When Ben was born, I thought he was a funny looking baby. Like a wise and wrinkled old man. He was long and thin and seemed sad to have left his cozy home to enter our chaotic, noisy one. In fact, his first year of life was somewhat difficult for him. A sensitive child, he was sick constantly, and getting him to eat became a daily struggle.
This is my favorite picture of the day he was born. So serious. So wise. A little disappointed at what he sees, maybe. And when I look at him now, I still see that baby sometimes. In fact, I think of all my children he still looks most like his infant self.
But, oh there is so much more to him now. His sensitivity has made him kind beyond what I could have imagined. A gentle sweetness that people often comment on, even in the midst of his boyish zeal for superheroes and wrestling. And a trouble making mischievous side that caught me by complete surprise. He seems to find trouble without even looking. And always seems a bit surprised when he he gets reprimanded. It makes punishing him all the more difficult. Especially when I know it will be usually followed by genuine remorse. Usually.
He has taught me so much about parenting, this one. About letting go of the weight of milestone schedules and rejoicing in individuality. He taught me humbleness in parenting. He taught me a loathing for "Babycenter" weekly updates and a passion for mornings spent snuggling together on the sofa.
Last week he ate three dinner meals with us, spaghetti, tilapia and chicken and rice. I honestly didn't think the day would ever come. And this birthday, his fourth birthday, was the first one he would eat a piece of cake. And I let him eat cake all week long, grinning like a fool each time. But he still sleeps in pull-ups. And probably will for a while. And I don't even flinch about it anymore.
He'll get there. All the places he needs to go. In his own time. In his own sweet way.
And most of all now, I am just thankful I get to come along for the ride. The challenging, occasionally destructive, breathtakingly beautiful ride.
Happy Birthday Ben.