It’s your birthday. Again. It would be a cliche for me to start this letter by telling you I don’t know where the last nine years of my life have gone, so I won’t.
I remember well the moment you were literally laughed in to this world, but I am enjoying every single second of watching you grow in to the young man I see in my home every day.
I swear I blinked and you flew from my arms to the pitching mound…but somehow I think this is just a smidge of your destiny.
I’ve been watching more than a few friends as they prepare to send their once-little-boys off to college…I know that will be me someday. Fortunately, I know I still have some time between now and then. This year, you finished 3rd grade, took to the pitcher’s mound like you were born there (you made your dad and papa cry), started doing crazy math in your head, helped friends when they needed, fully developed your goofy side, hung back in carpool to make sure to wish me a good day, snuggled on the couch with me to watch The Voice and STILL hold both my hand and my heart.
Bright, bold, courageous, athletic, funny and kind. That’s you.
I am proud that you are my son. I hope I tell you that often enough.
You light up a room when you enter. You go out of your way to make sure that everyone feels welcome, and like me, can’t stand to see anyone hurting. That sad feeling you sometimes get when you see someone hurting or upset on TV or in the movies? That’s empathy. That you possess this trait at your age is a treasure. Don’t ever lose that.
You get your baseball talent from your Daddy…we all know that. I’d also say, a fair share of your beautiful goofiness and your sense of humor come from him.
I’d like to believe I’m passing my heart and willingness to help others on to you.
But the goodness in your soul? That’s all you. I cannot tell you how lucky I am to be your mom.
I realize one of these days, I will find myself writing a letter just like this as you prepare to enter High School and then move even beyond those four years. You have so much to look forward to and so much to learn.
As I always do… I have some thoughts, wishes and hopes for you as you move from one year to the next….
Always protect your sister. Why is this first? Because you are nine and sometimes it is easy to forget ‘rule number one’ in our house while the two of you are tackling each other and momentarily wishing you were an only child. Remember to keep her safe. Today. Tomorrow. And Always. The same rule applies to her. You won’t regret having her as a good friend as you get older.
Be grateful. Your family, your friends, your home, your school and talents…they are all gifts. It is wise to remember to be thankful and to pass on whatever type of goodness you can. You have a kind heart. I trust you will continue to use that to guide you to help others as you can.
Work hard, play hard and have fun. If you have learned anything from both being on a team and being coached by your dad (truly the best coach I’ve seen) it is that working hard, playing hard, and having fun are ALL equally important – not only on the field, but in life. These lessons are true for you now as you play baseball, soccer, football and basketball, but also as you study, as you help around the house, as you grow as an adult.
Stand up for your friends. The older you get, the more you will understand the value of true friends and the importance of loyalty. You are reaching an age that can test the boundaries of those friendships.
L-O-S-E is not a four letter word. You won’t always win. In fact, you SHOULDN’T always win. It is within a loss that you grow, learn and improve. And your dad and I won’t prevent you from making mistakes (you learn from making these as well) but we will ALWAYS be here to cheer you on, help you to pick up the pieces and love you through everything.
Be bold. I probably don’t need to remind you of this, as I’ve never known you to be anything BUT bold…however, it is worth remembering that bold does not mean loud or overbearing, but often simply courageous. Take the steps that scare you, travel the path that leads to the unknown and be willing to fail. We’ll be here to celebrate or pick you up.
Sensitivity is brave. I know we don’t hear much about boys being sensitive…in fact, they are often told to ‘toughen up’. You won’t hear that from me. It is brave of you to be sensitive to the feelings of the people around you, to have the heart you do, to worry about others and to be willing to SHOW that type of emotion – especially when boys are often encouraged otherwise. Don’t let anyone tell you that your heart is anything less than brave.
The right thing is not always easy. Admitting when you are wrong, when you have hurt a friend or fibbed about your sister….it is clearly not an easy thing to do, but you and I both know it is the RIGHT thing to do. The good news is that I know you DO know the difference. Keep doing the right thing.
Don’t let anyone hinder your dreams. Right now, your dream is to be a professional baseball player. And, Buddy….I believe you have it in you. I know much can change between now (you at nine) and the time the draft comes along…and I know you’ve been told ‘only .5% of kids who want to be professional athletes ever make it that far’….but I’m here to tell you I believe you are that .5% because you are willing to work hard. (You know that quote I love? “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”…. I think you have both – talent and a willingness to work hard.)
And one to grow on.
Do you….and do it well. There is only ONE YOU. And good heavens do I adore that boy! The older you get, the easier it will be to make choices with your friends, to ‘go with the crowd’, to give in when you feel like standing up. Listen to your gut and your heart and follow them. I trust you to know what works for you, what the right path might be and know that Cooper Smith needs to make decisions that are best for him.
Small dude – I’m a better person, a better friend, a better mother, daughter and yes, human being for having had you with me for these 3,285 days. Thank you for being one of the two best teachers I have ever had.
Happy birthday, Little Buddy.