Dear Hayden

When Daddy and I were babies, Mamaw and Nonna wrote down things about us every week in something called a “baby book.” Things like our first steps and when we started eating peas and bananas and the dates of all our shots. They kept up with them for years. We still have them, and their dedication to keeping up with all that information is impressive. Your sister has a baby book too, and for a while I recorded All The Stuff about her as well, but eventually I stopped. It’s a lot to maintain, and we were busy playing and reading and exploring, so I let it go. For a long time I wrote a monthly letter to Mia here on this very site, but I eventually got slack with that also. You, my son, do not even have a baby book, and at almost 4 months old, this is your first feature here. I am apologizing for none of this.

For the past nearly 4 months I have held you and watched you grow, fed and burped and cleaned you, rocked you and walked with you and played with you every walking moment of my life, all while hanging out with Daddy and Mia, cleaning our house a little and keeping up with the laundry and groceries, and occasionally hitting the pavement for a jog or doing some exercise with the TV. I haven’t made time for recording much about you statistically speaking, save a fairly detailed bottle and poop log, or for recording anything about you at all, for that matter, and I don’t regret this, because I was right where I was supposed to be doing the most awesome stuff with you and our family.

But time is flying, and some things are about to change around here, and even though I probably won’t ever get you a baby book, or write to you like clockwork on the first day of each month (obviously, because today is October 5th), there are some things I want you to know.

First and worst of all, I have to start going to work again tomorrow, and you will have to start spending the day with our neighbor and friend Kim. As much as I like Kim, and as much as I trust her to take good care of you, I am so sad about this. I wish I could keep hanging out with you all day, every single day, but that’s not a possibility for our family right now. Daddy keeps telling me all of this will be okay, and he is usually right. I’m sure he will be right about this, too. As much as I will miss you during the day, I can’t even imagine how awesome it will be to see your little smiling face every afternoon.

You smile pretty much all the time now, sometimes even when you are sleeping, and you have even laughed a few times. You jabber and talk a lot, too–that’s my favorite. Mia can get you talking better than anyone. It’s so cool to watch the two of you. She loves you more than pretty much anything or anyone in the world, and I’m betting that when you are a little older and have a clue about love, that feeling will be mutual.

I will be okay with that, because I remember how in love I was with your Aunt Charity and Aunt Megan and Uncle Jimmy when I became a big sister, but know this, baby: I love you and Mia and Daddy more than life, and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for the three of you. When I had Mia, even though I was alone and sometimes pretty overwhelmed, I thought my life was complete. Your sister is the coolest girl I’ve ever known, and you are so lucky to be her baby brother. But then I found Daddy, and my world doubled in awesome almost on the spot. He is the best person I know, smart and funny and loyal, and so determined to take the very best care of us. Mia and Daddy showed me how much I was capable of loving, and how amazing it is to be loved that much in return. I really didn’t think it could get any better, but then you came along, and not a day passes that I am not amazed by you, little buddy.

When Daddy and I got married we kind of thought we maybe might someday possibly decide to have a baby. It seemed like such a distant fantasy. Daddy wanted to be totally ready in every possible way, and I didn’t want to be over 40 and having babies. Since we were 38 when we got married, this didn’t leave us much time. I brought it up every now and then, and Daddy would get sort of pale and stop making eye contact. But then one day he looked me right in the eye and said he was ready. It wasn’t long after that–barely a few months–that we found out about you. I was in total awe. My life was already so amazingly good. How could it get any better? I managed to convince myself that you were too good to be true, and that there was no way I was lucky enough to have another healthy, beautiful kid. And thus commenced what were probably the most forehead slappingly frustrating 9 months of Daddy’s entire life.

When I was barely pregnant with you, Daddy came home one afternoon with a beautiful leather bound journal. “For writing to the baby,” he said, and he and Mia wrote in it a few times (sadly it, too, was abandoned and is mostly empty, but I digress) but I never did, not once. I was afraid to, too scared of everything that might go wrong to even think about the possibility of you. I worried about everything. It was exhausting, and I regret it now, but at the time I just couldn’t shake it. It drove Daddy a little crazy. But worry eventually turned to wonder as you grew and began making your presence known. I still couldn’t believe you were really happening, and I didn’t stop worrying, but being pregnant with you was pretty awesome. I loved feeling you flip and turn, loved it when daddy put his hands on your knees and head and heels pressing up against my belly. And so our days of sharing my body passed this way, a crazy dance of worry and awe, until finally it was time for you to be born.

Daddy and I refer to the day you were born as The Best and Worst Day Ever. Your actual birth was awesome, and we were so overwhelmed with happiness to finally see you, to meet you and hear your first healthy cries. We didn’t find out that you were going to be a boy, because we wanted to be surprised, but the only person who was truly surprised was Daddy; everyone else was convinced you were a boy from the start. We couldn’t stop staring and you and laughing with joy. Daddy took a billion pictures. From your first moments in our arms you were handsome and perfect. Everyone said so, Mia and Nonna and Aunt Megan, Mamaw and Papaw, as soon as they saw your sweet face. And then all hell broke loose and you and I kept the nursing staff hopping for several hours. You decided to get choked and refused to breathe for a few minutes, and I was the lucky recipient of a “Code Hemorrhage,” and for several hours that evening we were all pretty freaked out. But as with most terrible things, all of that passed and everything ended up being just fine, and that is a lesson you’re going to see me struggle with, son. Somehow, even after all these years, after so many blessings and so much proof that God really does have things under control, I still continue to be blown away by all this good fortune–by the fact that everything usually does end up being okay.

While we are on the subject of things you’re going to see in the years to come, let’s address the matter of your parents’ age. Daddy turned 40 a few weeks after you were born, and I turned 40 a few weeks ago, and while I got my wish about not being pregnant after 40, the fact remains that when you are starting high school, Daddy and I will likely be starting our AARP subscription. Or not. We are not planning to be “old” even as we get older; we try really hard, even now, to exercise and take care of our minds and bodies, because we want to be around for for you and Mia for the long haul, and not just here, but active and healthy. Still, no comments about how Conner’s mommy is so young and Will’s dad is so young and hip, and if you ever refer to the mother of any of your friends as “hot” you will be grounded until your high school graduation.
Anyway, age aside, your mom and dad are fairly cool people, I promise. My guess is that you will totally think so. And then you won’t. And then you will again. We will understand, and we won’t hold the inevitable eye-rolling and loud sighs against you. We’ve been there. We get it.

In the meantime, you are pretty cool yourself, and we can’t get enough of you. You make us smile and laugh all the time, even when you are crying (sorry about that, but you are so dramatic even now, and I can only imagine how artful your drama will be when you are two and life becomes devastatingly hard, and you are forced to drink from the blue cup instead of the red one, and I’m betting we will still be laughing at you). You remind us, especially me, every day that life can be so much better than we are humanly capable of imagining it can be, that things really do turn out to be okay, even better than okay, and I am so thankful to be your mom. In the wee hours of the morning when you have peed on the last clean crib sheet, and while we are driving down Wendover Avenue after Mia’s soccer practice, helplessly listening to you scream, and when I am cleaning your poo off of the baby bathtub, I am thankful. And when you have to stop sucking your bottle so you can smile at me, and when you hear one of us speak to you and your eyes get huge and you smile the biggest smile, and when you stare in wonder at our faces, I am thankful. And tomorrow when I have to go to work and leave you in someone else’s care, I will smell you on my clothes and sneak a look at a video of you jabbering to Mia on my lunch break, and as much as I’ll miss you, I will be so thankful that at the end of the day, I get to pick you up and take you home with me, and Mia will be there with us, and later we will get excited when we hear Daddy’s car pull up, and for the rest of the day, and for the rest of our lives, we get to be together.

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