Today you turn 8 years old.
As I was looking through photographs of you as a baby and small child, it gave me such happiness to think about how you were then. How you lurved Lightning McQueen (Keen!) with an intensity that has been rivaled only by your love of sweet treats. How you mumbled and bumbled your words so that it was difficult for anyone but me to understand you (until you began speech therapy). How your favorite thing in the world, besides McQueen and playing with Matchbox cars, was snuggling up with me on the couch to watch cartoons.
As a boy, you are consistently aggravating and mind-blowing. You are a delightful combination of tenacious and sensitive, eager to argue with me to have your way and the person who will shed a tear in a movie before anyone else in the household.
One day driving home from occupational therapy, you said, "I don't know what I would do if anything ever happened to M. I love my family more than anything." You were worried about how M would navigate the bus ride home without you by his side, and out of your mouth came a sentiment probably more appropriate to a full-grown adult.
At night, you read to us from Geronimo Stilton books (your favorite series at the moment) and follow it up with funnies from your joke book. Daddy and I get tickled because you get so tickled reading the jokes. We love the faces you make when you are surprised or find something unexpectedly funny. Your eyebrows go up and a twinkle lights up your eyes as they crinkle in the corners. Your mouth either grins widely or opens into an O, and your hand flies up to cover it, as if you have just heard something you weren't supposed to.
You hate surprises, and insist on going with me, Nana and Mamaw to purchase your birthday gifts. You know exactly what you want, and you get it. There is no hemming or hawing about it. And you are still excited upon opening the items, not because you are surprised but because you are so happy to know that you now have them.
You are a pretty good armpit fart musician; you and M could start a band since he has mastered the behind the knee fart sound.
You are very proud of having gotten through kindergarten and first grade without an "unsmiley" face in the agenda, and you are going for that again in second grade. One day when a substitute teacher brought you to me at dismissal, I thought for sure you were in trouble. When I told you this, you said to me, "I would never get in trouble at school," as if you couldn't imagine I would even think such a thing.
As much as you sometimes drive me nuts because you are so persistent and headstrong, I hope you know that I cherish your sensitivity, your unexpected kindness to others, and your belief that all people have the capacity for good. The other day you said to me after explaining a playground discussion with your friends about the devil, "Even the devil is good way deep down in his heart." I was proud of you for being such a young kid but sensing the complexity of even the most villainous.
I am so grateful to be your mother. I have learned much more from you than I could have ever imagined.
All my love, always.