Raising your kid is just like that. You try to mold them and shape them to the type of person you want them to be, but at the same time who they are and who they become is really a crapshoot. You can influence them, but they pull the trigger. Am I who I am because of my parents? Yes, because they walked me through the first part of my life and taught me things while holding me to a higher standard than some other parents. But also no, because I am my own person with my own personality and opinions. They are proud of me for my education and decisions I’ve made in my life, but also my mom comments constantly that she has no clue how the heck she ended up with such a crunchy treehugging daughter.

I think about this a lot when it comes to Liam and it’s kind of scary. There are all these things I want him to do, see, and be, but I know there are going to be tons of hard times and pain in his life too. Things out of my control. Situations where I won’t be there to help him. Situations where he will have to make his own decision based on what he thinks is right and good. And I hope I lay a sturdy enough foundation that he can build on to make those decisions. Problem is, I’ve always been a very shoddy handyperson and my organization skills suck. I remember when he was smaller, at night I would lay in the pitch black, on my side with my knees drawn up, with him balled up against my stomach, one hand under his cheek and the other thrown over me in a sleepy hug while he nursed in his sleep. My hand was always on the same spot of his back, and I would always think to myself how perfect it all is and how I wish we could just stay there forever before I drifted back into unconsciousness and he rolled away into his little space to sleep sprawled out with his butt in the air.

What do I want for him? I can’t even think of it all. And I can’t find right words for most of the things.

I want him to be happy, obviously. But not the ignorant, blissful kind of happy. I want the happiness that is a rarity when a person KNOWS all the negatives and sadness and awfulness, but also knows all the goodness and beauty in life and chooses to be happy because of it. I struggle with this a lot and I wish I knew how to raise him so he won’t have to. That it will just come naturally.

I want him to give. I figured this out early on, and I wish I knew how I did. That nothing is more important in this world than reaching out for other people and holding them. Giving them what they need. That is the only way we will survive anything, and I believe it’s the purpose of life. To give. The earth is constantly giving to us. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be here. There is no need to worry about yourself because if others are giving and have the same mentality as you, then you will be taken care of. I want him to feel the joy of taking what you have and giving it to someone else. How it really does come back to you tenfold. I want him to reach out not with rose colored glasses, but with clear ones so he can see things for what they are but choose to give anyway. And I want others to give to him.

I want him to be humble. I want him to look at a leaf and see the tiny veins and intricacies that no one notices unless they study it. I want him to feel wind blowing onto his face and marvel that his body knows to breathe it in even when he’s not thinking about it. I want him to look at an elderly person’s hand and see the withering and thin skin. Feel awe and wonder at the fact that it has touched things in the past that he will never know, and that it is nature’s jacket housing a soul that will never be duplicated. I want him to look into a baby’s eyes and see how wide open and unmarred they are. That the pure newness is a gift to humanity and enough to make you cry with gratefulness. I want him to know he is special and loved and unique in every way and that he is the only one on the entire planet that is HIM. But I also want him to know that goes for everyone else as well. That we are all that way. And sometimes we look at another person with disgust and forget that. That we were all nonexistent at some point, but then were put together and now are here. I want him to feel pure awe that I made something from nothing, knit him together inside my own body. Every capillary and hair follicle was grown from nothing at all, and made into the most perfect baby boy I have ever seen in my life. That in and of itself should make anyone humble, because we all know it happens without us doing anything. We don’t actively build that life. And I want him to wonder who or what does. I don’t care whether he calls it God/Goddess, Nature, Evolution, or Bill Nye the Science Guy. I just want him to feel that awe and that belonging and that feeling that there is something bigger than we are happening all around us every day.

I want him to understand how much I love him. I want him to experience that same ferocity that makes you say, “screw all the niceness and the fact that everyone is special and equal and all that junk. You hurt my baby and I will rip out your throat with my bare hands”. The joy that makes your chest ache when you see their smile. The tears that fall either out of feeling physical pain when they do, or out of feeling awestruck at their existence. The urge to keep them balled up against your stomach in the dark, wishing time would stop so you never have to leave that safe place.

I want him to laugh. All the time. Because life happens regardless of whether you are cracking up or scowling. And it’s much easier to get through if you laugh.

I want him to have a connection with animals. There is something about staying connected to that raw innocence and purity that keeps you from getting swept up in humankind and all it’s crap. I want him to realize that sometimes just laying on your stomach in the dirt next to a dog and watching the sky is more worthwhile than shopping or driving around or buying things. That they will teach you things if you let them. They have no flaws, and people mistake their meekness for inferiority. I want him to learn respect, devotion, loyalty, and humbleness and I can think of no better way than to spend time with animals.

But mostly I want him to stay little. Every milestone makes me smile and breaks my heart at the same time. I remember clapping my hands for him while smiling and telling him how good he was when he pulled himself to his feet for the first time while holding onto the couch. As his toes curled into the carpet for balance, I thought about how his grip on life will take him away from me and out on his own little by little. And how he is my little ball of play doh, so I’ll do my best to not make him too lumpy and uneven. Then I took his picture and smiled because I’m so lucky to be the chosen one for him.