet. I hate it, I want to keep you little forever. But at the same time, I love it, because I get to watch you grow in all the different ways.
This year…well it’s been different to say the least. I won’t lie and say I feel like a good chunk of 6 was stolen from you because…2020. It’s been heavy and difficult and as your mom, part of me does want to keep you inside because the world is backwards and burning.
Here’s what I already knew, but 2020 has proved it: The simplicity, beauty, and innocence of childhood is in serious danger. Our current culture, and the Enemy himself, wants nothing more than to steal as much of your childhood as possible. And as your mama, they don’t know who they’re messing with, because I refuse to let it happen to you. Every year I write a little something to you. As you enter 7, this year I find it fitting to tell you how I am committed to fighting for your childhood in a world that wants to take it.
I will fight for your innocence. There are so many things your eyes simply do not need to see. There are too many things that are being given to children too early, and exposing them to such darkness that I won’t raise you to be ignorant of, but rather to be alert, on-guard, and call it out. I will continue to teach you to think critically, holistically, and not to blindly follow anyone. I will foster your sense of curiosity to discover, uncover, and question-whether it’s something fun, simple, or complex. I will fight for your time. There is no need to live a life rushed, or wasted. Instead I will allow you to remind me to enjoy the slow and simple-to notice a new rose blooming in our garden, to stop and collect the millionth rock, to be spontaneous and bake and build forts on rainy days. I will guard our schedule, protect our time as a family, and know that it will make me the uncool mom some days, but I will teach you the art of saying no so you can put your yes on the table for the things that truly matter. I will continue to foster your natural sense of protectiveness, justice, and compassion. You are such a great friend because of these qualities-always the first to lend a hand and notice when someone is left out or being mistreated. I will let you teach me, because there is so much I learn from you! I’ll let you push me out of my comfort zone and remind me to have fun. I’ll look ridiculous in front of the neighbors racing you down the driveway on the plasma car just to hear you laugh so hard you fall off your own riding toy. I will continue to make mistakes and apologize for them, making amends with you, and (hopefully) modeling humility. When I see something not working or learn something new, I’ll adjust and change to make it better, modeling for you that growing never stops. I will continue to encourage your confidence and be your loudest cheerleader as you chase your goals and use the gifts you’ve been given. I will hold space, imperfectly, but I will hold it, as you navigate through the pains of the unknowns in your story. I will be beside you, reminding you that there is room enough and you can feel more than one thing at one time-adoption is the epitome of that. I will continue to teach you that it doesn’t always have to be either/or, it can absolutely be both/and sometimes.
You deserve the magic that childhood brings, and I intend to keep it that way for you.
We will play, create, explore, laugh, learn, use our imaginations, go outside, snuggle, read-aloud-and that is how you will stay “little” to me. Simply getting to enjoy your childhood.
There are times I look at you and do a sharp inhale because you are getting so big. I notice you’ve grown what seems an inch overnight, how you are using the right words now and we’re losing some of those sweet little “Kai-isms” I wish I could bring back. I notice you fit in my lap differently, and you have to jump in order for me to pick you up now.
There are still so many times I look at you and see how “little” you still are. You still want to sit in my lap and cuddle. You still want me to hold you. You wake up saying “PLAY!” every day. You still wear jammies 98% of the time. You still love the zoo and beg to go to Disney and want to go on all kinds of adventures. Your imagination is always working and you’ve always got a good idea up your sleeve. Part of what has given me a glimmer of hope this year is still seeing your innocence despite it all.
We have always cultivated and celebrated your Japanese-American identity, but this year you have taken more ownership and played an active role in wanting to learn about your birth country. It’s been fun to watch you exclaim words in Japanese and me affirm them. It’s been a welcome challenge for me to learn to make many Japanese dishes while also navigating your food allergies and creatively adjusting at times. You’ve loved watching videos of Kohei Uchimura and fully intend to be an even better gymnast (that’s my competitive boy, and we’re not stopping you!). I’m pretty sure you know every single Pokèmon now, and I am yet again learning things I never thought I would. This year I watched how you navigated challenges like having to train over zoom (zoom…cue the biggest eye roll of 2020). It was not easy for you and you didn’t fully understand, but you also didn’t let it derail you. In fact, we sat at our table, you at 6-years-old, and wrote down 5 skills you wanted to accomplish before gym re-opened, and you crossed every one of them off. We did home workouts together, blew up the bounce house in the living room too many times count, made slow-mo videos on the waterslide, and every Friday I’d make my coffee and we’d watch Be Our Chef together. You had to navigate even more “I don’t knows” over things that should have been an easy yes this year. It broke my heart at times as you just wanted to do all things we typically had the freedom to do (we all did). But, we were able to process through it together. It was a tough year, but not without hope. We know where our hope lies, and we’ve learned to re-evaluate and find the joy.
Seven, we welcome you. It adds another year, yes, but we will let it steal nothing. Mama Bear won’t allow that. Kai, I know I tell you all the time but it’s the truth: I love being your mom. It’s my favorite. You are pure magic. When you walk into a room, it literally lights up with excitement, because that’s the kind of energy you bring. Thank you for making me laugh every single day. Your kindness to your family and friends is refreshing, your bravery unparalleled-it’s what this world needs more of. I am so proud of you (and I believe your first mom is too). Keep using your voice, keep marching to the beat of your own drum, keep being a kid. We love you so much. Happy birthday!