A big part of me is simply happy to see my boy growing up and becoming such a fine young man. He really, really is. He's kind and generous, soft-hearted and highly sensitive, and a deep thinker on top of it all. He loves God and has a personal relationship with Him, and seeks to listen to God's voice speaking into his life...what a great start. Furthermore, the past few months have been interesting as we've seen some of the fruit of of our labour developing in him: He's maturing and showing some awesome signs of emergence as a boy who is able to hold on to himself in face of different opinions surrounding him; he is usually quite thoughtful and considerate of those around him; and he is showing the beginnings of self control which, although most people think can be taught, is really a fruit of maturation rather than something we can teach our children.
So on the one hand, I'm so happy to see that the boy we brought into the world eleven years ago is becoming the kind of young man I dreamed he would be when looking down into that newborn face so innocent and untested. Truly, what a gift of God.
On the other hand, I'm always so sad on Matthew's birthday. Sad because I love this kid so much and because the closer he gets to growing up the closer we get to his eventual independence and departure. As parents we all want for our children to grow up well and to emerge into the world as capable and contributing members of our society...but for me, that also marks a sad prospect for my life. Totally selfish, I know.
Matthew also has mixed feelings about his birthday. Although he recognizes that there are advantages to growing older, he also wishes that he were still nine years old. He knows that he leads a very good life; it's a life that he loves just as it is. A big part of him is grieving the passing of his early childhood years.
Matthew, as the meaning of his name suggests, is such a gift of God. He was a long-awaited answer to prayer and the cherry on top of a long experience of infertility. The years before Matthew were hard in this regard - it was such a painful experience to long so much for children, only to experience month after month, year after long year, of not having any...while everyone around us started and grew their families. Fertility issues are not something I would wish upon anyone.
I remember vividly the moment I learned that I was finally pregnant; I fell on my knees in thanksgiving, and utter joy filled me. All of the pain and grief of our infertility was still wrapped up inside of me, but that complex mix of emotions immediately and permanently changed me. I am still affected by the complexities of those emotions, even now, years later after our family is complete.
There's something about waiting for so long that, I think, gives one a slightly different outlook on things. It's ultimately why we homeschool; it's why we have chosen to raise our children using a longer term developmental approach; it's why I'm comfortable parenting differently than much of society around me encourages it. I'm not parenting Matthew with a goal of good behaviour; I'm parenting him in a way that hopefully inspires him to follow God and to mature into his full potential. Those who experience infertility react, undoubtedly, in different ways...these ways happen to be how I've responded.
Later today we will take eleven kids to Skyzone, a local trampolining place. We will enjoy pizza and cake after an hour of jumping time, and I hope it's just the kind of celebration that Matthew envisioned. He created the idea for his cake, which I have just completed. It's a trifle cake: Layers of chopped, two-bite brownies; homemade vanilla custard; and melted milk and dark chocolates. On the very top will be piled diced pineapple.
For his birthday gifts, Geoff and I bought him a lego set (which I delighted to find a while back through amazon at 60% off regular price!), two books (Inkspell, to follow up our reading of Inkheart; and Horowitz's The Falcon's Malteser), and a simple watch. Lizzie made a few "I Love You" kinds of pictures and notes for Matthew; and Seth has a pack of sour gum that Matthew will love.
There is more than one way to become a mother, as I well know, and Matthew was my launching point! I am forever thankful. Matthew, darling eleven-year-old boy, you are so very loved and we are so proud of you. Happy Birthday!!
(from this morning)