You were born on a Saturday morning in Philadelphia. It was early, and the January sun was shining. It wasn’t like it was in the movies. There was no rush of activity or newborn screams. The room was calm and you came out—your eyes wide open, taking in the world around you. You barely made a sound; daddy likes to say you were like a wise Buddha.

Those early months seem so far away, another lifetime ago. But there are things, feelings, that stand out so clearly in my mind, I can almost put myself right back there again.  The feel of your body on my chest, how much you hated taking baths, nursing you in your glider with my eyes sealed shut so I would hopefully be able to fall back to sleep again. But what I remember most is how I felt like you were mine.

There you were, a brand new person with a brand new personality, and yet, I felt so connected to you—your laugh, your tiny feet—that I felt like a piece of me was embedded in you. In a way that was unfair to you. You weren’t mine to own, but you were my first, the one we had placed so much hope in after our first devastating pregnancy. I couldn’t help it.

12 years. New houses, new siblings, new pets, new schools. All of it tumbles by. Days I wish I could freeze time and days that feel like they will never end. Much of you is still like you were on that cold January morning when we first met. But now you are taller than me. You laugh at YouTube videos that I just don’t “get” and speak in code with your brother and friends about “Fortnight kills.”

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One minute you have it all together, and I stop in my tracks as I catch a glimpse of the man you will one day be. The next minute you’re being so annoying and fighting like a toddler with your siblings. It’s normal, I get it. But it’s so weird.

In 6 weeks you will finish elementary school. It’s time. You tower above the first graders in the car line. This milestone moves you one step closer to independence, one step closer to the kind of person you want to be. I’m trying to hold on to these last weeks– the three of you all in the same school for the last time. While a piece of me is sad, most of me is so excited for what lies ahead—for all you will get to experience, the endless opportunities and choices waiting out there just for you.

And one day, it will be you in that hospital room. You will hold your newborn child and feel like he is all yours. Believing that baby belongs to you is what makes those first few exhausting weeks and months so magical.

But now, 12 years later, I’ll tell you the truth: the most beautiful thing is that you do not belong to me.

You are here, on your own journey, walking a path that I can help you navigate, but one that we won’t share for long.

I’m lucky that for this brief time we can still travel together before our paths diverge. When they do, the most I can hope for is that I’ve equipped you with a strong, steady compass to guide you on your way.

Happy 12th birthday, Connor.

Featured Photo Courtesy: Author