To my son on his birthday

Dear Xander,

It was on a breezy and mild East Texas morning two years ago today that you came leaping into the world. Today is your first birthday.

Indeed, you came leaping and bounding into the world. When your mother told the doctor and nurses that you were coming, they responded with a cordial professional interest and continued to prepare the equipment.

You did not wait.

I glanced at their amazed faces as your head emerged, with the doctor lunging forward to just barely catch you as your were born… she didn’t even have her gloves completely on. Since then, you’ve continued to press on with haste, eager to catch up with your siblings. So far, you’ve done everything early… hitting every benchmark ahead of your brothers and sisters.

You’re a big boy, big for your age, and large in spirit. Though the youngest and smallest child of five, you yet hurl yourself into the thick of any rough and tumble play. You love “bouncy bounce,” that is, jumping on the trampoline with your brothers and sisters, though you have considerable difficulty keeping your balance. With each rollicking tumble that sends a stab of anxiety into my chest, you only laugh and pull yourself up again.

While prone to distraction and no small destruction around the house, your brothers and sisters adore you, and take pains to include you in their activities whenever you come trundling after them with your big-eyed, open-mouthed laughing smile. You love games with balls and running and shouting. You love being tripped up and knocked over. You love laughing.

But you also seem drawn to solitude, even at this young age. You remind me so much of you big brother Israel with how you can content yourself alone for long stretches of time. Having had multiple children before you, I’ve developed a certain sensitivity to when things are “too quiet.” On numerous occasions I’ve found you hiding under one of the beds with a few small toys playing quietly by yourself. On other instances I’ve found you having rummaged into your mothers lotions, and calmly “painted” a smeared fragrant mural upon a hallway wall.

Yes, you’re a curious sort of lad… in a destructive way.

While I am hesitant to label it as destructive, it’s certainly annoying. At the same time, your intentions seem innocent. When silently pilfering through my bookshelves to build a teetering tower, or quietly pouring out a container of baking soda on the kitchen floor to “play snow” you always seem convinced that our reaction to this disaster is going to be one of delight. You seem to beckon us to join in piling one more heavy text to the top of a precariously swaying stack, or join you on the floor to roll around in the powder billowing into the sunbeams.

Your sweet temperament, clear blue eyes and electric-copper red hair make you hard to resist. Your affectionate bearing all the more so. While you sometimes give your mother and I consternation with your clever and trouble-making ways, it’s a cloud soon dispersed by your tender and ebullient spirit.

It’s been an action-packed two years thus far my son, and I look forward to another year of watching you become the person you’re going to be.

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