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A Letter to My Son on His 10th Birthday

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Next week you will turn 10. The days when I held all four pounds of you in the NICU skin-to-skin underneath a hospital gown—days that I willed myself to remember even as they were happening—are now glazed over with the iridescent haze of memory.

I hear the echoes of people saying, “It will go so fast,” and, “Blink and you’ll miss it,” yet in those early, sleep deprived days and nights that seemed to never end, when I was so afraid of your smallness and your newness, I simply couldn’t take in those words.

And yet now, I feel like I am standing on the other side, overwhelmed at how quickly a decade has passed. A decade filled with firsts—the first day I left you with a nanny and went back to work; first fever; first word; first days of school; first soccer class; first friend; first sleepover; first time we had a meaningful conversation; first time you cooked your own omelet; first championship trophy. It is with anticipation and—if I am being honest—a sizeable dose of trepidation, that I wonder about all of the firsts that the next decade will bring.

Ten is one of the ages I remember most vividly from my own childhood, perhaps because it was a year of transition. I moved to a new town and met friends who remain my best friends until today—including those who dropped everything in those scary days following your birth to make sure that you and I were OK. I remember the elaborate games of school that I played in these friends’ basements, the ridiculous songs we sang around the lunchroom table, and the matching, neon splatter-painted Keds that we purposely wore on the same day.

I am awed by the fact that the friends you have now may be the forever-people in your life, the people who—in a future that I now know will indeed be here before I blink—will come running when you need them most. I would be delighted if they are, for you have surrounded yourself with some wonderful peers. It has been an unexpected pleasure of parenting to watch these friendships grow.

Ten was also the age when I first experienced the death of a family member. It’s when I realized that sometimes, really bad things do happen that not even my parents could fix, and that whole things can become broken in irreparable ways. I pray with all of my being that such a realization remains far off for you, and that you hold onto the innocence of childhood for as long as possible. Yet, I already see wisps of this innocence slipping away in the questions that you ask, the words that you use, the ways in which you want to spend your time.

I wonder if your memories of this age will be as vivid as mine. And if they are, I hope they are of the good times—of the vacation days spent swimming and biking, and the spring afternoons on the baseball field, of leading the synagogue in Adon Olam donning a tallit (prayer shawl) that is bigger than you, and of our boisterous Passover seders. I hope it is the laughter that you hold on to, and not the constant rushing from one thing to the next, or the yelling that happens too often, or the exhausting arguments over screen time and shooting one last basket at the park.

I know, in hindsight, these arguments will seem trivial, and that in the decade to come, there will be conflicts of far greater consequence. I pray for the wisdom to handle these with equal parts compassion and firmness, and always, always with love.

In the days ahead as we celebrate the milestone of double digits, among the joy of spending time with family and friends, blowing out candles, and opening gifts, I apologize if I seem a bit quiet, if I withdraw for just a minute. I am just trying to hold on to this moment, as I held you on my chest a full decade ago, because I am now 10 years wiser and well aware that there is truth to the clichés—that time really does race by and that, before I know it, you will be grown.


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