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Just breathe. That is what I was telling myself when my son was celebrating his fourth birthday this weekend and had not taken a nap and was not listening but was running and being loud. He had been asked to come back inside, away from the hot grill but he wanted his father and he got a double dose of determination and stubbornness from both sides of the family and so out he went.

I got on his level, meeting him in the stairwell and I saw the excitement in his eyes and he just wanted his father. He had disobeyed three adults in three seconds but with the intention of showing his father his superhero cape. Just breathe. I speak this aloud, to my son and to myself. I explain why he can not jump outside and that he can wait until his father comes back in and we will all have hotdogs. He says “okay” and apologizes to me for not listening, and then his uncle, and then to his father.

I fret over messes and loudness and then I just have to make myself sit and be. If I don’t do this I will miss out on the company, on the fun, and will worry away another party.

The party continues and everyone leaves with smiles and the kids have grab bags and the birthday boy has his cousin spending the night and it is all so exciting. I remember what it was like to be a kid on my birthday, how it all seemed so easy. Now I appreciate the work that went into parties and how I wish it was all that simple again.

I lay my youngest son down in his bed and then their cousin gets tucked in and I turn to the birthday boy. He grins up at me, sleepy-eyed and precious, eyes grinning to slits like his father’s and nose crinkling like mine and teeth gleaming. “Did you have fun?” I ask him, grinning back and tousling his hair.

“Yes,” he replies. “Thank you for my birthday party mom.”

“Thank you for being born,” I reply and kiss him goodnight. Thank you God, that he was born I pray silently.

I look at this little boy, so much life and spirit and adventure bundled in him he erupts with it with random dancing and song and child-joy. He is my firstborn, the one like Hannah that I cried and prayed for, begged for just that one. The one who was the result of my complete surrender to God, my trust and faith put in Him and finally the stress and need for control left and our firstborn was given life. If only he could know how much I truly meant that I thank him for being born, for being complete and healthy. If only he could know that he is the beginning of this promise that God gave to me, of tiny feet pattering through the house, of air ringing with laughter, of patience tested, of tears of frustration, of potty training and school and questions that I cannot always answer. I thank him for being willing to start down this path of the unknown with me, to break me in to motherhood. He has helped make this unknown beautiful with his charm and humor and unconditional love. He is my firstborn, the one that will pave the way for the others and help them along and be their strength when they need it.

If only he knew the momentous occasion of his birth relieved and confirmed all my fears of being a mother at once but because of him I knew I could, and have, done it over again, twice, and will once more.

If only he knew the sigh of relief on his first birthday that I let out, a sigh that we had made it through the first year unscathed and the next one was on the way.

If only he knew the silent prayer that I prayed on his second birthday that the “terrible twos” would not be so bad, blissfully ignorant that it was the threes I had to worry about.

If only he could know that just one year ago when he was three how I thanked God once more that he was potty-trained, adjusting well to our move and having his brother around and a sister on the way. And I how I prayed even more for guidance on helping him use his headstrong character for more than just the sake of being headstrong. How I prayed for patience and being reminded that he is just three, even if a clever three.

But a child would not be innocent if he knew all these things. That is the joy in a child- they don’t always know the meaning of their life that they carry on their shoulders, the back drop of their existence or the hopes of their parents.

I cup this small face in my hand, this child growing so quickly who sees life as fun and beautiful and something to be celebrated everyday. I ask him what he is thankful for today and he says, “That I will always be your baby, but one day I will be tall all the way to the sky.” I tell him that yes, he will always be my baby and I kiss his forehead goodnight once more, and he turns, still smiling, to sleep.

Now, on the eve of his actual birthday, I think of the long way I have come with him in four years and what may lie ahead. I thank God for the promise of children, that this desire of motherhood that has always been in my heart was not left unfulfilled. I thank God that He is a God able to and willing to keep His promises and how everything truly does work out for the better, even if we cannot always see or understand it.

I could not have asked for a better child to begin this journey with, a child that is growing into an amazing older brother for his siblings. As I leave his room and the ensuing giggles of three boys excited for a sleep-over, I smile my own sleepy grin and thank God that these are my children that I have been given, my promise fulfilled. And that yes, as long as I live and breathe, they will always be my babies.

This post is dedicated to my own Samuel, my own Heard by God, whose name was passed down from his great-grandfather but was more fitting than we could have known.