Dear Shep,

You’re about to be 9. In the car last week we started talking about what age you become an adult. We counted how many years we have left together under the same roof until you are old enough to venture out on your own. You and Char both started crying. You said you didn’t want to go. Char didn’t want you to leave. You don’t have to move out tomorrow, so I’m not that worried for either of you, but I sure did appreciate your desire to stay.

Surprisingly, I did NOT cry.  Watching you grow older doesn’t pinch my heart quite the same way it sometimes does for Charlotte and Shelton. Maybe it’s because every extra year I get with you still feels like a bonus. 

You asked for a microscope and Pokémon cards. We also got you a big new bike that looks huge and fits me. Poppa T got you the best microscope he could find and made your month by taking you to the lab to make custom slides. I think THIS is why I’m excited about you getting older, Shep. Every year you age up, you get even more interesting.  Learning new information is what drives you and it makes talking to you so fun. You ask good questions and you really listen to the answers. 

Right now you want to be a pathologist, like Poppa T, but who knows what you’ll end up doing…it’s cool watching you begin to sort it out.

This year you became a legit bookworm. We ditched soccer and Dad and I finally caved and let you start karate. You love it even though it means leaving the house twice a week so I’m kind of impressed.  We cheered when you got accepted into the gifted program at school last month; you wanted in more than I realized. This little win for you, was a gift for me, as your mom. It was as if God was reminding me that he didn’t leave out a thing when it came to your healing. He was merciful to you, and in turn, to me. 

Nothing about you is textbook Shep, but we are used to it now and we appreciate the ride. You challenge us as parents in the best way. Your passions are clearly defined: Relationships, science, hunting/outdoors and reading. You crave time with your dad more than anyone in the world and shot your first deer with him earlier this fall. It was basically the highlight of your life, and probably your dad’s top memory of 2019.

So babe, when you go to sleep an eight year old and wake up nine, we will celebrate you without the ache of time going by. It’s such a thrill to watch you grow into who you are. Engaging, curious and tenderhearted. My anxiety over your future is rapidly evaporating with each passing year, which means for now, your birthdays are simply happy celebrations.  

Happy birthday, Shep. You are deeply loved.

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