One year ago today, you shattered my expectations for being a parent. I felt like a million cables literally bound me to you in the most supernatural way. My expectation was that I'd love you, but I'd be frustrated at giving up a little of my independence. The frustration and difficulty of giving up my independence cannot even compare to the careless, freeing joy of loving a son. Your little soul changed me at the core of who I am, and you will not understand how resounding that is until you are a parent too.
The crazy, unprecedented, hormonal mood swings and hours of tears I shed were quite a shock as well. I still look at a brand new mom and almost cry for her because of what she was just introduced to--an entire breadth and world of emotions that were never thought possible by a rational, thinking, working, intelligent being.
You spent your first few months getting used to me and your dad. You would not crack a smile nor would you look anyone in the face. But every once in awhile, you'd make a crazy dino noise to tell us you were still there and functioning. Soon enough, you woke up from your introspective world and proved that you have some Rieves blood--you love to have fun, you laugh at yourself, and you think you're funny. For example, it is early in the morning, and I just got you out of bed and whispered the first few paragraphs of this letter to you. You giggled, scrunched up your nose, and smatted your forehead against mine knowingly. You are also serious and you are a thinker like your dad. As in, you think everything through, and make pointed, directed actions. And you will not perform on cue. You might have many tricks, but you will not do them on command, you will do them as you feel like it. Also like your dad. Best thing? You love to sing, and you love to dance.
We are so proud of you, and we cannot imagine life without you. But there are a few things you must know:
-I love your dad. He's still my number one. One day you'll leave me, and you'll love another woman. Your dad will always be with me, and by then, he'll be taking me on vacations to Hawaii to lay on the beach and drink toddies. You will be figuring professional life out and having babies that I can spoil and give back.
-Also, we have house rules. Respect the bill-payers. All involved tenants will do chores, and you will say like your father used to say, "I am willing." (This is a Hale family rule. And I like it.)
-Your parents will mess up. We will owe you lots of apologies and make lots of wrong decisions. We will hurt you, and we will make you mad. But you'll be okay. And you will always be able to tell us when we've hurt you. Also, I'll pay for your therapy,
-If you disrespect me and talk back, well....let's just say, don't. do. it.
-We will have fun as a family. It's a rule. It was my favorite rule in my house growing up, and I intend to implement it. There will always be discipline, but there will also always be jumps in mud puddles, slip 'n slides, parties with friends, playing in the rain, huge cardboard boxes, chocolate pie fights, and wrestling.
-There are more....but I'll teach you as we go.
And in the words of Tina Fey for her daughter, I pray this for you as my son:
"Guide her, protect her. When crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age."
But most of all, know that you are loved unconditionally. You will never do anything bad enough to take away my love or your dad's love. It's that intense. But bigger than that, God loves you. And He wants you as His own. We believe that more than we believe anything. And when your Dad and I fail you (and we will), you will know that God's love covers that. And when you feel alone or ignored or like a failure, God's love will cover that too. So take His love--it's free, it's yours, and the greatness and fullness of it, you'll never understand it.
I love you, Braden Matthew Hale!