Late this summer, just before you started 3rd grade, I read you this letter written by a blogger I follow. Her son was also about to start 3rd grade and in the letter she urges him to be aware of those moments when his heart aches for someone else and to understand that ache is compassion, and it is God’s signal to do something.
She goes on to tell him, "We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done. We send you to school to practice being brave and kind."
Dylan, as you turn nine this year (Mommy can hardly believe it, I swear you were just my little brown eyed baby boy), your Daddy's and Mommy's hearts are bursting at the seams because we see those traits growing in you.
You tried something new this fall, buddy, completely new to all of us. You strapped on pads and put on a helmet and walked onto a brand new sort of playing field. There were kids you didn't know and rules you had to learn and really hard things to face for a conservative, cautious kid like yourself. It was hard and you were scared. And you did it anyway.
And in countless little moments throughout the season, you didn't just practice football, your practiced being brave. You made a choice to keep showing up, to keep trying, in spite of feeling uncomfortable, stretched, and at times, not able. In this space between being a boy and a man you are learning how to be brave, one small moment at a time, and to learn this is to learn what it means to grow up.
For years now, your teachers have told Mommy and Daddy over and over again what a sweet, sensitive, caring guy you are in the classroom. You have a way of making the kids in your class feel known and valued. You come home with the True Friend award year after year.
You are not in the business of leaving people out or trying to climb the social ladder or doing things you shouldn't just to fit in. And you're not just nice to the other nice kids or the popular kids or the smart kids. You've learned to look for the kids who need a little extra kindness in their lives - the new kids, the naughty kids, the kids who don't go home to a warm, safe house at night.
You're growing up, Dilly Man, and we can see it more in this past year than ever before. Almost all the traces of the little boy are gone and in his place is a bigger, stronger, braver boy. We are proud of so many things about you - you truly are our pride and joy - but most of all we are proud of your heart. God created you to be someone very special and to do some unique things in this world, and we pray that you continue to grow into that calling just as you continue to grow into being a man.
Nine. Halfway to 18. (Takes my breath away a bit.)
It is an honor and a privilege to be your mom.
Happy birthday. We love you, Dylan!
Mommy (& Daddy too)