dear ryan

Dear Ryan,

Today you are eight. Your love of sports, school, your friends and cousins fills much of our daily life. If I took a mental snapshot of you, it would be mid-leap as you catch a football falling onto our couch. At eight your personality strengths are also your downfalls: highly competitive, extremely emotional, physically coordinated, and extroverted. If combined and focused right I believe you can do anything in the whole world. However, when even one of these is out of whack it’s…challenging. :) We are doing our best to help you learn to navigate your physical and emotional life – but it’s complicated. There isn’t a Parenting Your Living Child for Dummies and our family is “different”, as you are well aware of.

We know you miss Ben. We know you grieve his absence. We know you don’t want to be an only child here. You have told us many times that it isn’t fair. It’s not. Watching you interpret this loss at each stage of your development is one of the hardest parts of our grief. I see you feel left out when your friends leave school and “get” to go home with their siblings. In your mind they are all frolicking in their back yards together, laughing and eating candy on a never-ending playdate. I don’t have the heart to tell you that isn’t always how it is – that brothers and sisters fight and annoy each other. If Ben were here you would probably be frustrated…a lot. He would be older and therefore able to push your buttons. We would likely intervene on his behalf – for you would be bigger than him because of the treatment he received. We would probably baby him out of fear. It would be messy. But you would be less alone. You would have someone to play with, to share weekends with, to wake up with on Christmas. We feel that acutely and would do anything to make it different. We wish we could fulfill the role he would have played in your life. But we can’t; we can only be your parents.

Thankfully though family comes in a lot of forms. We are lucky to be part of such an incredible community. When you walk out our door you are met by sweet friends, teachers, coaches and by our amazing families. Tonight our family will surround you, as they have since your birth. You will be in your element, in your most happy place, with cousins by your side. In the midst of your sugary present induced happiness I will offer up some sort of prayerful thanks…

For the ways in which you led us out of the pit. For the ways in which you have forced us forward. For the ways in which you continue to save us.

So happy Birthday to my sweet, intense, handsome, funny, strong, and smart boy. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that your Birthday falls during the most difficult time of the year for us.

I love you,

PS – Good luck to your fantasy football team this weekend! But remember, if you cry about it I will take away your iPad.