Leo is 12

This is only the second birthday we’ve known you.  And those years without a mom and dad they took their toll.  I don’t share much of your journey here but its been a longer one in some ways than any of us expected, and a more miraculous one too.

And now you’re 12.  Old enough to sit in the front seat of the car, which you did with great joy, flashing me that trademark smile. The grin so big it almost breaks your face, and makes the bones at your temples stand out in sheer relief.

That’s the smile that makes people fall in love with you so quickly. You know how to lead a room, how to take charge of any moment, how to walk right up, say hello, and find your place.

At home we process the anger and the hurt, the feelings of rejection and betrayal that are common to all children but sit deeper in those who have already borne so much. And when I do not have answers and when my hugs are not enough, and when I cannot stop what must find a way to express itself . . . .then I have learned to simply hold my ground.  To stay present and to be an anchor of love.  I have learned that love doesn’t need to look like what I thought.  That attachment is not a race; it can be a long wander through many desert places with occasional oases.  There is no destination, really, only the journey, for all of us.  And you have taught me that, as no one else ever has, or perhaps ever could.

But at 12 you are extraordinary.  A scientist if I ever met one.  Your curious questions and whys test my knowledge and my patience.  And those questions are exactly the ones everyone should know to ask but so few do. “Why does the fog come in the morning and disappear after a few minutes?  Is that when the water goes back into the clouds?”  We struggle through your learning of language for you are a talker and a verbal processor. You long to express yourself well right now.  You have so much to say and so much to ask.  You learn English at a marvelous speed, and read and write so quickly that 18 months home you are already writing in paragraphs.

You go through phases of intense passion and purpose.  Acrobatics; when you walk endlessly on your hands everywhere we go.  Paper airplanes; when hundreds of flying aircraft littered our floors for weeks and paper disappeared faster than we could buy it. Rubik’s Cubes which continues to be your obsession to this day; you can solve the 2×2, 3×3, and 4×4 along with assorted other shapes and sizes and you long for more.  You love to sing everywhere you go.  You pick your way through piano and ask to learn drums. You listen to musicals over and over.

At twelve you are small but fierce.  Angry but joyful. Deceitful but determined to be trustworthy.  You are an ever-changing being. I cannot hold much to be true about you other than you are my son and you will not be the same more than a few days in a row. But I’ve committed to this ride with you, so now, at 12, on the cusp of adolescence, I hold on tight.

Happy birthday, my son.