My breath catches in my chest each time I look at this photo, taken earlier this year.
Seems like every year I've written a post on or (ahem) around his birthday simultaneously celebrating and bemoaning the way he just keeps on growing up. In many ways, this year is no different. He's older than he was, younger than he will be -- and growing faster every day.
Over the past year, he started going to the pool on his own, spent his first week at sleep-away camp, competed on the swim team, played more hockey, joined the Battle of the Books, learned the fox trot, took his first out-of-state school field trip, got his own email address, taught himself to make chocolate cupcakes from scratch, graduated from elementary school, went kayak-beach camping with his dad.
And in August he will start middle school, an event which seems both thrilling and terrifying -- at least to me.
There are so many things, both big and small, that I cannot protect him from. The world around us seems like it's going to hell in a hand basket -- so much fear, anger and ugliness that I cannot explain and feel powerless to stop.
Maybe that's part of what I love about this picture. In his sweet, handsome face, I see both the baby he was and the man he will be -- and in that, I see hope.
In this particular moment, I'm not even exactly sure what that means. He's still just a kid who forgets to put his breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, purposefully torments his sister for sport and has started having tween-age mood swings that threaten to undo me. But when he's not occasionally sulking in a corner for no apparent reason, he's a really nice guy with a creative mind, a big heart and a fierce sense of justice. That all seems like a good start.
Plus he looks great in a tux.