Ok Sweet Papito…. Eight is Enough.

Anytime you want to stop growing and remain just as sweet, innocent and full of joy as you are right now, I’m game. I wish I could freeze so many moments from this past year, then rewind them, and play them again. You’ve become so ambitious, which has become one of my favorite things about you.

I’ve now known you for 2,912 days and I love you more each morning and each evening as I put you to sleep, your smile and your heart make me fall a little more in love with you each hour.

I’ve noticed you growing up a little bit more lately…. just yesterday you dropped my hand when you saw a team of girls walking by….unwilling to be the ‘little boy’ holding his mom’s hand in front of girls. I knew it would happen eventually, but I felt it in my heart. And though you told me last night you will always be my ‘baby’, I can see the baby slipping away by the day, being replaced by a boy with a heart and mind of his own. I am raising you for these moments, but I confess to knowing I will miss the ‘little’ you.

Sports is a big part of your life now. I felt like it all happened so fast. Every sentence out of your mouth is about football and Neymar…You say in your school’s soccer team, your nickname is Neymar.  I feel like I learned the most about football this year than I have my entire life! See? You’re never too old to learn something new!

This birthday feels like a big one for me. You don’t play with toys as much as you did because you would rather be outdoors playing. You dress like an older child and will even refuse to wear pink socks. Your clothing size is a big game changer for me since now, you do have to shop in the “youth” section, and can no longer get away with shopping at the little boy’s section.

This year, I have wishes and dreams for you as usual and a little knowledge to pass across:

Work Hard, Play Hard – You do this beautifully now, but it won’t always be easy. As you get older, the temptation to play more than you work will be strong, but learning, expanding your mind and focusing on school, and improving both in school and on the field are important. The harder you work, the better you will be.

Losing is growing – I wish I could tell you that you will never fail, that a trophy will always be within your reach, but not only is that not true, I don’t want it to be. Every time you lose a football game, every time you miss that A+ you want, every time you fail to throw the ball over the plate, you have the chance to grow, to learn from your mistakes and IMPROVE. Learning this now means you will be better equipped for the moments in life that aren’t perfect.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – Give it, earn it: it’s more than a word – Respect adults – teachers, coaches, other parents: they are here to teach you, guide you and help you to grow in to a strong adult. Respect your friends – their friendship is valuable…don’t take it for granted. Respect girls – you are quite a distance from dating (maybe 20 years or so :), but it is important to remember that girls deserve your friendship and respect just as the others in your life do. A strong man will always respect the women he knows and meets. Respect yourself: you are smart and valuable and more than capable of doing anything you want in life.

Nurture kindness – You are a sensitive soul. You love deeply, you feel deeply, you hurt deeply. Assume that others do as well and treat them kindly. Share what you have, compliment- don’t criticize and offer to help whenever you can.

Take responsibility for your actions – If you do something wrong (and inevitably you will, as we all do), own your mistake. If you need to apologize for hurting someone, do it. Learn from your missteps, stand tall and do better next time.

Humble is beautiful – I don’t care how many home runs you hit, strikes you throw, A’s you earn in the classroom – no one likes a braggart. Aim to be the very best version of you, but let your actions talk for you. Confidence is wonderful, but cockiness is unattractive.

Make the world better each day – You make my world better simply by being a wonderful child. But, I challenge you to commit to small acts of good – open doors for strangers, smile at everyone, offer to help someone who needs it, and surprise someone you love with a moment of good. You never know what someone else might be facing and your small act of kindness could make the difference between a good day and a tough one.

And one to grow on….

I have faith in you – Always come back to this one. I will always be one step behind you, supporting your decisions and trusting in your goals and dreams. I have faith, Leroy, that you can be anyone or anything you choose.

I’ll always be here for you. For now, you can be what you’ve always been: my little helper! Kidding, you are my sweet son and no matter how old you grow, you’ll always be my little boy.

Happy eighth birthday, son!

I love you my munchkin, to the moon and back.  More than all the fishes in the ocean and more than all the stars in the sky.