You Are Special (a letter to my firstborn)

Dear Alex,

You’ve been saying a lot lately that you don’t feel special. I know it’s hard to be the oldest child when your little sister has to work so hard to learn every little thing, and your little brother is so little. But I want you to know how special your daddy and I think you are.

Do you know we had to wait three years for you? I’ve told you that mommies and daddies give each other a special hug to ask God for a baby, but God gets to decide when He puts a baby in a mommy’s tummy. God made us wait a long time for you. We had just about given up hope when you came along. We knew then that you had to be special.

When you were born, we got cards and presents and meals for weeks afterward. So many people had prayed for you to come to us. Did you know that? You were famous before you were even born. Remember the CD you took to show and tell, where the morning radio hosts talked about your birth for almost two minutes? Do you know how many people heard that? Did you know that Monsignor made an announcement at Mass, to the whole church on Sunday? And to the whole school on Tuesday?

There’s a special thing that happens between a mommy and her baby. You grew for nine whole months right here in the center of me, and while you were there, you were connected to me by a cord that gave you everything you need. But another kind of connection happened during that time, too. I fell in love with you. When you were born, I didn’t want you to leave my side. I wanted to sleep with you, hold you all the time.

Every day, my heart flutters with wonder when I see you. How quickly you learned to read, and how well you do it—not even in the first grade yet! Your brand-new lost teeth. Your interest in learning, and how wide it goes.

You have so much love inside of you. The way you want to hold your little sister and brother’s hands and give them hugs. The way you love playing with them, chasing them and making them giggle. I love it when you all go downstairs and I hear you playing together. Even if sometimes it doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to!

God knew what he was doing when he gave us you. It’s tough to be so much “older” than your siblings, but you are just the perfect big brother. You love to take care of them, to make sure they don’t get into trouble. And that is such a help to me. Did you know that? You help me.

And your love isn’t just for your family. I love how you stood up to P. when he said something mean about E. I love how you go through the toy section thinking so carefully about what you want to get for classmates’ birthday gifts. I love how you watch the news so carefully, and how you remember people who need prayers.

It’s so amazing for me, as a mommy, to look at you and see parts of myself in the way you think or act. Sometimes I can look at you and just see the gears spinning in your head—you think so carefully about things. I do, too. I love to see the stories you weave in your head when you’re playing. You know that’s what I like to do, only I put them on a computer screen! I love to hear you playing around on the piano, coming up with cool new sounds. Because you know I do that, too. In fact, if I could earn enough money to support our family doing those two things, music and writing stories, I’d think I was already in Heaven. Can you imagine how awesome it is for me to see those gifts coming out in you, too?

But you have another interest that I love to see, too—your art. I can’t wait to see where you go with it.

Alex, you are my firstborn—and that gives you a place in my heart that no one and nothing can take away. When you’re away from me, it’s like there’s a little hole in my heart. When you’re at school, it doesn’t bother me because I know you’re coming back in a few hours. But it’s still a little empty without you.

And you know what? Your brother and your sister think so, too. Every day, when you come home from school, the house changes. When you get here, there’s an energy that was missing. They light up. They’re different when you’re here. And remember last week, when you went down to play with E., and Nicholas wanted so badly to follow you? He just wanted to be with you.

You are very special, honey. A lot of life is filled up with ordinary, boring stuff, stuff we do every day, like making food and doing dishes and brushing our teeth. Every moment can’t be special. But you are. And I love you very much.