Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Letter to my Son (Bama Graduates)

It seems like yesterday that my son was so small, so new to this world. And don't get me wrong, he still is... "new". Though today is it with different eyes I am seeing my son, for he quickly is becoming a man (he will be 19 in August). A man of who I greatly admire, for the choices he has made, the mistakes he has righted, the road he has chosen and the way he has served and continues to serve others. Most importantly how he serves his Lord and has dedicated himself as a Christian.

(The above two pictures are a mission trip Bama went to Mexico and built homes for homeless families. He lived in the community in a tent for a week.)

(In the above three photos, Bama and I drove to Pascagoula MS, the day after Hurricane Ivan and got to work, helping anyone who needed us. Bama helped to rewire homes and clean debris, as well as delivered donated clothing and food to the military who were distributing it)
I am so proud of the person he is and the man he is becoming. Last night, it was a bittersweet moment, as I watched this child of mine walk across the stage and accept his high school diploma. In just a couple short months he will leave this nest he calls home, spreading his wings in new found independence. It's a time for me of pride and sadness that my child will never be my "little boy" . But rest assured, he will forever be my baby-no matter how big he gets. If you haven't read the book, "I'll Love you Forever" you really must.
"I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be."

(Bama in Mentone, Al 2006)
There is so much I want to tell him, but I held onto a letter I came across by Sonya Green that says everything I want to say to my son. I made a few changes to personalize it to him. So at the risk of permanent embarrassment to him, a letter to my son:
"You will soon be leaving home. I keep repeating that statement over and over in my mind, trying to understand what it means. I have had your lifetime to prepare for this, sometimes wanting it to come quickly and sometimes hoping this day would never come. Most of the time though, I have been preparing myself and preparing you, by madly gathering life’s questions and answers in the hope that I haven’t forgotten anything. I keep revising the list inside my head; checking off all the things I know I’ve already told you – so many times.
(Bama in yellow shirt, cira 1994)
As tempting as it is to slip a few of the big ones into a casual conversation I correct myself and let it go. An image of your face appears before me and I see your eyes look upward and your mouth tighten with that expression of yours that we both know so well. “Mooooooom, I knooooow – you have told me a hundred times already.”

(Bama on his bike, cira 1994)
Well, you know me well enough to expect a letter tucked away in your luggage with just a couple of pages of instructions about ‘keeping yourself safe and healthy’. You might even expect to find food in there, a little treat to keep you going. And lots of XXX’s scribbled on a note like noisy kisses on your bare belly.
(Picking fruit at Grandpa's 1996)
Protecting you and preparing you has been such a big part of who I am – it’s hard to redefine myself and accept that my job with you is done.
(Bama and his baby sister, 1998)
I remind myself that this is about you, but as usual, here I am making it about me again. Slightly neurotic, I find myself wanting to explain or apologize or gain some kind of absolution from you. I want to go back into your history and call myself to your attention and wipe the slate clean of all my mistakes. I do admit that I have been selfish and hypocritical at times, and I don’t want you to leave now thinking it was your fault or that you didn’t deserve better. Yeah, yeah, I hear you say ‘Don’t worry about it, it doesn’t matter”. That is soooo My son, Bama. But I have always tried to make a concious decision to put you and your sister and brother first. You have always been my priority. It may not have always seemed that way, but one day when you become a parent, you will understand.

(Bama dedicated his life to Christ and was baptised 2000)
I have such an urge to tell you of promises I made, as you slept below my heart all those years ago. Letters I have written to you through the years and tucked away in books and notebooks. So very real and profound to me and so intense I’m sure I’d cry uncontrollably if I even tried to tell you. You of course, would shift from one leg to the other and endure my disclosure with discomfort and impatience.
(Bama 2001)
Mini movies of first steps, first words and first everything else’s consume me. Tooth fairies and Santa Clause and Easter bunnies. Little trophies, wall posters, clay models and lego buildings. Family trips, Games of risk, uno and go fish. Your first swimming lessons at 6 months with my friend Janet and her son Mason. And moments like when your dad taught you to ride a bike in Sarasota in the back of a church parking lot as I cheered you on. It's all in my head, like a movie reel, God has blessed me with such beautiful memories of your childhood.

(Ground Zero & NY 2003)
I’m indulging myself, it’s my prerogative, but I have promised myself to keep it all to myself. I want to reminisce, at a time when you have one foot out the door. I’m going back to the baby and you are going forward to the man. You have freedom, independence and adventure on your mind. I know you are ready; capable, competent and smarter than I’ll ever be.
(Big Catch 2006)
My attitude shifts as I accept you don’t need any precautions, no more moralizing; no more “You know what you should do…”
(With his "Big Daddy" 2007)
And even though I have represented myself as parent and teacher I see so clearly that I have also been the pupil. I have learned so much from you, you have played such a large part in moulding me into the person I am. You have taught me well and I thank you.
(Leigh driving Bama (with broke arm in plastic) and a friend on jet ski 2007)
Now, I’m compelled to tell you of all the things about you that fills me with pride and awe. Another long list of what you have achieved, the person you are, your character and integrity. I want to place wishes on you and insist that they all become true for you. I want you to stand at the head of the table and have everyone who ever knew you, come forward and pay tribute to you. But, you would hate that too.
(Bama and his cousin 2007)
It’s never about what you have done or anything that you are capable of doing. It’s only ever about who you are; the real value is in the fact that you exist. No, you don’t need to be told who you are or what you are capable of. You don’t judge yourself by such things and I don’t want you to do that either. You are your own person and you are comfortable in your own skin, and at the end of the day, that tells me that I have done well. That tells me, that you are ready for the world and the world will be better for having you as a participant.

I really don’t need to tell you any of this - I even wonder now what impact any of the words have ever had. I do believe that I have taught you by example, but more than that, I think you have always known my heart. The umbilical cord might just be symbology for the heart to heart connection between mother and child.

When you leave in just a few short weeks, I will light an imaginary candle and place it on the window-sill. Think about it, if you wander into shadows or if you need to lighten up. Let it always be your beacon.

And all in all, there are only two things left to say to you, “I am proud of you and I love you.” Forever and Always my baby you'll be. I love you, "Bama".


Swampgirl said...

Congratulations! I know you are proud of him! Wish him the best...even if it is from War Eagle territory!

Mari said...

What a beautiful tribute to Bama. He sounds like a special young man and you are right to be proud of him! I used to read the I love you forever book to my kids too - it's a good one!

"J" said...

He is who he is because of who you are!!!! You and Big Daddy are such a WONDERFUL LOVING family!!!!!


You have every right to be PROUD!!!!!!


It's me for real - J - Jeannie - Musings From Left Field!!!!


You did such GREAT post in honor of *Bama*

I hope yall have a WONDERFUL weekend!!!!! Enjoy every minute of it!!!!!



marty39 said...

Oh what a special and precious tribute to your son Bama. It is so hard to let them go. But I do believe that when we let go, they return more fulfilled and more complete. The Lord has him in His hands, and He is the best watch. God Bless. Hugs, Marty

Valerie said...

Okay, now that I've stopped crying long enough to type, might I say that was a beautiful tribute to your son!

Congratulations Mom (and Dad) on raising such a handsome and fine young man.

I seriously dread the day that Mary and Benjamin will leave the nest, and yet, that is our purpose as parents. To raise responsible, indpendent, loving children into adults!

Blessings to you,

Kristy said...

OMG!! Leigh, I am in tears right now. That was the most loving and moving letter or note, whatever you want to call it. I feel so much of what you wrote as I watch my son grow up. I know the day will be here soon (he will be in the 7th grade next year) and the feelings you have I know I will be feeling as well. The book I Will Love You for AlwayS my Baby you'll be, I have and have saved for Josh. I know that you and Tom are so proud of him and I know have done a wonderful job raising him. Congrats!!!!

Joyful said...

Oh man! What a precious tribute to your "baby"! I can't even imagine what that feels like. (I've got 5 years to prepare)

In celebration, you should take him to dinner at Nikki's West where he will enjoy a wide variety of meat and veggies.... that is, as long as he is not wearing a tank top, bare footed, or wearing rollers on his head.


Keetha said...

Lovely, lovely tribute to your precious son.

The combination of pride, sorrow, and joy at graduation is quite a mix. It doesn't get any easier with "practice" (That's my experience having graduated all four of mine.)

Bama - - - I'm proud of the life decisions you have made, the most important of all being to let the Lord be the center of your life. Enjoy college, Roll Tide, and I'll be looking for you in the student section of EVERY Bama game I watch.

Chandy said...

Leigh, what a great Mama you are for raising such a wonderful man! Your letter to him made me tear up as I face the same next school year when my own senior gets closer to that diploma.

I wish him all the best in his future adventures. May he always be true to himself. You have a great family!

Hugs, Chandy

jennifer said...

Tears... that is what is in a mother's heart.

Congratulations to Bama!! He has definitely always been a gorgeous kid on the outside, and by reading your post, I know he is has a great heart to match.

The world Bama, it's not yours to have, it's yours to bless. Make a difference wherever/whenever you can.

Mrs. Schmitty said...

Congratulations to him! And to you momma...what a handsome man!


Congrats to Bama...and have raised a fine young man....and very handsome. I loved the post. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

Joanie @ The Bright Side said...

Congratulations to you both! What a great letter to your son. He looks like such a nice young man. Best wishes to him.

Kirby3131 said...

I was in a full blown tears running down my cheeks when I read this many days ago and it just occurred to me that I never left a comment.

Congratulations Leigh. Congratulations Bama!

What a wonderful family.

Derek said...

Wow, Leigh, that was awesome. Is he still coming to Tuscaloosa?

Glenda/MidSouth said...

You have good reason to be very proud of him. Congratulations Bama.

Cindy said...

What a wonderful tribute to your handsome son! Congratulations Bama! Cindy

Kathy said...

That's awesome! Congratulations to Bama. Sounds like a wonderful young man. Maybe he can hang around a while after college...I've got a sweet girl who might want a date then. (If her dad would let her!) ;)