A Letter to the Eldest on His Birthday

My Dear Boy, When we had you, we didn't know there would be others. We hoped, but we weren't sure. Two years later, your sister showed up and rocked our world. You were just a little guy then, but it was the middle of winter and it was you and me in the house for days on end, and I treated you like you were five years old, or maybe fifty. You helped when I needed it, you were the best company when I had none, and so, most days, you were my best friend.

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Whether it is because of birth order or otherwise, I’ll never know, but you are the quintessential eldest child: helpful, obedient, a bit of a know-it-all, practical, and so comfortable around adults that it sometimes makes adults uncomfortable.

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If this were the early 1900s and we were very poor, I could be sending you out to work this year. The thing is, even in the year 2015, you would be the kid that could and would work, if we needed that (oh, and if it were legal), and you’d, for sure, come home with some money in your pocket.

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You talk about business models and financial plans during meal times while your father and I sit back and whisper whether it would be wrong if we just quit contributing to our retirement savings and relied on you. No pressure, of course, but your plans are as good as any of ours have been.

We've screwed up so many times while parenting you, most often because no one told us anything about what we were doing in this gig until we were already doing it, which is a really terrible time to be offered advice. You seem to be no worse for wear because of it, and we’re thankful for that. I’m pretty sure you’ve figured out when we’re just talking out of our asses and so you ignore us, thank goodness. You tell me when I need to chill out, take a breath, tone it down, or take a nap – all things I'm pretty sure the mother usually says to the child. With you, it's different. People talk about old souls all of the time, but I think you are an actual older, wiser person altogether – mostly because you are completely who you are. I will never tell you not to change, except when I scoop you up like a baby and tell you not to grow up, that I’ll take you to Neverland, and that we can live there together forever. Someday, or tomorrow, you’ll think that that is so weird and annoying, but for now what I’m really meaning to say is to keep being your awesomely weird and cool, bad (bad as in so, so good) self. Just that is so much more than enough.

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You continually rise to the occasion, even though there's no one in front of you showing you how it's done. You figure it out. You have the skills needed for success, which I know you didn’t get from me, as I was horizontal on the couch trying to take a nap whenever I could for the past few years. You’re persistent and hard-working, which, it turns out, are just about the only traits you need to be successful.

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You like people and you like your alone time and I try to honor both. Here, I see myself and so I try to offer you that space that I, too, need. You think and create and learn there. You come out better after being there, and I do, too – from watching you.

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For your birthday, we celebrated you in typical you fashion – nothing over the top, a practical day with crazy fun and quiet time. Without any care in the world, you told your friends about the birthday gift that you couldn’t wait to open which was coming from your grandmother – a case of glass-bottled Mexican Cokes. You opened that gift with the same enthusiasm that you held for it all day. Your excitement didn’t dwindle, you didn’t need more, bigger, crazier, faster – you’re just good like that.

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I think, someday, people will say you were raised well…. I’m hoping we could keep it our little secret that you raised yourself while I observed from a loving distance.

I love you, kid - your heart, your mind, your soul. Thanks for raising us into parents.