Chandler turns 18 today. My firstborn child. My son. My baby. My man.
And probably like every mother before and after me whose firstborn turns 18, I think to myself, “How did this happen so quickly?” Yet at the same time the day he came into this world seems so long ago. But whether it was a the blink of an eye (oh, it was, it was) or a lifetime (it was that too), it’s here, his first day of official adulthood and whatever I write about him, about the privilege of being his mother, will not nearly be worthy.
How do I express the love I feel for my firstborn? How wonderful and special and sublime he is? How he’s made me a better person? The words fall short. I am not a good enough writer to string together the proper words to articulate my undying love for this boy. (Or rather, this man.)
It is simply not enough to say that I love him for his uniqueness. I love him because he doesn’t follow the crowd. He stands up for the little man. He understands that the world is unfair, but it still often personally offends him. (Oh how I adore his bleeding liberal heart.)
He loves to hike and to run and to be outdoors. He wears a size 13 shoe, but strives to make his carbon footprint small, minuscule.
He’s quiet, but funny, so funny in the smartest way. He is thoughtful and kind, though his sister may tell you differently. But even with her, his greatest foe, I’ve witnessed acts of generosity and encouraging words when needed.
I believe Chandler’s best quality, and one that will serve him well in life, is his tenacity. The first time I really remember noticing this was on his 7th birthday. I took him roller skating after school with some friends. He fell and he fell and he fell and he fell. (I skated with him and considered it quite an accomplishment that he never pulled me down with him!) I thought he would cry and give up and say that skating was stupid. Instead he looked up at me and said, “That was so much fun! Can we have my birthday party here?” I see that same tenacity when he runs. When he studies. When he wants to play Monopoly over winter break and none of the rest of us do. He doesn’t give up. He’s all in.
He told me over the weekend that he’s not quite ready to turn 18. He wishes he could be 17 again. (Oh, I do too!) This surprised me because he’s been pushing away lately. He says he can’t wait to go away to college, the farther the better. (I really shouldn’t have taught him to do his laundry. I should have made him need me more.) But it also warmed my heart to know that as much as he wants to go, part of him very much wants to stay.
And I think to myself, if I could freeze time, which part would I freeze? Would it be when he was a baby and I would hold him in my arms for hours on end unable to get enough of his baby smell? Or when he was a toddler and we would snuggle in his bed every night to read Shel Silverstein and Good Night Moon? Or that between stage of toddler and boy when he would kiss me like this:
Would I freeze the days we taught him to ride his bike or that first day roller skating or the first time I saw him perform with the band in middle school? The first time I watched him win a race. When we taught him to drive? (No, definitely not then!)
Which moments were the most precious? The most special? The best?
All of them of course. I couldn’t choose just one if I were able to, which of course I’m not. (Otherwise I’d be forever 36. Seriously, forget 29, 36 was my year!) All I can do is stand back and admire my son and the man he has become.
Thank you, Chandler for making my life so much better, richer, more meaningful. I am so proud of the man you have become. I am so humbled and honored to be your mother.
Happy Birthday son.
6 thoughts on “To My Firstborn On His 18th Birthday”
CHARLENE. This is so beautiful. So perfect. Your words make me want to haul my kids out of high school and take them ice skating…forever.
And to freeze time. It sounds tempting, but then we’d miss all the good stuff that comes after the frozen moments. So we let the good stuff come. We let our children go.
But they will always be our babies. (Always.)
Happy Birthday, Chandler.
You are SO loved!
You are a wonderful mother, and I have loved seeing Chandler through the years. He is going to be a fine adult. Happy birthday!
What a wonderful tribute to Chandler. He is truly special and unique. I love him too.
I will cherish the time I had with him last summer forever. I love him too.
Chandler will keep this letter forever, tucked away safe. He will read it when he’s blue. The words will be engraved upon his soul until the end of his days…
Such a touching tribute to Chandler. Made me verklempt! Definitely keep this on hand so Chandler can have it always to know how much he is loved.
Charlene, this is so beautiful. Almost everyday I try and freeze time. All those moments that are so special. Special is a lame word compared to what those moments make us feel.
Happy birthday Chandler. You’ve done a great job, Charlene. He is a man you can be proud of.