Seven years ago today, I was lying in a hospital bed, staring at a set of fluffy baby cheeks that I had just finished making. I couldn't get over so many things: the fact that I was a Mom, that the last 39 weeks and 2 days of challenges had finally come to an end, that I finally got to meet my little boy, and that he was adorably, ridiculously handsome.
Those early days were so hard, exhausting, exhilarating, exciting, painful, sweet, incredible, frustrating, funny, challenging, rewarding, and wonderful.
Over the years, as I've had more kids and watched each of them grow, it astonishes me how their personalities emerge so differently. It doesn't matter that all of my kids are boys, or that they have the same two parents and have grown together in the same environment - they are all so incredibly unique and dynamic. My heart grows for each of them every day. Not just because they are here, and they are mine, but because studying the subtle differences in who they are as little people with sweet little hearts and imaginative little minds is a privilege and an honor that fills me with so much warmth and gratitude.
Lukas was my first foray into motherhood and unconditional love. I made my mistakes with him as we learned how to do this life thing together, but the experience of mothering Luke is what gave me the gift of opening my heart to the little loves that have joined us since. He is so, so special to me.
Luke's heart is a lot like mine. It is creative, dreamy, imaginative, anxious, hesitant, and big. He is fearful of the world in general, but has a fierce commitment to the people that never let him down. He gets down on himself easily, but has big dreams. Mothering him is a mirror into myself, which makes our relationship incredibly special and challenging.
I worry about him a lot, because I know how his mind works. As proud as I am of his inheriting my creative outlook on life, I feel guilt about the anxiety and doubt he is naturally programmed with. I don't know if it's age, or the fact that he is a boy, or if things just get stronger from generation to generation, but he seems to have taken those negative qualities of mine and turned them into a lifestyle. He has a negative outlook on life (something I used to have as well, and have spent my adulthood working against), and many times it gets in his way. His Dad and I want better for him - we don't want him to hold himself back with fear and worry the way we did as kids. We've gotten him into programs to build confidence and spark some fun in his life, but without the personal choice to be a happy person, that can only go so far.
It's been years of working on this with our Luke. We talk about positivity and how to cultivate it constantly. Many, many times a day. We help him find sparks of light in all of his situations and even create some so he has more to list. We encourage him to take ownership of positive choices in everything he does. Some days he is incredible at it, and other days we can't get him off the couch.
As he matures, things change, and things took an interesting turn recently.
His birthday is always three weeks after Christmas, and I swear that was orchestrated by the universe because of who he is. If there wasn't something big and exciting on the horizon after the let down of waiting another year for Santa and taking down the tree, he would be a puddle on the floor for a solid month. Because of the energy of the New Year and turning a year older shortly after, he is instead motivated and excited. (Not without hiccups, of course - he moped around the house for hours when I took the tree down last weekend!) He had a rather lengthy chat with his Dad (while I was also in the room) about being positive, working hard, striving for things, and making progress in life. Something about that conversation stirred something in him, and he finished it by saying, "I really just need to work on being positive. I want to be happy."
He has said similar things here and there, but this time he made a motto out of it. He has been writing the phrase "Be Happy" on everything! I see it as doodles on his school work, it finds its way into all of his artwork at home, and he sends us emails whose contents are simply, "Be Happy!!!!!!!" followed by 20 or so smiley faces.
One day, he was in hurry - not feeling particularly artistic but just wanted to DO something - and he whipped up a bunch of "Be Happy" posters. On one, he traced his hands so that he could hang the poster in his room, where he'd pass it every morning, and he could give it high-fives where the hand prints are. He made one for my room, too. At some point, he snuck in and taped it to the wall (with his Star Wars washi tape, adorbs) and because it was on the wall where the door is, I didn't notice it at first. I plopped into bed to read my book, and when I rolled over I saw it there. It worked - it made me so happy! My sweet little Eeyore in a little boy's body has become the happiness cheerleader in our house! I can't tell you what that does for my heart.
His birthday is today, and he's officially seven years old. I can remember being this age - there are many big memories I have from that year in my life (many difficult, some very wonderful) - and it's wild to me that I'm the parent of someone old enough to have lifelong memories like that. I'm working on making his birthday extra-special today (did you see we made a birthday tree??), we're sharing cake with his Grandparents tonight, and tomorrow is his big friend party. I love his birthday so very much, because I know I get to see big, genuine smiles out of him - he's as positive and can be. And this year? He is so excited about spreading the happiness that it's just exploding out of him.
My Luke is the sweetest little soul, and I know that if he steps out of his own way, he will be capable of big, wonderful things.
I love you so very much, my number one. Be happy, Luke.