Every night at bedtime, you make me give you six kisses. “Because I’m six!” you say, and you count them up each time. It doesn’t matter if I’m tired or if I’m stressed or if I really just need you to get in bed. I have to do those six kisses.
Tonight, I’ll give you seven. Because today, my sweet Tommy, you are seven years old.
How impossible it was to imagine, all those years ago, that you would be a boy that is thriving? That despite the fact that you lost your dad when you were just three, you’d still find a way to see so much joy in this world?
Back then, in those early days when we were all grieving, you clung to me constantly. “Mommy, mommy, mommy,” you chanted as you hung on my leg or flung your arms around my neck. You never wanted me to leave you. I don’t know if it was grief or separation anxiety or what, but you knew you didn’t want to lose me.
But you figured out something else early on: that the world held possibility. Even that first summer, at age four, you knew that you had to go out and find the joy in the world. So when I somehow got three kids to the pool, but was too exhausted to do much else, you figured out how to make the fun come to you. You would see another kid getting thrown into the water by his dad, and you’d go up to that dad and say, “throw me, too!”
When it worked – which it almost always did – you then tried it again and again. “Throw me in the pool!” you said. “Pull me on the raft!” you cried. “Hug me, too!” you said as you laughed.
You often didn’t even know who these specific parents were (and there were many people who did this for you, not just the dads), but you asked anyway. You looked around and saw that your mother was exhausted and that you didn’t have your own father to throw you or play with you. Rather than sit and feel sad – which would have been understandable – you figured out how to make joy for yourself.
“Throw me, too!” you said, and then you laughed and swam back to do it again.
“Your son is adorable,” said a million parents, some who didn’t know who you were at all.
As you did that, all summer long, you let me see new possibility in the life we were living. You let me see hope. You let me see that even though your dad might be gone, we could still have so much joy in our lives.
Maybe any kid in your situation would have done the same. But something makes me think that you have an extra infusion of joy and hope within your spirit. Even when things were sad, you looked at me and showed me that life could still be full of possibility.
When Chris arrived, you greeted him with that same joy. In the first moments he was here, you flung your arms around him and yelped with excitement. You loved him, right from the start, without reservation.
Maybe you did that because you knew that he was going to be such an important person in our lives. But maybe it’s also because your first reaction to someone new has always been to greet them with an open and loving spirit.
You are seven today, my sweet baby boy. Someday you will be ten and someday you will be eighteen and someday you will be thirty. No matter what, I’ll always see that little boy at the pool, looking for the joy he can find.
Because you look for that love and joy, Tommy, you always seem to find it. “Seven kisses!” you will say to me tonight, and I will give them to you.
Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.
oh my goodness, what an incredibly sweet, touching, and loving letter to your son! Love, love, love!
I smiled the whole way through reading this. It’s beautiful. I’m delivering a presentation on joy at work soon and just wrote down the link to this piece to mention it. Thanks for continuing to share your gift of expression with your adoring fans 🙂
Thanks my friend!
Your column continues to touch my heart. I took my kids snowboarding after my husband passed away (December 2017) and I had a full panic attack at the lodge. I sat there unable to move as wonderful people took my kids with them up the lift and down the hill……while I seriously couldn’t move. All I could remember was us doing that as a family and ……yep….I just lost it that day. BUT….I saw my kids still having a wonderful time and had that same hope….maybe one day I can be happy too. I’m still struggling 3 years later, but I still have that hope. Thanks for continuing to write.
I totally understand those emotions – I’ve had times similar to that as well. I think there’s nothing more that can be done except to embrace what we can, and know that our kids will be okay because they have a living parent who loves them deeply.