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  • Writer's pictureMollie Talbot

A Letter to my Son on His First Birthday


My son,

I’ve done something wrong. I’ve done a lot of things wrong. Truth is most days, my sweet boy, I don’t know what it is I’m supposed to be doing. Yet somehow tomorrow we will have made one trip around the sun with you in the world and as I stand silently outside of the whirlwind of this last year, I don’t see the messes or mistakes, I don’t see a home overrun by your bright, primary-colored toys, and I’ve even managed to forget the frustrated tones and sleepless nights.

My darling, what I DO see is a constantly changing little boy whose golden hair and loving spirit have acted as threads to sew our family together more tightly.

Love, I have set in my heart things I do not want for you. I do not want to ever need you more than you need me. But I don’t want you growing up dependent on my direction or leading, either. I don’t want you guilted or forced into a role where I rely on you to fill a void in me. I want you to feel, even from your young age, equipped and capable, strong and independent. I want to fan your curiosity, to instill in you a heart that walks in morality, and a steadfast character that stares through the fire at whatever comes to challenge. What I ask of you is that when you do slow, you feel me there. That when you’re trudging further into your identity and uncertainty makes you gaze over your shoulder, as if to ask “Is this okay? Should I continue?”, that you see me behind you smiling softly, nodding, and saying “go.”

Go share your heart, cultivate your strengths, and identify your weaknesses.

As you grow, I will influence your heart, I will show you the love you deserve in the way I love your father. Your father will teach you to love as you see how he loves me. I will stuff feathers into your wings by the handful, knowing in my heart of hearts that you will change the world more, the more I push you to fly. I will be your mother, not your ruler or authority. I will fight my nature to control, to protect, and to circumvent the hurts or harm that come your way. I will forgive myself when I ignorantly try and “teach” you lessons you’ll only learn in observing me live them out, and then by living them out yourself. I will fail, too. I will raise my voice and say things I don’t mean when energy is low and my soul is weak. But I vow to come back, admit my errors, my frailty, and brokenness, and to show you that, in some seasons of fire, even the Redwoods are stronger outside than they are within, but that it never stops them from standing tall and inspiring greatness.

I vow to love you so fiercely that you know you don’t belong here.

That your heart and soul were created for an eternity more beautiful than any life or love I can give. I will show you that true fulfillment comes in living your life without entitlement; in living a life that exists to love others. I won’t depend on you to fulfill me. I will carry hope and joy into every day, showing you that my fulfillment will come, but not on this side of heaven.

So this might be your first birthday, but call it practice or repentance for the times I’ve held too tight, when I’ve tried to prevent your mistakes or rushed in to cushion your falls. Because you will fall and you will fail, but you will be raised with a heart that perseveres, that seeks goodness and truth and doesn’t give up when fear and failure attempt to thwart the convictions taking root in your soul.

Even when things get dark, when mistakes try to distance you from grace, or you begin believing the lie that you’re walking alone… you will have this letter and these vows to remind you that when you weren’t even a year old, I knew the battles we would face. That I would try to slow time and hold tight to your small frame, but that if I don’t consciously fight these desires and release my arms from around you, that time will still betray me and you’ll grow, but not to the potential you’re destined for. So be like my love for you. Never settle for “enough,” never grow stagnant, and never give up.

In the meantime, I’ll be where you left me; standing just behind you with open hands facing out, eyes closed to hide my tears, and my smiling lips mouthing the words “I love you. . . now go.”

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