We brought you home in a car seat and stared at you on the kitchen floor. We looked at each other and said, “What do we do now?” The moment you bring your first child home from the hospital is terrifying. It’s a first that you never forget. Neither Scot nor I had ever changed a diaper or held a baby. Our goal was to keep you alive.
And like everything in life we got better with practice. You were such an easy baby. You didn’t cry, you slept for hours on end and you were a terrific traveler. We took you on car trips to NYC and flights to Nashville. You smiled every step of the way. But good things often come to an end.
We started noticing the changes in your behavior when you were three. It started with the terrible threes, turned into the fucking fours. And by the time you were 8, you punched walls, hit us and threatened to kill yourself. No matter how many experts we tapped into, we never understood what was wrong. There were days when I questioned whether I was the cause of your unhappiness or if I was fit to be a mother. I often wanted to leave home and did escape on occasions to avoid the stress of your outbursts. I never knew when a tantrum would occur and I was scared and depressed. This feeling, and your behavior lasted for years. But when you have a child, you sign up for unconditional love.
And then something incredible happened. You grew up. We found the right middle school where you felt good about yourself rather than questioning if you were good enough. You had friends who liked you so you didn’t behave erratically to get people’s attention. You had teachers that believed in you so you started believing in yourself. We still lived through puberty with you as a moody teenager, but the tantrums went away and your confidence developed. You turned into an incredibly caring and empathetic man who became a leader amongst your peers, an amazing big brother, and a role model for other young children. You started babysitting and told other mothers not to worry about their sons and their behaviors. You said to one Mom in particular, “You should have seen me when I was that age.” When you told me this story, I laughed out loud and privately, I cried.
The slogan, “You have come a long way baby,” applies to you every day of your life when I think about those years you were in so much pain and I felt helpless. Just yesterday you told me that a friend of yours was in the hospital and you organized the group gift from you and your camp friends. There are moments like this every day when I am so proud of the man you have become. But the real impetus for choosing you for this piece about love is something that happened two weeks ago. It was my Mom’s yahrzeit, the anniversary of the dead in the Jewish tradition. You left the socialization of your fraternity house and went to synagogue to say a prayer in memory of Grammy. You told me you read the eulogy that I wrote to her three years ago and you do this every year on the anniversary of her yahrzeit. You said you keep it in your prayer shawl bag. I cannot stop thinking about this moment. I didn’t think it was possible to love a child more today than I did yesterday but once again Matthew, you proved me wrong.