Two years ago, at this exact moment, I was large and heavy-footed, ornery and tired, pacing around the first floor of our old home on a tree-lined street in the middle of Charlotte wearing an adult diaper.
A few minutes prior to when I took this photo, my water had broken due likely to the three mile uphill walk I took earlier that morning. I had reached that part of pregnancy where everything sucked, nothing about pregnancy felt magical, and I had accepted— albeit irrationally— that I’d be pregnant forever.
Funny how that works.
One day, this picture will mortify you. But for now, I will share it with pride because it was the beginning of the end of the nine months I housed you in my body and counted down the days until I met the boy who I knew would change me forever. What I didn’t know at the time was just how wild of a ride I was in for, which, in hindsight, is likely a good thing. If I’d known, I probably would’ve reversed my decision and agreed to stay pregnant forever. Who really needs to see their feet or sleep on their stomach, any way?!
The truth is, my sweet, sweet Knoxy Boy, is that something shifted in me when I held you for the first time. I felt an obligation to you that was very different than the obligation I felt towards your sisters. Everyone told me that I’d feel differently about you— equally, but different, they said— but I was not prepared for the inherent ferociousness that came over me.
Instantaneously, I became obsessively devoted to not only protect you in the physical sense, but to protect your innate softness in a world that will try its’ damnedest to harden you with all the ideas of what masculinity and manhood and boyhood should look like. I want you to be the one who decides what masculinity means to you, of course. But, mostly, my hope for you will live a life you design absent of fear if that landscape doesn’t line up with what others have deemed appropriate.
I want you to love big, to remain soft, and to never apologize for expressing your emotions. I want you to reject institutionalized gender norms in lieu of whatever makes you happy. I want you to be the first person to comfort others in need and not be afraid to ask for comfort or help when you need it. I want you to be the one who stands up for the person who cannot advocate for themselves. I want you to give absolutely zero fucks about being the “cool guy” and instead give all your energy to being a multi-faceted, evolved, dichotomous, empathetic human who just so happens to have a penis.
I want you to prove people wrong when they make assumptions about you or who they think you should be and I want you to do so quietly and with kindness. I want you to take care of your sisters the way they take care of you because nothing is ever more important than your family. I want you to look for the good in others and to become known for showing others what it means to be good. I want you to soar while never forgetting where you came from and, most importantly, who you came from.
Which is ME, obviously, because this isn’t about you at all. Not, really, anyway. This is about just how unfathomably and overwhelmingly big my love for you is and just how relentlessly loyal I am to you and who you are on your way to becoming. No matter who that person is, your number one fan will always be me followed, of course, by a close second, third, and fourth in your dad and sisters.
Nobody will ever love you like I love you though it’s likely a safe bet to say that many people will try because you’re you and to know you is to love you. You are everything to us and we love you to the moon and back.
Happy second birthday, Bubby.