::Sigh:: Where do I even begin? I had to talk to you more than your two siblings combined. I threatened through gritted teeth and commanded you to “Listen!” “Pay attention!” and “Stay with me!” all while you day-dreamed in your La-La Land at the most inopportune times and places. I had to utilize the Daddy-in-church Grab (that tender part of the upper arm) more than my social media pictures would indicate. I exasperatedly exchanged glances with your Daddy when you absentmindedly failed to hear our calls.
But you were the first to say thank you. You always are. You thanked us for everything: for bringing you to Disney World, for getting you ice cream, even for the cheap gas station breakfast we grabbed on our rush to the park. Later, your face lit up at the prospect of getting to eat popcorn. Popcorn.
We desperately tried to schedule a trip around your brother’s birthday instead of on it, but we just couldn’t. Our work and personal schedules during the fall simply didn’t allow a single other weekend. We didn’t want you or your sister to feel slighted or for you to have questions later about why we got to celebrate his birthday at Disney World but only went to Chuck E Cheese for yours. It wasn’t fair, and you would deserve to complain.
But you didn’t. You never do. Instead, when we reluctantly decided to get your brother a pin that read it was his birthday, you insisted we sing the Happy Birthday song to him. Again. I can’t promise it would have gone the same way if the tables were turned (but that thought would never cross your mind).
You bought a necklace for your sister with your own money. You practically burst with excitement after Cinderella’s Castle show, exclaiming, “Wow! That was beautiful, gorgeous and amazing!” You said your favorite part of the trip was taking pictures with the family.
Yes, you insisted on touching every post at every tram station; you climbed each barricade; you hung on every chain and rope that sectioned off every line (all 183 of them). When I fussed that you “Listen!” as you tried to open the stall door while I was still on the toilet, you burst into surprising tears, and after I exhaustedly asked what was wrong, you responded that you’re “trying to listen but don’t know how!”
So I’m sorry. I’m sorry that even though we try–I promise, we do–to celebrate your innumerable positive qualities that we sometimes get lost in everyday frustrations. I’m sorry that I forget that if it’s this tiring for me, who finds it easy to pay attention, then it must be exhausting for you, who finds it difficult.
We always say that you can do anything if you follow two simple rules: Listen, and be kind. But those should be reversed. You remind me that even though so many people–including you–struggle to listen, everyone can and should be kind. You try your hardest to listen and often fall short, but you never fail to be kind. Kindness has never been optional to you. And that truly matters so much more.
Most of the time you forget what I fussed at you about, if you ever heard it to begin with. Admittedly, I usually wish you would remember our admonishments more often. But when we were at what is meant to be the Happiest Place on Earth, I’m relieved that most of what we said went in one ear and out the other.
I told you today to never stop being you. And I mean it. Sure, you’re challenging, inattentive, and aloof. But you’re also whimsical, creative, thoughtful, appreciative, loving, genuine, kind, and tender.
So Listen! Never stop being you, even this quirky little Spider-man in a Storm-trooper costume version of you!