You will probably never remember those first 20 months of your life as an only child. But I will. We were best buds, you and I. Together we stayed home, together we played, together we hunted for frogs by the lake, together we entertained ourselves during the loooong hours Daddy was at school and writing papers, together we ran errands, together we haunted playgrounds, picked flowers, devoured Dr. Seuss books, and watched Sesame Street. I treasure those days. But, I don’t miss them exactly. Because every year (five of them now!) has brought about so many changes, surprises, and delights in your personality! I have enjoyed you more with every passing year. I don’t pretend to understand you. Some days you puzzle me exceedingly. I might 9 times out of 10 predict how you will respond in a situation, but then that tenth time, you completely bewilder me by your reactions. You keep us on our toes, young man. We love it. We delight in watching that little man inside of you grow and mature. This past year especially has brought about some big changes. Everyone told me that four was a big year. I was skeptical at first–three was a tough one for us, but now that we are on this side of four, I am a firm believer in the goodness of that year. It has been a crossroads in your life. Some days you seemed to be looking over your shoulder at your toddlerhood and desiring that irresponsible existence once again. Other days you seem to put your hand to the plow and not look back at all–chasing after self-mastery and the responsibility that comes with age.
There are many areas of development I could comment on–your understanding of the gospel, your understanding of your sin nature and culpability before God, your content knowledge of the Bible, your developing understanding of numbers, space, patterns and relationships, your understanding of plot and motivations, your ability to discern your own motives and pronounce judgment on or justification of yourself, your ability to relate to others, your desire to repair a relationship when you’ve done something wrong, your humor, your self-awareness, and your compassion for others. You are looking less and less like a preschooler and more and more like a free-thinking school-aged boy.
Because I am your mother and my whole heart desires to see you on the path of life, I am often hard on you. I have to tell you the hard things about yourself even when your idealistic soul is begging me to stop, to give you a pass, to let it go. I’ve dwelt enough on your shortcomings at other times. Today is a day to rejoice in the good I see developing. I can’t tell you how many times your dad and I have talked late into the night about the condition of your soul before God and how many of those times have ended up praising God because we see so much evidence of the life-giving work of the Spirit. And so, here are just a few areas in which you have grown over the last year.
1) Sense of Humor. There is no doubt about it. You are one funny kid. You understand humor and good wit. You use humor. You are a constant tease. You are also five, so there is bathroom humor galore and nonsensical stuff that just leaves you and Jude heaving with laughter on the floor while your parents quit laughing ages ago. But, you know how to make us all laugh. More than once you have sent your parents out of the room snorting and gasping for air trying to stifle a laugh over your witticisms, observations and often inappropriate humor. More often than not we recite all the Asher quips of the day after you go to bed and have a good second laugh just enjoying the good gift that God gave us in you and in your sense of humor.
2) Compassionate idealism. You have definite expectations of how things should be done. I remember when you were two, you didn’t like my new hair cut and tried to “fix it”. You also–strangely enough–have ideas about what I should wear (you seem to think I should wear sweats, not jeans, and that I can wear my blue cardigan but NOT the shirt with the flowers). This characteristic has become more pronounced over time and the more I discern it in all your ways, the more I understand you. You have strong ideas of what each day should look like, how you will act, how others will treat you, and when something goes awry (which it always does and sooner rather than later) you are devastated. Just the other night we introduced you to a frisbee for the first time. In your little ideal world, you thought you would be able to whip that thing through the air across a huge parking lot. You couldn’t. So, you were upset of course. You imagine all sorts of scenarios about having people over to play. And when they don’t act just how you imagined, you lose your enthusiasm for the play date. Over and over again I’ve seen this principle operate. I am not an idealist like you so I have trouble understanding these high expectations of yours and the consequential despair when they are not realized. However, I can point you to another idealist (daddy!) who has managed to overcome plunging into despair when those ideals come crashing down.
You seem to project your ideals onto others as well, and you have great compassion for them when you know their expectations have been crushed. You easily empathize with new kids in your Sunday school class and quickly try to befriend them. I remember watching you as a barely talking toddler hobble over to a lone girl at the park and introduce yourself by pointing at yourself and saying “Boo” (your nickname). You singled her out because she was alone. I love your sociability and your desire to include people.
You are also quick to tears and even lose your appetite if you see something sad. I remember looking through the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas catalog and talking about how we could buy a goose for a child in Malaysia so he could have fresh eggs throughout the year. You cried and could not eat breakfast because you were so worried about that little boy in the catalog. You wanted reassurance that he wouldn’t starve. Your ideal that every little boy would be loved and amply provided for was upset and you when you saw a picture of a needy child it was almost more than you could bare. This is why I have dubbed you the compassionate idealist.
You daily show your compassion for your sister as well. You are quick to discern her needs and communicate them to me when you aren’t able to meet them. But, when you can help her, you do. I love how you hug her, pat her, find her pacis, bring her toys, clean her room, help her off and on the couch, instruct her on how to play with toys, sing to her, tell her stories, disciple her (“Haven, we want you to make wise choices. Mommy and Daddy use time-outs to teach us to make wise choices and to keep us from being fools.”), feed her, pray with her, wipe her nose and much much more. You are turning into quite the big brother. And you have been rewarded with lots of affection from your baby sister. She practically throws herself out of my arms into yours.
Over this last year you have also become quite concerned about a neighbor of ours. Every day you ask me if he knows Jesus. In our “hi” and “bye” encounters you are pressing me to tell him about Jesus. I usually just tell you to pray that we would have an opportunity in conversation to share the gospel. But you grew weary of waiting around for your parents to seize the opportunities and point blankly asked our friend if he knew about Jesus. How can I not love your idealism and your compassion? I’m so proud of you, son.
3)Sensitivity. Besides being the compassionate idealist, you are also quite sensitive, so if all those overtures to the new kids are rebuffed, your little feelings are injured. It makes me sad for you, but please keep doing what is right and don’t give in to the desire to feel self-conscious and selfishly withdraw. Your sensitivity shows itself in your verbal expressions as well. You have a poet’s soul. You’ve described a little girl as having laughing eyes and a tree in the wind as having dancing leaves. There are so many of these and they have become so commonplace I hardly notice them now and forget to record them when I do. But I love the way you see life and I love the way you express your observations.
I rejoice to see that little germ of the man you will God-willing grow into. I am thankful for the challenge of a willful, idealistic, sensitive, compassionate, and witty child. You remind me of another young(ish) man. One who is every bit your equal in his strong will, idealism, sensitivity, compassion and wit. But one who is your definite superior in tempering those charms with his devotion to God, submission to the Spirit, devotion to family, years of maturation and much, much discipline. You are your father’s son. And as I often challenge you, watch your daddy. Imitate him as he imitates Jesus. I love you, little wild thing! You are “SOME boy!” And we praise God for the good gift of five years with you. Happy Birthday!