To my sixth child

Dear Pax,

You are perfect! You are everything a little boy should be.

You are strong and agile. You climb and jump and ride your little push bike all over the place. You use swords and guns and make little explosion sounds with with your mouth while dramatically dropping into a fighting stance. “Pshshsh!” It’s the best thing ever.

You are big enough to play with your older brothers, and have a lot of fun. But sometimes you do that thing that toddlers do, where you try to claim everything as your own, shouting, “Mieeene!”
When you do this the fun is killed for everyone as you cry and scream and your older siblings, frustrated with trying to distract you, or trade you another toy, or get you to play together, start to yell and scream too.

But you are far more social than your oldest siblings were at your age. You love to have playmates. You want people to run around, and play cars with. You also love babies. You run up to babies in public making sweet chirruping sounds and gently touching their faces. You have always loved babies. You hug them, try to pick them up, and are generally so aggressive in your displays of affection that you sometimes make them cry.

 For a time I think you thought your name in Burmese was, “Dee ma la”, which means, come here. Our Mae Baans would say it to you all the time, and you toddled over toward them grinning expectantly, looking forward to play.

You are a total ham for the camera right now. You are so used to people wanting to take your picture all the time. Usually you oblige with the funniest, cheesiest squint eyed toothy grin. I laugh every time you do it. The days you don’t want to be picked up and photographed you’re still rather charming, turning away, hiding behind me, an making dismissive little gestures with your arms, like a superstar waving the paparazzi away. “Not today,” you seem to say, “I’m not ready for a close up.”

Now you run. You are fully and competently mobile. You jump down off of steps. You build towers out of Duplo blocks. You use the potty, most of the time.

I love watching you interact with your older siblings. They adore you. They are irritated by you. It varies from second to second. But I love watching your great tall biggest brother bend to talk to you face to face, and make silly voices to keep you laughing, pretending to be scared when you attack him, and chasing you around corners while you scream with laughter. Your sisters quiz you on everyone’s name, and get you to say silly an inappropriate things at the dinner table. You kiss their cheeks at bedtime, and give them hugs, and then give them more hugs, and then scream sometimes when I drag you away saying, “Four hugs is enough, they need to go to sleep, and so do you.”

You love it when your daddy comes home. You say, “Daddy, HOME?”
You dance, you do a complicated series of dance moves in your excitement. Then you crouch, and announce with great glee, “Daddy. HOME!”

He is softer with you than with anyone. You love him. You will go around me to get to him. You are the first daddy’s boy we have ever had. All your older siblings were all about mama, exclusively. They didn’t want daddy, only me. You think he’s the best thing ever, and not just a tolerable substitute for mama, sometimes. I like watching you together, the way you climb into his lap instead of mine, and grab his face, and snuggle and play fight him.

When I learned about you I was completely overwhelmed. It wasn’t just you. But you were part of it. I had felt like I was figuring out my life, and finding my stride, here in Thailand. When I saw that positive test I felt like my life was completely and totally out of my control and I retreated, from everything. Some of it was good. I took care of myself in ways I should have, but up to that point had not done. I finally had the guts to say, “I need time to myself and I’m taking it.”

Some of it was bad. I let myself get weak in ways I had been strong before. I avoided hard things, instead of facing them. It wasn’t great. But that part wasn’t your fault. That was my broken response to things unexpected, and I’m finally facing those things again, and getting stronger.

I wasn’t even a little bit worried about loving you, or being your mama. I was worried about being pregnant again. This old body of mine has held a baby in it 7 times now. It definitely feels the fatigue of all of that. I wished I could just sleep until it was time for you to be born. I was so tired, all the time.

I was worried that I’m not a good enough mama. “I’m not even doing a very good job with the children I have,” I thought. “What am I doing, having another?”

My plan was to try and not have any more babies. With teenagers in the house, getting ready to launch in the next few years, I felt like they had been neglected for the younger siblings often enough. I wanted to focus on them, their education, their hearts. I wanted the last few years to try and make up for my shortcomings as a parent, to try and fix some things before it was too late. I didn’t feel like I could do that, be a better mother, and be sleep deprived and baby fogged again.

But watching you, seeing what a gift you are to all of us, how much love you bring out of us and to us, I don’t know if any of that matters.

Yes, there are things I need to get better at. Yes, you keep me awake all night sometimes and I’m tired, and cranky. But I too often waste time, whole years sometimes, waiting for things to be ideal before I do the thing I know I need to do. It’s not ideal, it never will be.

I’m learning this slowly, my son, that there’s no time like the present to do the thing you know you need to do, to put in the work, to keep trying. I’d forgotten that for a while, and it’s definitely harder when you’re tired. But you, you are worth it. I’d much rather have you than whatever ideal situation I had in my mind’s eye 3 years ago when I stuffed that pregnancy test to the bottom of my purse and wondered how on earth I was going to manage the work of bringing you into this world.

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