My sweet Josiah James,
Today was your first day back to first grade after a long Thanksgiving break. Except, it really wasn’t a break. Our hectic schedule was filled with the usual holiday frenzy and also the excitement of your cousin’s wedding! I watched the back of your head bob back and forth as you sat patiently in the church pew. Every now and then, you turned back and peered at me, smiling at me with your big brown eyes. You were barely tall enough to see over the top. When we sat for hours in holiday traffic, you read to yourself, only asking once, “Are we there yet?” You never complained, not even once, when you had to sit through your sister’s play rehearsal or cheerleading practice. You were happy to have me drag you from department store to department store, to the farmer’s market, many shoe stores and back to the market again. When we got home, you unloaded the groceries for me, without me having to ask. You offered to carry the heavy things, like a gallon of orange juice. You said, “This is what daddy does for you. I’m going to do it for you and my own wife one day.” You melted my heart but I hurried you inside because I had a dinner to prepare and yet another class to get to. When you asked to say the family prayer before our meal, I said, “Not right now, we are late. You can say the prayer at bed time.” I didn’t even sit at the dinner table that night, I stood at the counter, scarfing my food and sorting bills. You didn’t say anything but I saw the disappointment in your little face. I rushed us through dinner, pleased that you had eaten your least favorite veggies, and you thanked me. I yelled at everyone to get their shoes on and I got frustrated with you because you couldn’t tie your own shoe. “You’re 6 years old now, Josiah! First graders need to be able to tie their own shoes!” You looked down and I saw that you couldn’t button your jeans, either. You were too afraid to ask me for help after I reprimanded you the way I had. Instantly, I felt bad. I said nothing, tied your shoes and buttoned your pants. You said, “Thank you mommy.” I pushed you towards the door and said “Hurry up and get out to the car and get yourself buckled! We are running out of time!” You did as I asked.
This morning was a little chaotic too. As I was pushing you out of the door, my only goal was to get you to school on time. I handed you your lunch. You shook your head no and said that you wanted to buy, after all, every Monday was chicken nugget day. I was mad because I had forgotten and had wasted 15 minutes of time making and packing lunches. I could have used that time to sneak some more laundry in. You gave me a sweet hug and a gentle kiss on the tip of my nose, which is what you do to me several times a day. “I love you, Mommy. I’ll see you after school.” I hugged you again, told you I loved you and hurried off to a meeting.
I’m home now, a few hours of me being alone and without kids allows me to do the laundry and household chores. I was folding laundry and putting your favorite dinosaur shirt on a hanger. As I placed the hanger into the closet, your shirt slipped off and fell to the floor. I picked it up, placed it back on the hanger and it fell again. Tears instantly started to roll down my cheeks. It was then that I realized that you, my youngest child, had outgrown the toddler hangers and in the midst of me forcing you to hurry up, I had been missing some of the best parts of your childhood.
When I realized this, I stopped what I was doing so I could write you this letter. You are more important to me than clean clothes and a tidy house.
I’m sorry, Joe Joe. I’m sorry for making you hurry and always feeling rushed. You are a boy with a giant heart and I want you to enjoy every second of your childhood. I will do my best to not use the words “hurry up” or “Not right now. I don’t have time.” Saying those things means I don’t have time for you and I never want you to feel that way. I will be more patient when you are tying your shoes, even if it takes twenty minutes. I will wait for you when you stop and examine every bug you come across. I will let you pray anytime and anyplace. Your love and understanding of Jesus is leaps and bounds above where I was at your age. I will not get mad when I find screws or crickets in your pockets, even if I’m thoroughly grossed out because I know it means you had an adventure that day. I will look the other way when you take apart your radio or remote controls cars, your desire to understand how things works is a gift! I love that about you. I love everything about you, my little dude!
You make me so proud, Josiah James Karl Kernell. You complete our family and bring so much joy and happiness to everyone that you meet. You are a fighter and survivor, the best brother and protector to your big sisters, a great friend to your classmates, compassionate to all animals and the world’s best son. Let’s slow down and enjoy this life!
I love you to the moon and back.