Happy Fourth Birthday, my not-so-baby boy!!

Today, February 10th, 2011, my baby boy turns four. Seems like yesterday he was born! He’s not my tiny, scrawny 6lb 4oz baby boy any more! Its been four years since I squeezed my husband’s hand so hard he had finger-shaped bruises for a week! Forty-eight months since I saw those beautiful blue eyes for the first time.Two-hundred and eight weeks since I first experienced the bond that comes from breastfeeding. One-thousand four hundred and sixty days since I discovered what love really is.

There are some aspects of a child’s personality that is inborn, and some that are learned. One of my firstborn’s natural traits is his unconditional love and acceptance of the people he comes across in his daily life. I’ve decided to immortalize some of my favorite moments in the scrapbook I plan to give him when he is expecting his first baby. In honor of his fourth birthday, I’ll share four of them with you.

1.) After patiently waiting through several weeks of rainy, yucky weather, two-year old Payten was ecstatic to see the sun shining one morning. He had wanted nothing but a trike for his birthday nearly six months earlier, and hadn’t gotten to ride it yet! He could hardly stand the anticipation while I dressed him and his almost one year old baby brother, made breakfast, and fed Dylan. He could hardly eat, and as soon as I gave my approval, he jumped up and started putting on his safety gear. He even made up a little song: “Got my helmet, got my knee pads. Got my elbow pads, too. Got my safety stuff so when I fall, I’ll be safe for you!” Opening the door, he raced outside and then froze. I stepped through the doorway, and saw what had halted him mid-run. His trike was gone. His beautiful, brand new red tricycle was just not there. Now, we don’t live in the best neighborhood, and it was not the first time something had gone missing from our yard. But to take a child’s tricycle?! “Oh, no, Payten! I think someone stole your trike!” I couldn’t believe it, and didn’t know what else to say. But he did. He looked up at me and said, “I think somebody’s Mama must have wanted her little boy to have a bike for his birthday, too, but didn’t have money to get it from Wal-Mart. Should we give him my safety stuff so he won’t get hurt when he falls?”

2.) We were playing at an indoor playground when a little girl in a wheelchair was pushed into the area by her mother. She was around 7 years old, and was carrying a two year old little boy in her lap. Her neck was supported in order to hold her head up, and her mother periodically wiped her face to keep the drool from pooling on her neck. Her legs were shriveled, and her arms were very thin and weak looking.  When she entered, the entire room got silent, and everyone stared. One man whispered to his wife, and they both smirked. The little boy ran off to play, and I struck up conversation with the mother, hoping to ease her obvious discomfort at the unwanted attention. After a few moments of curious glances, Payten found a ball, brought it to the girl and said, “I don’t know if you can play or anything, but if you can, do you want to play with me?” She grinned ear to ear and hurled that ball so hard right into the back of the rude man’s leg. Payten and Elise played ball for an entire hour,  until we had to leave.

3.) As Payten’s fourth birthday approached, he could talk about nothing but the Iron Man toy he had seen at the store a few weeks previous. “It can talk!” “He can shoot ‘perjectiles'” “he’s RED!!” When asked to make a wish list, he enthusiastically listed about 15 Iron Man related toys and gifts. One day, as I was flipping through a new magazine, he noticed a photo of a boy with a cleft lip. “Who’s that, Mama?” he asked. “Why does his mouth look like that?” I explained the condition, and told him that the photo was taken for an organization called Smile Train, which provides free or low-cost surgery for families who can’t afford to get their children’s clefts repaired. I carefully told him that not everyone is nice to people who look different, and that people don’t always understand that people with illnesses, injuries, or conditions like clefts, are just like everyone else inside. I told him that some people are scared of them and never take the time to know how nice they are. He was quiet for a long time, then said, “Mama, I don’t want any toys for my birthday. ” “You don’t?” I asked, surprised at the change of topic. “No. I have lots of toys. I want people to buy those kids some smiles, so people will see how nice they all are.” We collected enough money to pay the entire cost of a surgery, meds and all, for one child.

4.) One particularly frigid evening, with temperatures in the low 30s but winds making it feel much colder, we had to take an unexpected trip to the grocery store. As we neared the entrance, Payten noticed a man leaving, holding a young boy in his arms. As the child did not have a coat, the man had taken off his own sweatshirt and was wrapping it around the little boy. This left the man with nothing but a thin undershirt. Payten pointed them out to me, saying, “I’m going to give that boy my coat so his daddy can have his back.”

Dear heavenly Father,

Thank you so much for blessing me these past four years with such a loving, selfless child. We are not a wealthy family, and can’t afford all the things we want. Sometimes we can hardly afford the things we need. That doesn’t bother Payten, though! His giving heart and kind spirit is an inspiration to me. Please show me the way to continue to foster that spirit, so that he may grow up to be just as selfless an adult as he is now.

In Your name I pray…

Payten Neale Bruce…I love you. You make me proud everyday, and I am so grateful you are my son. Thanks for letting me be your Mama!!!