Three years ago you entered this world on your terms. Two weeks before your due date, my water broke at a friend’s birthday party. During labor when I was told that I still had to dilate more, I got into the birth tub. Soon after, you decided it was time for you to arrive and you slid out. Literally. I did not push once. (By the way, thank you for that!)
Since your birth, you have been doing things your way. Your expressive eyebrows fit your personality- energetic, enthusiastic, and bold (with a sensitive side).
Each day on our walk you say “hi” to everyone. Sometimes your greeting is, “How are you doing guys?” You put a smile on most people’s faces, as they chuckle at your friendly and outgoing greeting. Sometimes you will remark, “They didn’t say hi to me, Mama.” People won’t always say hi. People won’t always reciprocate your smile. Keep smiling and spreading joy, regardless of other people’s actions. You can only be in charge of what you do.
Your love for adventure is contagious. At the beach, you crack up as your Dada whips you around on the boogie board- water flies in your face as you hold on tightly, laughing when you wipe out. Be adventurous. Have respect for the power of the ocean, but do not be afraid. Instead, pay attention.
Everyday you have a new story to tell, a new game to play, and a thousand imaginary places to visit. Each piece of Coral’s therapy equipment becomes a new toy for you. When she received her corner chair, you went into the kitchen to get the Christmas cookie cutters. You then placed them on her corner chair, sat inside the chair, and announced that you were in your go-kart. Her Super Seat is your skid steer truck (the toys on the table are your control handles). Her chains of beads make up the crane in your crane truck. Always keep your vibrant imagination. Don’t be limited by conformity to social expectations. Color outside of the lines if you want to.
Sometimes you say, “But Mama I can’t draw that because I’m not the best drawer.”
I usually follow-up with, “You don’t have to be the best. You just have to try your best.”
To be honest, I was confused about this for the longest time. I thought that trying my best meant that the outcome would be what I wanted. Now I see that trying my best is doing the best I can at that time, regardless of what the outcome is. Don’t ever forget the power in trying your best.
You are acutely observant. You notice how much we celebrate baby Coral’s accomplishments- from increased eye contact to improved sitting. You watch her teachers and therapists come and go all week long. Yes, Coral does demand a lot of our attention. But we see you, too, Tate. We see everything you are doing and accomplishing, and we are so proud of you. We see how you LOVE books, how you point to the words, memorize pages of nonfiction books, do big puzzles, count groups of objects, love to learn new games, ride your balance bike as fast as I can run, build tremendous block towers, paint and draw pictures with gusto, and tell jokes just like your Dziadziu. Throughout your life, we will celebrate things Coral does that you do with ease, things we may not have celebrated so grandly with you. But we will celebrate your unique accomplishments, too. Keep being your awesome self!
In early March, when I returned upset from a doctor’s appointment with concerning news about Coral, you looked right at me and said, “Mama, it’s okay. Give a squeeze, nice and slow. Take a deep breath, and let it go.” Thank you, Tate. (And thank you Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.) You then went on to say, “We are all here- Tate, Fonzie, Dada, Curl. It’s okay, Mama.” You’re right, Tate. It is okay. It will all be okay. Thank you for seeing my pain and, at 2 years old, for having the words to provide comfort and peace. Continue to love like you do, unconditionally and empathetically.
One day you realized that Coral was laughing when you tickled her. You proceeded to jump back- arms out to the side and knees bent- and announce, “Curl, watch this!” You went on to tell your favorite joke: “What do you get when you cross a Cocker Spaniel, a Poodle, and a rooster?” Without much of a pause, you loudly shouted, “A cocker poodle doo!” Keep laughing and telling Coral jokes. She watches you with such admiration.
As Coral has begun to move and interact more, I have noticed you talking about all of the things you will do together. One time you said, “One day Curl will ride bikes with me.” On another occasion you excitedly shared, “Curl will chase me up the hill one day.” Coral will do whatever you believe she can do. It may look a bit different than you imagine (or it may not). One thing I know for sure is that she is going to love you always.
When I watch you and Coral and hear you talk about what you will one day do together, there is a part of my heart that wants to break. This is the part of my heart that wanted to give you a “perfect” family, a family just like “everyone else.” I wanted to protect you from the pain of life’s adversities. But there is a bigger part of my heart that does not want to shelter you. At only 3-years old you are already building an awareness of life and all of its emotions- sadness, joy, anger, frustration, and peace. You observe real challenges, and you are part of Coral’s and our family’s joyous victories- a result of God’s grace, hard work, and determination. You are learning resilience.
There are days when I do not think I can walk this path. On those days, you are one of my biggest motivations to be strong, to continue forward, and to keep believing; I want you to see how strong and courageous we are as a family. I hope that your not-so-perfect family and very special sister help you learn that challenges and differences are not things to fear. Anything is possible with love, patience, and faith.
And you are going to continue to teach us about living with an abundance of spirit, adventure, and creativity. Continue to be YOU- the monster truck driver, the dinosaur adventurer, the curious snake hunter, Sal the salamander’s friend (who lives on our hill), the radical bike rider, the budding artist, the ocean lover, the friend to all kids at the playground, and the incredibly loving big and little brother.
Tay-Tay, I love you! I am so proud of the little boy you are becoming! Happy 3rd birthday!
Big hugs and kisses,