There's something about turning five that's special. Five is the first birthday that I distinctively remember. You have officially shaken off the vestiges of toddler-hood and become a kid. You start kindergarten in the fall. Five, as you said this morning, is a whole hand.
Today is a big day. You've been waiting for it and counting down to it. You have asked me and your mom why May is sooooooo far away for months. And so it has been fun to watch you today as people have asked you how old you are. With quiet pride, you grin and hold up that hand. You're five. Well done, buddy.
And you have much of which to be proud. Even though you blew past the milestones of walking and talking a few years back, I feel like we have witnessed you grow so much more in this past year. Though you're still shy around people outside of your family (a trait that I unfortunately passed on to you), you are continuing to blossom into a polite, smart, and tenacious boy. A lot of that credit goes to your teachers since you pretty quickly took to school like you do to a playground.
I'm not going to lie: you sometimes frustrate the fool out of me. You're stubborn and there was no escaping that because you got that from both parents. You push limits. You get in fights with your brother. You sometimes melt down when you don't get your way. In other words, you are five. Kids who don't do those things, who stare at you with perfect blank smiles, creep me out. So I'm not saying that there is something wrong with you.
But I bring that up to say that even though being your parent is occasionally difficult, it is completely and totally worth it. It's worth it for the way that you walk around the house making the sound of a rocket ship. It's worth it to see your imagination firing on all cylinders as you play with your superheroes (you love superheroes and have a near encyclopedic knowledge Batman, Superman, etc.). It's worth it to hear about what you did at school each day. It's worth it when you're protective of your little brother. It's worth it to hear you ask questions about God, dinosaurs, and outer space from the backseat. It's worth it for the way your face lights up when you see me or your mom. It's worth it for the way you leap in complete trust for a hug. It's worth it for a short conversation that you start with me multiple times each day:
You: Daddy, you know what?
You: I love you.
Me: I love you too, buddy.
That conversation always stops me in my tracks. If I am in a bad mood or stressed, you saying that transforms the world for just a few moments.
This morning after dropping you off at school, I went for a run. The app on my phone is doing a weird thing right now where it won't play an album in sequential order. So when I start my run, I have no idea what song is going to play first. Today it was "Boys (Lesson One)," a song by Jars of Clay written for their respective sons. It includes lyrics like:
Lesson three - you're not alone
Not since I saw you start breathing on your own
You can leave, you can run, this will still be your home
There will be liars and thieves who take from you
Not to undermine the consequence
But you are not what you do
And when you need it most
I have a hundred reasons why I love you
Your dad was a quivering ball of emotion before he even got a half of mile into the run. I could remember seeing you for the first time. I remembered holding you. And though we had just met, I knew that I would try to love you the absolute best that I could. There are many times that I wish I could do a better job, but I truly love you with all of my heart.
So Jim, if you ever get around to reading this, I want you to know that you are loved. I say that a lot, but we need to be reminded of that a lot. You are loved by me, your mom, your brother, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your cousin, your family, your teachers, your friends, by so many others, and by God. Not only are you loved but you matter. You have a vital role to play in our family and an important part to play in this world. I am so excited watch you discover just what that role is (maybe I can learn from it and figure out what I'm supposed to do too).
And know that when things get difficult—when people hurt you (because they will), when you're upset at your mom and me (because that'll happen at times too), when things go wrong (they will), and even when God feels distant (because that's the case at times)—I have not just a hundred, but so many reasons why I love you that I could not count them. I can promise you that will never change.
Happy Birthday, buddy! I am so grateful that we get to call you our son. You are one incredible kid.
P.S. I almost forgot! You will be getting your first video game not today, but at your birthday party. This is an important rite of passage. I still remember getting our first video game. Granted this was the 80s when it was a huge deal to get a Nintendo. But I digress. In case you need it for posterity, your first video game was "Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Video Game." It's right up your present alley. If you end up not liking video games, completely disregard this postscript with the exception of the next sentence. Love you!