I’ve been thinking — for a full year now — what exactly I could possibly write to you in this letter.
What kind of advice I could give you that was monumental enough to warrant putting it in your one-year letter. What I could tell you about what you’ve done and accomplished and how it’s made me feel.
Well, some of that is easy. I can tell you what you’re doing these days that’s different from what you used to do.
You’re mimicking more words, for one thing. You try to repeat what you hear. Sometimes you’re pretty close, sometimes you’re way off. Your usual words so far have been Momma, Dadda, Amma (sometimes you say this for “Grandma”), Poppa (“Grandpa”), more (when you want more food), ish (you LOVE Goldfish crackers), cacka (cracker), stah (star), Meh (Maggie), Moh (Mollie), and every now and then a few others that haven’t really stuck. Tonight, on the way home from Christmas service at church, we would have sworn that you said, “It’s dark.”
You’ll stand on your own but you aren’t walking yet, although you’ll walk holding on to fingers or sideways clinging to the couch. You love music — you bop your head and hips to anything with a lively beat. You love the Beatles’ early stuff, which automatically makes you more awesome than most people your age.
You want to share everything with us, except you take it back pretty quickly. We’re not offended; we don’t really want to eat Cheerios that have already been in your mouth.
We put up a birthday tree for you this year. Your mother found some fantastic decorations — butterflies and flowers — and every morning when you get up, after you’ve been changed and had some milk, you want to see the tree. You look at it, point, and rest your head on whichever parent has you (usually your mother) and say “Awwwwww.”
Then, downstairs, we have the Christmas tree, and lots of snowman decorations, including a couple that glow (one is actually a penguin, if I’m being specific), and you want to see those too. You point a lot — apparently, a lot more than most other babies your age. You point at things that you want to see, but you also point at things when you’re trying to communicate. The other day, you pointed at a book of colors, very specifically tapping your index finger on the color orange, and then you tapped the same finger very specifically on another book — directly on a picture of a bright orange goldfish. I thought it was a pretty cool coincidence, but you looked at me and did it again. I’m pretty sure you were trying to tell me that the fish was orange. Are you a genius in there, or am I just an overly proud daddy? Maybe both?
You’re trying all sorts of foods, although your taste for them varies from day to day. You ate half of your mother’s chicken noodle soup the other night. Right now, you’re just packing away the food. We’re pretty sure this means another growth spurt soon. Considering that you’re still pretty small for your age, that’s fine.
Speaking of small… a couple that we know had a baby today. Like you, she came early — but about twice as early. She’s super-tiny. We’ll be praying that she ends up as perfect and special as you.
The reason that I bring this up in this letter is that one thing I’ve learned in the last year is that you really don’t completely understand fear until you’ve loved a baby the way that your mother and I love you. I’m not sure you completely understand faith, either. I fear for your safety every day, but I have faith that you’ll be fine. It’s a very odd and narrow line to walk; I can’t let myself be too afraid for you or I’ll go insane and you’ll grow up way too sheltered. I can’t let myself count entirely on faith or I’ll be careless and you’ll grow up without the protection I’m supposed to provide for you.
So all of that has been on my mind. But none of it has been on my mind as much as one specific, important thing: how much I love you.
Because, Sage, I thought I understood love. And I had good reason to think it. I love your mother so much that it was incomprehensible to me how much more I could love.
When I was young, my father told me something that really stuck with me. I don’t know if I’ll do it justice here.
He told me that he loved being a daddy when my older brother was born, and he was worried when he found out that I was on the way. What worried him was that he didn’t know if he had enough love to share between two kids. He said it was like he had one cup of love to give to his kids, and if he had two kids, each one would only get half a cup of love… but then I was born, and it was like he was given another whole cup of love so that neither kid would have to settle for half a cup.
I’ve always held onto this story, and I thought I understood it — and it’s a beautiful illustration of what happens when your family expands, but I think that he made one tiny little mistake.
I had a cup of love, and it was all for your mother.
Then you came along, and I knew I would get another cup of love.
But I got more than that. I got magic along with it, because the cup of love I had for your mother grew because of you. I have loved your mother so deeply that I didn’t know it was possible, but I love her more when I see what a wonderful mother she is for you.
Sage, when you’re old enough, you’ll read this next bit, and you’ll nod and say, “Yup. That’s exactly who my parents are.”
Today, after we delivered cookies to the NICU where you were born as a “thank you / holiday” gift (some for the nurses, some for the parents who have to spend time in the hospital), on our way home, I turned to your mother and we had the following conversation.
Me: “What did they call box turtles before they invented boxes?”
Her: (dumbfounded look)
Me: “These things keep me awake at night.”
Her: “I”m gonna guess they just called them turtles.”
Me: “But how did they keep them separate from other turtles?”
Me: “I mean, I know boxes were invented ages and ages ago. Were they just not concerned with turtles at that point, maybe?”
Her: “I don’t know…”
Me: “I also wonder what the native name was for duck-billed platypus. You know, like — what did the Maori or whatever call it?”
Her: (confidently declaring) “Jeff.”
Me: “They called it Jeff?”
Me: “…Well, thank you. That eases my mind.”
That’s it, Sage. Your mother gets me. Nobody else gets me like that. But she does.
So here’s my advice, Sage. Are you ready for this? It’s important. It’s as important as being who you are. Okay?
And choose love. Don’t choose to spend the rest of your life with someone you could love forever. Choose to spend the rest of your life with someone that you choose to love forever.
Because there will be days that it will be hard. Your mother could have said, “Really? You want to talk about platypuses?” and been completely unamused when I said, “I think it’s platypi,” because we’ll have those days where we think the other one is just a bit annoying. But we choose to love each other, and as a reward, we not only get days where we can laugh with each other over stupid things, but we get:
We did. We love you so much, and we have chosen to always, always, always love you.
Happy Birthday, Wiggler. If you ever feel a fraction of the love that we have for you, you will be blessed indeed.