To my son on his birthday…

Dear Liam,

It was on a snowy and sunny Winter’s day three years ago, overlooking a crystalline Chesapeake Bay, that your mother and I welcomed your gentle spirit into the world.

Today is your third birthday.

In appearance you are slender but with a well-built frame, you can tumble and jostle quite a bit with your older and larger siblings without injury or complaint. You have the clear ocean-water eyes of your mother on a fair complexion, with golden corn-silk hair that is straight but seldom stays combed for long.

You are easy to laugh and smile and yet this temperament can swiftly darken to a stoic diffidence, especially around strangers. You cloak your shyness with a curious sort of arrogance, as if you don’t want the other person to know you’re ill-at-ease.

However, you also show a strong tendency toward leadership. You like to be in charge but you don’t fight for dominance, you just assume it among your peers. You simply lead the way and expect others to follow. To this end I’ve long since affectionately referred to you as “big cheese” for your way of conducting yourself as “the boss” and in charge of things.

One among a household of children who are all “above average” you are articulate beyond your years, and can converse with adults with clear diction and insightful remarks that often catch them off-guard. I don’t think you can read with any comprehension yet, though you are fond of looking at books for long spans of time, and already know the names of colors, shapes, numerals, and the sounds of letters.

Unlike your siblings you show only a passing interest in music but are fascinated by ball sports and other sorts of roughhousing. Yes, you love rough play, even though you are (at least for now) the smallest person in our family. You have strong hands, strong feet, and love climbing. One afternoon I caught you climbing up my bookshelf, dangling more than six feet in the air, trying to reach a popgun I’d put up there to keep you from “shooting” your little sister in the face.

Oh yeah, Sophia is your “little” sister. Even though she’s older than you by two years, you’re almost as big as she is and certainly as strong…  if not more so. Thankfully, you two get along well and seldom quarrel beyond a playful antagonism.

You idolize Israel, everything he does is fascinating to you, though your affections seem to annoy him at this stage of his development. At this point you are still the proverbial “kid brother” who follows his elder sibling around, wanting to be a part of every project he attempts or activity that he engages. Nevertheless, I detect a strong bond between the two of you that, I hope, will deepen as you outgrow your occasional juvenile spat.

With Gaelynn you have a tender and loving relationship, she dotes and cares for you as much now as she did in your earliest days. Despite your age difference, you get along famously, and are fond of making each other laugh. She’s quick to help you with some task or read you a story.

…and, odd as it may seem, you seem to have developed a strong bond with Xander. Xander, your unborn baby brother, who you’ve never met. Throughout your mother’s pregnancy you’ve spent long moments cuddled in her lap, serenely stroking her gradually expanding abdomen, and talking to him directly. Your mother and I find this practice endearing, and hope that it prefigures a closeness that will be a lasting part of your relationship as brothers.

With your mother and I you remain our precious little boy. So much potential abides in you. So much hope. We have a dream for the sort of person you’re going to become, and suspect that you will likely surpass anything we could imagine…  as you have thus far with each turn of the seasons.

Happy birthday, my son, may the Lord continue to bless me with many more days if knowing and loving you.

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