Did you know that you taught me how to love? Before you, it was your Dad and me for a short time. We thought we knew love, marrying young. We didn’t. No, you taught us love. I thought I knew how to put myself second, placing others before myself. I was wrong. I had no idea. You taught me love. I thought I knew how to look for the good in the world and in other people. I was way off.
In your early years, it was just you and me. We were a pair. You were the center of my days and the apple of our eyes. You were the first of firsts. We learned the ropes of parenting through you. We failed many times, but you kept teaching us. You taught us about our own selfishness. How, in our ignorance, we thought we knew love, but it was a shallow love that we claimed. You taught us how to go beyond ourselves; stretching us through sleepless nights and melt-downs. You taught us. We were slow to learn, slow to engage in this love. You kept digging in. You kept teaching us real love.
We had endless hours of parks, walks, and rock throwing. We had time to stop and look at a bug or pick up a stick. We had picnics where you would fill the time with all your chats and bedtime snuggles, where you would fill my lap with your love. You taught me to love the world again. To look at it with new eyes, full of wonder. You taught me love.
Then everything changed for you and for me. It wasn’t just “us” anymore, we had your brother and he came with kissable perfect newborn skin. He came with a lot of medical “extras” and fragile care. Our endless hours of parks and walks were traded in for endless hours of doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions. We traded quiet, still time for rushing and going. Our picnics turned into snacks in waiting rooms and our bedtime snuggles morphed into strict medical routine.
But you, my son, stood strong and you kept teaching us love. You took on your role as big brother as if you were born to do it. From the moment you saw your little brother, you pushed for his care and you felt it deep. The day we brought your brother home, your tears of love for him fell down your face as you hesitated to hold him, not wanting to harm him. You kept teaching us love.
To this very day, you are his fierce protector and biggest fan. You have sat with him when he could not crawl, crawled with him when he could not walk, and you have loved him like no one will ever love him. You push him when he needs pushed and you are still when he needs comfort.
The way you love your brother is something I hope to love like. You keep teaching us. When the rest of the world sees a boy with special needs, you see your brother. When others see different, you see the same. When others stare with questions, you move in confident love. It is simple love, of two brothers, but it is a gift. You will never know the gift you are to him and us.
To you he is not weak, he is the brother you wrestle. To you he is not inferior, he is your competitor. To you, he is not “disabled,” he is fully-functioning. You see that. You see him for him and that is love. An untainted, unbiased, rare, real, and genuine love. You keep teaching us love.
Before your brother, it was good. We had such a sweet, precious time together. I am thankful for those simple years. I am thankful for the years that you taught me to love, preparing me for more love to come.
But, since your brother, it has been incredible. Incredibly hard at times, but also so very incredibly good. You keep teaching us about love and we keep failing, stretching, and ultimately growing. So, as you turn ten, I want to say thank you. Thank you for loving us when we had little to give. Thank you for loving us when we didn’t deserve it. Thank you for loving us when we weren’t loving you the way you needed love. Thank you for loving us when we should have been focusing on you. Thank you for loving us in a way that points to an even bigger love. The love of the Son…. a Son that loved the world when the world didn’t love him back. A Son that was misunderstood and neglected, but kept loving. A Son that came to give his life for love. My little son, thank you for pointing to me the True Son, the one who is love. Thank you for teaching me about Love.