I don't write about each of my children every year on their birthdays, but I'm inclined to do it this year, on this day for this one.
He was my first.
I was only a month shy of 25 years of age, and I didn't have a clue what I was doing.
It was strange, though, because I'd always been a bit of a worrier. However during my pregnancy, I never once gave a thought to having anything other than a healthy baby. In fact, I rolled through the queasiness of pregnancy like a champ, happily nibbling away on dry toast and crackers. I felt the healthiest I've ever felt in my life--feeling like my body was doing the very thing it was created to do. I was blissfully naive, which seemed to suit me. With every little kick inside me, my joy grew.
Even in delivery. My husband and I arrived in labor and delivery one evening experiencing only minor discomfort. We were barely more than kids and we giggled and joked our way through until nature forced us to stop and get down to business.
Then it was Christmas morning in March. Ten-thirty-ish. The grandest surprise in the shape of an eight-and-one-half pound baby boy. No early sonogram to spoil our surprise. No gender reveal party. Just the truest, most meaningful surprise a grownup could get. Funny how I'd never really considered myself a grownup until then.
A swaddled roll of a baby with a mess of the darkest black hair on top.
There is this thing a heart does when you hold a real-life human being for the first time--a human that you grew and protected inside you. There aren't words to describe that particular kind of joy. I'm a wordsmith, yet I've searched to no avail to find that exact word. I've concluded there isn't one.
So that thing my heart did? Well rather than describe it, I just gave it a name.
He got to be the first to do everything.
First one to sleep through the night.
First one to cut a tooth. First one to lose a tooth.
First one to throw up plums on my white shirt as he and I boarded his first airplane. (He was only three months old and I've yet to figure out why I fed him plums. Well, like I told you, I hadn't a clue what I was doing.)
First one to take his first steps.
First one to ask me to be play prince and princess with him.
First to go to the zoo.
First to fly a kite and go fishing and catch frogs.
First to ride in the seat on the back of my bike.
First to ride a bike without training wheels.
First to hit a home run.
He was the first one that made us want other ones.
He was the first one I introduced to breakfast on the porch at the Little Tyke table--a breakfast that would last a few hours as we watched birds and ants and crickets.
The first to swing and slide on the swing set his dad built and the first to build forts in the sandbox.
This Adam boy was also our experiment---something for which we have apologized over the years.
We cut our parenting teeth on him.
I experimented on cutting his hair. I only nicked him a few times, and only one of those times do I remember drawing blood.
I experimented on creative ways to get antibiotic down him and I learned that mashing it up and trying to hide it in macaroni and cheese doesn't work.
We experimented on discipline. Time out? Spanking? Charts and stickers to reinforce good behavior? As he was older, maybe grounding or losing privileges? I think he was in 8th grade when I threatened to come sit in Algebra class with him when Mrs. Schultze called me to report his constant commentary on things. I should've known then that he would become an attorney.
Despite all our experimentation and blunders, he lived. With only three or four visits to the ER. Total. And as best I can remember, we only had to give him Ipecac syrup a few times.
He first started telling me "bye-bye" before he was a year old. Always verbal, this one. He meant it in earnest, though, when he was a few years older and would leave to spend time at his grandparents' houses. He didn't seem to miss me a bit. Then I thought that was the hardest goodbye in the world. I was again naive---this time to the ways goodbyes with our children go.
When he was five, he said goodbye and walked into Mrs. Dickey's kindergarten classroom. I stood outside the window and watched him. He was brave and felt so big. I knew he would figure it out. That goodbye was harder than the one that came before. Easier than the one that would follow, though I couldn't have known that.
In hindsight, I can see that that goodbye was only the beginning of a long, beautiful and bittersweet dance that happened with that boy and me.
Catch and release.
More catching in the early years. More releasing as each coming and going of March 8th marked his growing up. At the root of every struggle between us--and there were few--there was simply my selfish yearning to catch and keep, and his independent spirit gently reminding me it was time to let go and release. I'm thankful it came in bits and not all at once.
Releasing him to drive. To date. To go to college. To travel the world.
Releasing him to face his own fears, deal with his own disappointments and choose his own joy. Releasing him to make his own decisions even when I didn't agree with them. Releasing him to be a man.
Some releasing was easier than others. Some of it was so hard that I couldn't look him in the eye.
Some of it was physical and some of it was spiritual---best dealt with in the privacy of my heart, long after I had any business or "say" or right to steer his life. After he'd become a man. That releasing was, and is, to God alone.
And so he was the first one I caught, and the first one I released. It is part poignant. Part joyful. And it is the dearest way this mama knew to love that boy.
The boy is 31 today. He is the loveliest specimen of human to walk this earth. Kind and gentle. Smart and caring. Loving and honest. Not bad for a first-born. There are miles between us as far into the future as I can see. I tell you, though, as sure as I'm sitting here, that thing I spoke of earlier---that thing that my heart did when I first saw him. That thing for which I could find no word. It remains as fierce as it was then. A particular joy that I still can't put my finger on.
I'll just call it Adam. And it will remain in me until I draw my last breath.
Adam of my eye.