The One Where My Baby Turns 18.

My first words to him were, “There are two before you. But you are the Prince. For one year. Then you are on your own.”
He interpreted that as, “I rule. All bow down to my wishes.”
He was right

.

He didn’t sleep for the first three years he was on this Earth. Just as we were ready to turn him back in for a new model, My Man headed off to the War College, The Wild Boy and I came to an understanding. Sleep returned to our household and he was content to sleep back in his own bed when dad came home for visits.
He wanted to play football and bugged me until I relented because I was convinced that he would get hit once and never want to play football again.
Hitting was his favorite part of the game and he complained until the last day of his Senior year of football that he should have been a defensive player so he could block instead of a wide receiver.
He is a true Wheeler/Smith in that he loves animals; has a wicked, sarcastic streak; when he loves, he loves big. And when he is hurt, he is hurt big.
He was putting words into sentences at age 1.
He was running around the house at age 1.
His mother was one exhausted 30-something.
He was the funniest kid. I hear rumors that he he still is, but for the last 4 years or so, his interaction with his father and I has been pretty much grunts and stares from his side.
He was born on January 30. 
His mother was born on January 31.
He was the best birthday present I have ever had.

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Eight-Freaking-Teen


Dear Shawn.

Today you are 18 (wow…the sob that just erupted out of me was major…the tears such a shock. I was doing so well!)

In the eyes of the law, you are no longer a child. But you will always be MY child. The child we longed for and agonized over for years. Knowing we wanted you so badly, yet wondering how far we were to go down the modern medicine path in order to conceive you. Thankfully, God took the issue out of our control.

I loved being pregnant with you. I lost weight. Yes, I needed to. And not because I didn’t feel well. Because I felt awesome. I craved healthy fruits and veggies. And watermelon. So much watermelon. In the middle of January. Eighteen years ago when fresh fruits and veggies out of season were Really. Hard. To. Come. By. Ask your dad…he knows. He searched all over Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland to find me the most God-awful pale watermelon that tasted like nectar to this hormonal, craving, mom-to-be.

For one of only three times in my life, I didn’t fret. I didn’t worry. I didn’t fear. God and I seemed to be so connected that I knew whatever His plan for you was…it would be Good.

Dr. Levigne was on call June 5, 1990. He was my least favorite doc in the practice. No bed-side manner. Short. Abrupt. Old. He doubted I was really in labor, being a first time mom, but told me to come in anyway, since he was ‘already at the hospital’. I’m positive I told your dad that I was sure we could wait another day when another doctor would be on call. But your dad had no plans to deliver you himself. At home. He passes out when he sees blood on tv.

After walking the halls a bit, but indeed in labor, Dr. Levigne was anxious to have you delivered so that he could “get home, get packed and head to Florida for vacation”. Didn’t exactly bring calm to me. But I was anxious for you to be born, too, even though your due date was June 19.

Did I mention that we already had your name picked out? Yes…Sarah. You see…you were, we were told, 80% likely a girl. Nana was thrilled since Andy was already here. I was thrilled because I didn’t know anything about birthin’ and raisin’ no boys. Having only Aunt Jenny for a sibling.

We did, of course, call Nana and Grandpa sometime around 6am to tell them we were in the hospital. The travelling Nana already had her bag packed and she hit the road around 9am to head to Northern Virginia. You were not born yet, while she was traveling 81 and 66 to head straight to the hospital.

Oh, did we ever tell you that around 9:30, my ‘brother’ Mike tried to bully his way through the nurses station and come to my room? Your dad intercepted him. I believe they even wandered down to the car to have a celebratory drink in the parking lot. Probably a shot of Jack. You weren’t even born yet! The Fairbanks were great friend’s of ours and we so appreciated Mike’s excitement for us.

It must have been a full moon that night…I never did remember to check…because the hospital was PACKED with women delivering babies. Most of the time, it was your dad and I alone in the room going thru labor together. Including pushing. The nurse would give instructions and tell dad what to do and then would leave the room.

Did I mention that he passes out? He didn’t dare…not after I screamed at him, “DON’T YOU DARE PASS OUT ON ME AND LEAVE ME ALONE TO DO THIS!!!!!!” There may have been a couple of expletives in there, too.

To his credit, because the man does fear love me, he didn’t pass out. He wasn’t happy, but he was strong. Well, until we were in the delivery room. As you were being born, I heard Dr. Levigne say, “Russell, sit down before you fall down.” And he did sit down. Until Dr. L announced, “it’s a boy!”. Nothing brings a man faster to his feet than hearing his first child is a boy! I was stunned. Your dad laughed and laughed. He truly had been saying all along that he knew you were a boy.

Did we ever tell you that babies are usually born face up? You were face down. And because your head and face are so ‘soft’ to be able to withstand the pressures of delivery, your chin was sort of pushed in a bit. So after ooing and ahing over you for a moment or two, you were whisked away to the NICU for a thorough look over. Of course you were pronounced perfect and your face, as we know, quickly regained it’s handsome shape.

The look on Nana’s face when she came in! The joy radiated from her.

But she did have one question, “why is my Sarah wearing a blue hat?” The discovery by Nana that she had TWO grandsons now did not deplete her joy whatsoever. And the huge pink, girly bag of frilly pink clothes and toys she brought with her? She just nudged that behind a chair with her foot and it was never mentioned again.

So. Now you are 18. A man, really. A man that can’t wait to dash home and hit the pool with his buddies. A man that laughs and cuts up at the top of his lungs. A man that loves to play video games, go bowling, and swears he can be both an elementary school teacher AND professional fisherman. A man that recognizes the struggles boys have in elementary school and middle school where male teachers are a rarity.

I am so in awe at the God-fearing young man you have become. I take little credit for it. God had a plan from the very beginning for you. For a change, your dad and I saw it, recognized it and trusted it and Him.

While I am emotional during this period of your life…turning 18, flexing your independent muscles, picking your own college classes, heading off to college…it is a good emotion. Not sadness. Joy. Excitement. Thankfulness. Praise.

I am so proud of the young man you have become. My first born. I love you. Mom.

P.S. Oh, and don’t tell your siblings…but you’re my favorite.