Happy Birthday, Zackie.

Dear Zackie,

Today you are 4 years old. It seems like only a short time ago that you were just a baby, and we were sort of in the business of just getting used to each other. You were such a scrawny, tiny little thing that I was kind of terrified of you, and although I loved you so much that I thought my heart might beat right out of my chest, I wasn't sure I LIKED you very much yet.

Then, you started, slowly, slowly, to become YOU.

Here you are at one. I thought surely you were the smartest, cutest, funniest child ever created.

I still think that.

By age two, you were pretty much your own person. That determined look was (and still is) one that I saw often.

I've never met someone quite so stubborn except maybe myself, but this is so not about me right now, so just keep those thoughts to yourself, please.

You were fearless. A broken bone and a few trips to the ER proved it.

At age three, you had a clear idea of what liked (superheroes) and what you didn't (bedtime).

You could tell amazing stories, you could do the splits, and you could run faster and farther than anyone else.

Here you are now. You are so much more little boy than baby now, and sometimes it makes me sad that you'll never be that little baby again.

Sometimes, your hugs feel more like attacks than like love.

Sometimes, when I look at you, I see so much of myself in you, and sometimes, I see a creature that I feel certain could never have been a part of me.

Zackie, you are complicated and funny and smart and beautiful.

You know more about superheroes than Stan Lee, and you love your little brother with a ferocity I could not have dreamed of, or hoped for. And I'm pretty sure he feels the same way about you.

It's hard for me to believe that before long, I'm going to have to put you out into the world. You will go to school soon, and I won't be there to protect you every step of the way. It's almost unimaginable.

You are still fearless in ways I have never been and could never be. You followed me to work, you went onto the roof, and you've never met a stranger. Sometimes when I think about things like this, I feel like throwing up. Then I remind myself that if I can get you safely into adulthood, these fearless, stubborn traits will serve you very well in real life.

Happy Birthday Zackie.

Mama loves you very much.

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