Today, my son, you are seven years old.
If you will, allow a father his ruminations, and trust that his own patience for them will sufficiently limit their length. It's hard to believe it's been that long, that you are so big, and growing ever faster. What you were the day you were born, what you have meant to us these last 2,557 days, and what you are becoming are never so sharply in focus than the morning of your birthday, when I stand at your bedside and stroke your hair while you sleep, or the night before, when I sometimes cuddle with you and whisper how special and precious you are.
You and I both know we don't see eye to eye. I'm willing to accept that we may never share so much common ground as your siblings and I. But as we occasionally joke, I love you no matter what: when I'm angry, tired, crabby, happy; whether you're screaming or smiling at me; whether you're respecting Mommy or not. The things that make you different from me, from your brother and sister, are the things that make you more special than I ever could have hoped before I held you in my arms.
I've said before you have the biggest heart of anyone I know, and I don't think that will ever change. You are so like Mommy in your pure capacity for love and compassion, in your temper and sense of justice. I see so much of her in you.
You and I have had our share of troubled times. Unable to feed you as an infant, as I was your brother, I think I lost many precious hours. The day you rolled off the bed and fractured your skull, you were in my care. I didn't know you could roll so well, and thought there was time to brush my teeth before you needed anything else. You have always been stronger than we thought. In an effort to step over you into the bathroom (you weren't yet walking) I kicked you with my heavy work boot one day. You test my patience more than any other child I've known...or at least it fails the most with you. And last summer, we were out climbing, sharing a special afternoon together in Virginia, and you fell off that rock because I failed to catch you.
I thought I'd lost you that day, Brendan. It is the most real fear I can ever recall in my whole life.
I am so sorry for all these things.
Despite my difficulty bonding with you, I think we are a very unique pair. I think that over these and future years we will develop a respect and understanding for each other that many other father-son pairs take for granted, including the relationship I will have with your brother. I think that you will grow to be a man who understands what it is to love in the face of difficulty, who knows the purpose of a struggle in life and sees it as a challenge rather than a road block.
Today you will get a glow-in-the-dark junior sized football because I know nothing about Pokemon cards (and let's face it: neither do you) and I cannot (as I have explained) afford a RoboRaptor. I think you will like the football, but in case you don't I will allow you to throw it to me just so you can muscle me to the ground right after I catch it, or fumble it on purpose so you can recover it and make the winning touch down, even though I know you'll know I did it on purpose.
I think it's really cool that you have the first birthday in the new house. I will enjoy showing you off and asking about your school day in front of grandparents. I will enjoy talking about our Cub Scouting together. Today I hope that, through simple things, you will know that I love you.