To My Son, On His Third Birthday




And today, just like that, you are 3.

To be a mother—to be your mother—is to feel a love that is visceral and tangible and infinite, that consumes me and terrifies me and worries me, but also humbles me, delights me, and makes my heart soar. You are my greatest challenge, my greatest fear, my greatest gift, my greatest joy, and my greatest love.

Our journey hasn’t been easy. You have a will and a personality all of your own. You are determined and stubborn beyond belief, eccentric, already marching to the beat of your own drum. For the longest time, you called me Noah—as if we were still one person. You didn’t start speaking in sentences until just over a month ago, which meant many, many tantrums as you struggled to express yourself, and some serious concerns. The last few months have pushed me to the edge and back—they don’t call it the terrible twos for nothing.

But today, as we reach your third birthday, you are coming into your own again and you are nothing short of a delight—though as strong-willed and stubborn as ever. You chatter incessantly now—my heart still leaps every time you call me ‘mama’.  You dance a happy dance when you’re excited, say hello to everyone, are fearless and wondrous and excited at the world around you. You give hugs freely, have a smile that lights up the universe, and more than enough energy to fuel it for a day or two. You tire me out and give me purpose, all at once.

When I wrote about your first year, I wrote about the paradox of motherhood and it is the paradoxes that still fascinate me. I am on the cusp of my 50th birthday now, 30 pounds heavier than before my pregnancy, with a sheaf of new white hairs and tell-tale circles around my eyes. My life revolves around you. I haven’t read a book since you were born, because I used to read mostly at night and our bed has been invaded by you. I struggle to write. My spare time is spent thinking about what you need to eat or do or learn. When I go out shopping, I shop for you, first and foremost.

And yet, for all of the rawness and exhaustion of these early years, for all that I have lost in myself, there is so much to enjoy in witnessing your growth and seeing the world anew through your eyes. In being able to comfort you, and kiss your hurts away, and advocate for you, and protect you. One day you will be easier to manage, I know, but growing up will also mean growing away from me. One day, I won’t be able to shield you from pain or fulfil all your needs or make decisions for you, and that will be a necessary part of your growing up.

But you will always have my love. A writer I love once said: There are places in the heart you don’t know exist until you have a child. Thank you for illuminating this heart of mine, for extending its boundaries to places I was unaware of, for making it swell with unbridled love and tenderness, even if that process has made me more vulnerable than ever before. Thank you for making me laugh always and for allowing me to be silly, even at my ripe old age. Thank you, most of all, for being you. To be your mother is a privilege and a joy.

Happy birthday, my dearest Noah