You were the most helpless of infants.  You wouldn’t sleep unless you were held.  You wanted to nurse every hour and a half.  For six months.  I know I bring this little factoid up a lot, but let’s face it, pal–I thought you were going to kill me.  I felt the life being sucked out of me on a daily basis.  (Make that an hour-and-a-halfly basis.)  It’s not like you were my first baby.  I thought I knew sleep deprivation.  I thought I’d heard frantic, inconsolable crying.  I thought I knew motherguilt.  But you managed, Ezra Pound-like, to make it new.

I tried so hard to get you to sleep in your own bed.  You were having none of it.  One morning I woke up and realized I’d rolled on top of you.  I said, “That’s it, you’re not sleeping with us anymore, and I don’t care how much you cry or how long I have to walk the floor with you–you simply will not go back in our bed again, ever.”  My resolve was strong, until about three in the morning when I still hadn’t gotten any sleep and you were showing no signs of giving in either.  Guess what–you won.

One night, though, you actually slept several hours in your crib.  I kept waking up and being startled by your absence.  It felt weird.  I realized that I missed you.  Then I remembered that this was a good thing.  And eventually I was able to sleep without you.  (Quite well, in fact–no offense.)

Over the years I’ve had similar frustrations with your neediness, your reluctance to venture out on your own, especially in the presence of strangers.  You were smack dab in the middle of two special-needs siblings, and I suppose you were entitled to a little co-dependence. (It’s true, you were the child who first taught me that all kids, regardless of their neurological makeup, have special needs.)  To an extent it was sweet the way you’d cling to my legs and try to hide yourself under my coat (or worse, my dress), but mostly I just wanted you to have the confidence to go out there and make friends and have fun and not miss out on any opportunities because you were afraid.  I’ve always been afraid myself–and I’ve missed a lot.  I didn’t want that to happen to you.

Then one day–not too many days ago, actually–you announced that you wanted to walk to and from the bus stop by yourself.  What a relief that was.  How much more convenient to let you walk out the door and not have to worry about getting your two younger siblings dressed and shod and carried out there, too.  I was also very proud of you.  I was happy to tell you that you were allowed to do that, if that was what you wanted. 

The next morning you got ready for school, found your own coat and backpack, and it was 7:46 before I realized that you had left the house before I could tell you goodbye, and the bus was already taking you to school.  I felt sad.  Then I remembered that this was a good thing.

But the next day I remembered to say goodbye.

At about three-thirty this morning you did something you haven’t done in quite some time.  You woke up scared and upset and crawled into our bed.  I put my arms around you and thought, “He is still so little.”  And then I thought about how this wouldn’t last for too much longer.  You’re already seven.  I’m going to miss you a lot.  But that’s a good thing.

Happy birthday, Mister Bubby.