I’ve written birthday posts for my kids for as long as I’ve had this blog. Last year I also wrote a letter to my firstborn, and read it to him in a private ceremony where I welcomed him into his ninth year. This year I’ve decided to share his birthday letter here.
I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is reflecting back their essential, intrinsic, inviolable qualities that are not based on externals, outcomes, or achievements. Children know themselves largely because of how they are reflected back by caregivers and influential adults. When we only reflect back their stuck points and challenges, it’s easy for them to develop a belief system of being “bad” or “wrong” in some way. But when we take time to reflect their intrinsic qualities of mind, heart, and soul, their stuck points are cushioned by a strong sense of self-worth. That’s part of the reason why I write these letters to my kids: so that they know and value who they are regardless of external successes and failures.
Thank you, my readers, for the supportive space you hold for me so that I can share these vulnerable parts of my life with you. May you be inspired or guided by them in some way.
I started writing this yesterday. Today Everest turns ten.
*Shared with permission from Everest.*
August 9th, 2014
My dear Everest,
Ten years ago my labor began. Ten years ago your descent into this world began. It was the middle of the night, enveloped in darkness, and you decided to initiate your journey down the birth canal. The culture would say that you were three and a half weeks early, but I know you were right on time, following your own rhythm just as you follow it today.
It took you nearly two days to arrive, forty-two hours to be exact. The culture would say that it was a long labor, but I know that it was exactly how long you needed to navigate the tight space and allow yourself to leave the comfort of the womb. We’ve been talking a lot about readiness lately – how people learn new things or make changes when they’re ready – and this was your first example of trusting your own readiness.
Thank you for making that journey. Thank you for being born. I can hardly express what a privilege it is to be your mother. There are no words to tell you how much I love you. But still I try because I don’t want to wait for the momentous occasions in your life to put my gratitude and love into words. Today, on your tenth birthday, I want to tell you how I see you: the beautiful, wise, heartful you that you naturally are.
I’ll start with your heart.
The other day, as you and Asher played at the creek, Daddy and I sat on the banks and talked about compassion. He had attended his weekly meditation group the night before and the topic was compassion, and he said that the Buddhists believe that this is the highest quality to cultivate. The teacher said that you can read about Dharma all you want but if you don’t have compassion – both for yourself and others – it’s not an embodied experience. He shared that the ultimate compassion is when you can feel that everything is alive – that when a tree limb is cut you feel its suffering, that each insect is worthy of life, that every living being needs our compassion – and you bring this embodied, heart awareness to all of your interactions.
And then your dad said just what I was thinking: “Everest has more compassion than anyone I’ve ever known. We didn’t teach it to him; he just has it.” You are the child who feels like the pain of the trees. You are the one who has no tolerance for unkindness to people, animals, or plants. You are the one who became a vegetarian at age five. You are the one who tries to stop us from pulling out the weeds in our garden, and then teaches your little brother to transplant the weeds into their own garden on the opposite side of our yard. You are the one who won’t read books about war, and won’t engage in any play where there are winners and losers because, as you say, “The person who loses always feels bad.” You are the one who rubs your eyes if someone so much as mentions the word “tears” or “sadness”; that’s how deep your empathy runs. When you came home from art camp yesterday you told me that some of the kids were talking about how if a bug lands in a painting it gets stuck there, and how upsetting that was for you. You don’t miss a single unkind moment in this life, and you do your best to only bring kindness and compassion to others.
I’m thinking about all of the times that you’ve saved bugs: ladybugs in the middle of our road; the caterpillars on the hiking path; and, of course, the mosquitoes flying around our house. The mosquito catcher you made is ingenious, and I wonder if it’s the first mosquito catcher ever invented that doesn’t hurt mosquitoes !
I know you still want to invent your mosquito helicopter so that mosquitoes will be blown away by the downdraft instead of hurt by people swatting them. It makes me think about the plan you’ve had for years to invent an airplane that will clean up the Earth’s atmosphere. You’re ten now, so you’re getting closer each year to when you can actually make that happen.
Your mind, my love: it just blows me away. You see the world in pictures and are able to make things I’ll never be able to make, put things together that would take me a lifetime to figure out, and understand things that I’ll never understand. Asher asks, “Is there gravity on other planets?” and you know the answer. He asks, “How do car motors work?” and you can explain it to him in detail. What would I do without your amazing mind to answer all of Asher’s questions? Your mind absorbs information about science and engineering in a way that allows you to make connections that Daddy and I completely miss. Like the other day when Daddy was putting together the pool pump and you said, “If the pump is higher than the water isn’t that going to make it difficult to pump the water?” You saved the day, again. And when we went bike riding together the other night and my brakes were squeaking you were able to adjust them so that they were safer for me. I’m in awe of your spatial intelligence every day.
Your imagination is stellar, especially when you’re playing with Asher. You are the most amazing big brother; Asher is so lucky. Do you know that Asher’s favorite times are when you play outer space and flying games with him? I don’t even know how you think up such imaginative and elaborate games (you get it from your Daddy, for sure)! And there are times when your imagination meets your compassion and you just melt my heart, like a few nights ago when we took a family bike ride and Asher was complaining that his seat was too hard. You said, “Asher, just pretend that you’re riding a dinosaur and he has a really hard back.” That did it; we didn’t hear a peep out of him the rest of the ride. You seem to have a knack for knowing just what to say to Asher that will help him find his good mood again.
The world needs you, my angel: it needs your heart, your mind, and your imagination. And you don’t have to do anything but be you and allow your love of life and deep compassion for the world to guide your actions. Just as you do every day.
I’ve been crying as I’ve been writing, and I’m probably crying now as I read this to you. I want you to know that they’re the best kinds of tears: tears of pure love and gratitude. Tears of fullness and aliveness. Tears that can only arise when we risk our hearts and love without restriction or inhibition. This is how I love you.
In the end, all I can say, over and over and over again, is, “Thank you, God. Thank you for my Everest. I know he’s not mine, and I pray for the ability to let him go as he needs to go, to fly when he’s ready to fly, to trust that the tether of love that began with the umbilical cord will guide him through his life with safety, comfort, and wisdom. Thank you, God, for the privilege of mothering this magnificent child. Thank you.”
Happy 10th birthday, my sweet love. Thank you for being you.