Remember that time you blew out Oliver’s birthday candle? We had just finished singing “Happy Birthday” and before Oliver even knew what happened the candle was out. But I knew exactly what happened. With friends and family gathered around, with cameras rolling, this moment was documented forever. Look at Oliver’s and Penny’s faces, still waiting to blow out the candle that is no longer lit. But your face reveals your guilt. You were only five. Just a young child yourself. Unfair to ask you to be fair, unfair to ask you to be considerate of your baby brother, unfair to ask you to practice self-control. And look at my face, but worse, look at my hand. I have loved and hated this photo. I loved it for the honesty and realness of a mother in a moment of little patience with three children five and under and I have hated this photo because it captured me at my worst. Yet looking at this photo now as you turn twelve I have a different appreciation of this photo. Since the day you were born you carry our dreams and expectations. Your five was different than Penny’s five and Oliver’s five.

Now you enter your last year of childhood. You are 5’1″, almost at eye level with me. You are flexing, testing how far you can stretch, how loud you can speak. You have no example, no one who has paved a path, tested the waters or worn us out. We are fresh and ready and ignorant. Fair or not our expectations are high. Because I know you can do more. Because I have seen you at your best and I have seen you at your worst. Because I know you have a heart of gold.