The Best Gift I Can Give My Son On His Birthday
Today is my son’s first birthday. I have officially kept another human being alive for an entire year. And not just alive, but thriving! He has gained pounds and grown inches, he can get himself from Point A to Point B, noises that sound like words come out of his mouth, and he is beginning to divulge his awesome, unique personality.
Looking back, my own mom seemed so wise and grown up in my child eyes. I know I have all of the trappings of a grownup –I have a vegetable garden for goodness sake! – but it still boggles my mind that I am so unquestionably an “adult.” I don’t feel as omniscient as my mom always seemed to me. Having lost both of my own parents (my mom six years ago and my dad before I was born), I have no excuse to feel like a child as I am not anyone’s child. Yet, every once in a while, I have a quick, fleeting blip in my brain of wondering when my son’s real parents are going to come get him and be responsible for the important decisions in his life.
If I sat down and made a list of all of the decisions I have to make on behalf of my son and all of the ways in which those decisions will shape the man he’ll become, the pressure would overwhelm me. I want him to be kind and empathetic, smart and driven, funny and fun-loving. I want him to be happy and I want him to bring happiness to others. But, in the day-to-day, I also want him to be fed, and clothed, and rested, and treated when he’s sick. And, above all, loved.
I need to recognize my own limitations in determining what his life looks like. Eventually, I won’t be able to control his decisions or his happiness. Looking into the future, there are only certain actions I can take to affect who he is and the life he leads. I can do my best – now, when he’s young – to instill in him the values I find important. I can ensure his daily well-being. And I can try both to give him some financial protection as well as to ensure that my life does not become too much of a burden on his.
Having been through my own mom’s horrible battle with cancer and eventual passing, it is important to me to protect my son from as much of that pain as possible if I have the misfortune of going through a similar illness. To me, this means ensuring that I have detailed incapacity documents laying out my wishes if I can no longer make decisions for myself. It means having a living trust so that my family does not have to go through the probate court when I die. It means ensuring that as many of my assets as possible go to my husband and my children if something were to happen to me.
These aren’t easy decisions to think about, especially on an occasion as joyous as my son’s first birthday. But no one said being a parent is easy, and I am sure there will be no shortage of difficult decisions I will have to make in that role. At least, for me, this is an easy one: protecting him will always come first.