I blinked and you became a big kid. I remember every detail of your birth as if it was yesterday. I remember the overwhelming love and joy I felt as I held your tiny baby body in my arms, rocking, nursing, playing peek-a-boo. Suddenly, here you are: registered for kindergarten, riding a two-wheeler without ever once using training wheels, starting to read, impressing everyone with your intelligence and empathy.
Alden, you have been and continue to be one of my greatest challenges in life and also one of my greatest joys. Yes, it can be hard to help you through the day-to-day, but when you laugh – oh! – time stands still and your rolling giggle is the only thing that exists. When you come up and ask, “Would you like a hug?” I never turn it down. Your hugs can reset the entire world for me. No matter how rough our day has been, when you wrap your arms around me I can feel you pouring your love straight into my heart and I never want to let go. I never want to forget the way that when I kiss your cheek, you immediately reach up with your hand and press the kiss into your skin while softly saying, “Stamp.” You came up with this all on your own, the notion of “stamping” my kisses on so you can keep them always. You are the sweetest, most affectionate child I have ever known.
142,000. That’s your favorite number. If you like something, you tell us it is “One hundred forty-two thousand thumbs up!” Indeed, everything for you tends to be rated on a thumbs up/down/sideways scale.
While your big sisters play at “going to fairyland,” you tell us about your elaborate, imaginary world of Kittyland. There are many kitties there, naturally. Yes, your love of cats continues, unabated. “Kittyanna” is a frequent name used for your stuffed animals and toys, as well as a secret code word, a “magic word” (like abacadabra) or really, for anything. Dinosaurs and trains remain two of your biggest interests, although monster trucks have recently joined the list. You also continue to be fixated on the color green. Your teachers, your classmates, everyone knows: no matter what it is, Alden wants the green one!
The speech therapist at your preschool recently tested you and reported back to me that, in her entire, long career, you are the first preschooler who has ever maxed out and fully completed the test. Most hit a point where they are unable to proceed because they do not know the answers beyond that point. You, however, apparently understand metaphors and analogies and have an extremely extensive vocabulary. I wasn’t surprised at all. We can see you are incredibly smart. You are already good with numbers and understand some beginning math principles. We see you starting to read, and you’ve known the whole alphabet (and all the letter sounds) for awhile now.
Singing seems to be both a talent and passion of yours. You learn lyrics quickly and can accurately carry relatively complex tunes. If I have music playing, you’ll frequently come put your ear close to the speaker so that you don’t miss a single word. You love to sing the “Greatest Showman” soundtrack, as well as “Frozen” (both 1 and 2), Walk the Moon, and Adele. “Baby Beluga” also remains a top favorite, of course.
Alden, you embody so many things that fill me with pride. You have incredible self-restraint and patience. You adore your baby sister and admire your big sisters with an open and forgiving heart. You have made a couple of real friends this year, and watching you play together makes my eyes tear up with joy and gratitude. You are smart and strong and brave. Perhaps the thing I love most though, is your empathy and kindness. You show them both daily, with a ferocity that takes my breath away.
Alden, I am truly the luckiest mother in the world with a son like you. You remind me of everything I love about your Daddy. You take all of his best qualities – patience, kindness, forgiveness, intelligence, humor, gentleness of spirit – and reflect them back at us tenfold. I hope you never change. I hope I always look at you and see the sweet boy who can make the sun shine and the birds sing just by smiling.
Happy Birthday, my sweet Alden boy.