This post appeared on Huffington Post on February 3, 2015
An Open Letter to my Children on my Son’s Seventh Birthday
Today is your seventh birthday. I write this letter to both you and your sister, as to me, you are both mirror images of each other. Day and night, sun and moon, fire and water.
I am so very blessed to have you in my life. You are the greatest gifts that have been bestowed upon me. I feel deeply grateful that the both of you chose me to be your mother.
I can’t believe that you are already 7 years old. I wish I could say I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday. But truth be told, it was all a blur. Since then, my hands and my days have been full of activity.
You and your sister bring a life force to our home that is infused with energy and intensity. You are light itself. Sometimes the gentle burn of a candle flame, and sometimes the sharp bolt of lightening, but always with the potential to touch those around you right to the core.
I realize that, as a practical adult living in a practical world, my mission of late has been to extinguish that light. I say you are “too much.” I tell you to be quiet, to settle down, to relax. In exhausted moments, I get impatient and yell and make you feel small. I try to shape you into what I feel a mature 7-year-old “should” look like.
By and large, thankfully, you and your sister ignore me. You continue on, full of spunk and fire, oblivious to me, oblivious to the environment, oblivious to the approval or disapproval of others. You continue to blaze your own trail together, with color and heat.
Although I keep trying to tell you both to behave, there is no need. You will learn soon enough with the lessons of time and experience, how to be “appropriate.” You will learn how to quiet the voice of your own heart and follow the crowd if you listen long enough to me, or to the world around you.
But what you know now, with the infinite wisdom of a child, is that we should all be living with your passion and spirit. Leaving nothing behind at the end of the day. Loving fully and completely, without fear. Leaping off with no safety net. Being who you are, when you feel shy, when you feel exuberant and letting that shine transparently through every cell of your body.
You and your sister embody mindfulness, totally occupying each and every experience with verve. No fears or worries for what might happen tomorrow, and no ruminations about what was lost yesterday. You make the most of this life by living this moment, and all that it has to offer up to you. With those you love, whether human, animal, or nature, you manifest selfless compassion and limitless generosity.
And when hurt, you feel your pain deeply, at the very center of your soul. Although I want to protect you from pain, I secretly admire your ability to feel and show what pain does to you. No guarding, no bravado. Not yet anyway, and hopefully never.
Although it is technically my job to teach you how to be in this world, I realize from watching you that you have that down already. I don’t need to teach you that. I need to learn that from you. And I need to get out of your way, so that you can preserve every last drop of that passion, that energy, that intensity.
As aggravated as I may get when I tell you to “behave!” and you don’t listen, one day that defiance will serve you well. One day, I will be proud that you don’t do something just because someone else tells you to. Your unruliness will allow you to break through walls and change the world if used for good. That conviction will allow you to love hard and play hard and fall hard, just like we all should.
So, yes, when it comes down to it, I hope you continue to ignore me and all of my admonishments about what is proper and appropriate. I hope you continue to be exactly who you are — someone who loves this life and takes in every second of it, for better or worse. Someone who gives all of you to others, and someone who lets others completely in. The exact opposite of a practical adult in a practical world.
And when there are lessons along the way, it will hurt me to watch you experience them. But at least you will learn on your own terms, not because I stood in the way and tried to get you to see life through my eyes. In fact, I am trying to see life a little more through your eyes these days, and I am grateful for your vision.
Happy birthday. I love you. Thank you for teaching me, day by day, a little more about how to live.