For My Son on His Birthday

You’re the one who changed me.

June 22, 1997. That’s the day you took apart the whole of me to be pieced back together in a puzzle I hope will never be completed.

You were my life’s great surprise, usurping this body before I’d finished writing thank you cards for wedding gifts. Unable to breathe out the words “I’m pregnant,” I sucked in the sentence that couldn’t possibly be true.

I told your father the news on an inhale.

We prepared ourselves. With car seats and swings, tiny socks and hooded towels. Diapers and board books and nasal aspirators. And yet.

I could not have been more unprepared.

For stubby feet like new potatoes, your shock of hair falling out in tufts. For endless rocking and crying, for bubbly smiles and gurgling discoveries. You gnawed on a wet fist and I tickled your belly as it collapsed with hiccups. I buoyed you on my lap and marveled at the fierceness of my feelings. I couldn’t get enough of your skin against my hand.

Then touch gave way to sound; your gruff voice asking questions. Tirelessly. What’s that? And Why? Always the why and a curiosity that had no patience for satisfaction.

You were Buzz Lightyear and Peter Pan, cloaking yourself in their greatness, the belief that you could fly. You looked sideways at the frailty of heroes, confident that reality was overrated. Your sense of justice balanced tenuously in a world that wasn’t fair.

You sought to test that world—and me—to be sure we wouldn’t fail you.

I failed you many times.

You forgave me many times.

You sorted through overturned buckets of Legos; Barbie shoes and Polly Pockets attending the mix. A friend shouted, “No girls!” as your sister entered the room. You said, “Yes. Karly can play,” without looking up from your game.

Do you remember making products to sell for 4th Grade Business Day? You spent your “income” on gifts, sharing half the bounty with Karly. You couldn’t see my tears of pride through the shut bedroom door.

I told your father of the generosity on an exhale.

I was afraid you’d inherit my weaknesses, but you’re already stronger than I am in ways that matter most. You make unlikely choices and don’t worry what others think about your differentness. You analyze rules for their intentions and are deliberate with your things, knowing their purposes and whereabouts always. Such conscientiousness is a mystery to me—The Mistress of Lost Possessions and Carelessness.

You are, at times, competitive; but when you don’t care to win, you surrender the victory, succumb to silliness and give up the fight. Sarcasm sings on your tongue; wit spreads across your cheeks in crooked grins. You know you’re funny. And smart.

But oh, my dear Jack, please believe you are extraordinary.

You’ve catapulted me to new depths and heights, engendered in me both pain and joy. I was changed by your birth, trading in the girl I was for the mother I hoped to be.

Soon, before I’m ready, you’ll be gone in a whiff of gasoline and a screech of tires. I can only hope that when you leave, a piece of our unfinished puzzle travels with you.

And even as I spend my days stringing together words for people I’ll never meet, know this:

I will never again create a work as wonderful as you.

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102 thoughts on “For My Son on His Birthday

  1. Julie

    We were standing on rocks at the beach.

    Jack’s was bigger. So no, he’s not that tall.

    I am, however, that happy to be his mama.

  2. “I will never again create a work as wonderful as you.”

    You put in to words what I’m feeling every night when I check on my sleeping son! This was beautiful–I love when things make me teary eyed for happy reasons. Thank you!

  3. That was sooooo beautiful. I am tearing up here at my desk, darn you.

    Just wow.

  4. Julie – This is so beautiful.

    I love how we are both parents of Buzz Lightyear, even though they are ten years apart.

    I dream of my son being so sweet to his sister.

    I think I shall cuddle my children extra close today. They grow so fast.

    Lovely…. just.. lovely. You’ve suck my words away.

  5. .. and evidently my typing ability.

  6. The most beautiful tribute to your son!

  7. So incredibly moving. Your words are always filled with magic. 🙂

  8. Crying into my coffee. What a beautiful letter to your big guy. 14!! Good job, mom. Be proud. (And breathe.)

  9. Beautiful, just breathtakingly beautiful.

    “I was changed by your birth, trading in the girl I was for the mother I hoped to be.” Did you write this for me? For all of us? Because it is so true.

    Happy 14th Birthday Jack. You sound like a young man on his way to being an awesome adult. And you have a lovely mother.

  10. Holy shitballs.

    This was so very good. So, so very lovely.

    It’s very interesting…my daughter’s birthday is tomorrow and I’ve written a birthday post to her as well. Our posts have in common the reflecting upon our personal flaws that manifest themselves in our children, and yet, how much better they are than we are ourselves.

    This so resonated with me today, on the eve of Little CEO’s birthday. You rock. I’m honored to have read it.

  11. I am so fascinated by the mother son relationship, as a mom to 3 girls it is so foreign. The boy to man transition seems so much more forceful and permanent than girl to woman. I admire and am grateful to women like you raising wonderful men.

  12. Happy birthday! And happy mommy anniversary!

    Isn’t it amazing how much preparation work you make toward something that, in hindsight, you couldn’t be more unprepared for?

  13. oh. my. god.

    there are no words.

    all i can do is inhale this, this most exquisite and incredible piece.

    Love you, Julie. You are an inspiration.

  14. Tears…happy, bittersweet tears over your beautiful writing Julie!

  15. Happy birthday to your son, and what a wonderful tribute to him. I hope he reads it, if not now, some day.

    Mine is 6’1 now and nearly 16. It goes too fast.

  16. dale


  17. Julie, the beauty and vulnerability and truth in these words blew me away this morning.

    I see so much of myself in Sage in hurts, because I see things with which I’ve struggled, and I don’t want that pain for her.

    Happy birthday to your boy – and congrats to you for making such a perfect creation.


  18. Of course, you knew I’d love this one….

    And this line… “Soon, before I am ready, you’ll be a man; gone in a whiff of gasoline and a screech of tires.” speaks volumes to me. Because it is so true.

    And I still remember when mine turned 14. So big, yet not.

    Julie, happy birthday (through tears) to your wonderful little boy, without whom you wouldn’t be who you are today.

  19. Your thoughts are beautiful and your writing is breathless. Ode to children who make us better people. Happy “Birth” Day to you, my friend.

  20. Sweet. Sweet. Sweet. Lovely. Vulnerable. Wow.

    I love how you shared his amazing strengths as well as your flaws, because we Mommies are so flawed aren’t we? Your honesty touches me as I read this, along with the deep love for your son.

    I have three sons of my own – all under the age of 7. Because of this, I am going to hug them extra tightly today.

    Happy Birthday to your extraordinary boy!

  21. This is gorgeous. Truly gorgeous.
    I can not imagine how it would have transformed me to have a parent write something so lovely, so vulnerable.
    Lucky Jack. Lucky you.

  22. MommaKiss

    Sweet jaysus you make me speechless. Happy day to your son. And to you!

  23. Julie…
    I have read through this three times, seeking the words to tell you just how much you’ve moved me.
    Yet, I’m failing miserably.

    The most beautiful part of this post is that it shows just how well you understand your son…what makes him who he is. That is such a lovely gift you’ve given him, Julie, to truly know and appreciate him for who he is.

    Happy birthday to your amazing son!

  24. That was too moving. I can’t even come up with anything witty to say. My oldest daughter is 14, too. It seems perhaps we are living parallel lives. I remember quite vividly making scarves with her to sell at her business day. She traded them all away for next to nothing.

    I wonder if you realize just how great of a mother you are? You are so very blessed to have one another.

  25. So, so beautiful. Wow. This takes my breath away. xox

  26. so this is amazing.

    I love the part where he “cloaks himself in greatness” and finds reality to be overrated. Those phrases capture the essence of boys in childhood. Right now my son is running around with matchbox cars taped to his chest and back, because that makes him a Superhero.

    It pretty much made me cry, because you captured what I sense about my sons, but couldn’t put into words. You have a gift. It’s ridiculous how talented you are at writing. I never ever say this to people, but I really do think you should write a book or something.

  27. Sometimes I look at my child and see him as a 14 year old boy because I know I’ll blink and his childhood will be gone. It terrifies me.

    But that first little bit? It’s exactly how I feel. i can’t get enough.

    Happy birthday to your sweet boy, and thank you for sharing such a touching tribute!

  28. Suzie

    This was one of my favorites, Jules! I feel blessed to have you both in my life and to be able to watch Jack grow into a man (well, not quite yet, but soon enough)! I love you both and look forward to celebrating many, many more birthdays together!! Happy 14th Jackers!! Suz

  29. extraordinary writing. i’m so glad joann led me to you…

  30. Julie

    Thanks so much to everyone for the overwhelming love and support.

    I will try to respond individually later;

    But right now, I’m enjoying the day with my boy.

    (and when we get him out of the house, Karly and I will be baking a cake and hiding presents. Good times!)

    So until I can thank you personally, let me tell you all I am so very grateful.

    For everything.

  31. Jbutt

    Oh, my. Oh, oh, my.


  32. This is probably the best birthday post I have ever read. Happy birthday to your son.

  33. Diane

    You – the You you were to become – were also born on the day Jack was born.

    Blessings to you both.

  34. You are our lovely little wordsmith.

  35. Oh, you! Making me tear up!

    This line is especially beautiful:

    “I told your father the news on an inhale.”

    Perfect words to describe such a moment.

    Happy birthday, Jack!

  36. I have never heard a celebration of a child that was so amazing, joyous, complete, and true.

    You’ve knock me over and made me cry. The truth and beauty of it all.

    What an amazing mother you are.

    I love you so much.

  37. You, my friend, are a writer. Simply beautiful.

  38. happy birthday to Jack!

    It sounds like you have an amazing, wonderful, beautiful child and your pride shines through. Changed, indeed.

  39. deb

    amazing.. absolutely.

    (here via JoAnn @ Ostriches shared FB )

    I have five children, a son, conceived on honeymoon, now 22, and four daughters 20, 18, 16, 13. I so get this.

  40. NannyK

    He IS an amazing young man! We all know the gene pool in which Jack is swimming is Olympic caliber. And I love seeing so many of YOUR traits, idiosyncrasies, and mannerisms manifest themselves in my nephew’s persona. But oh how this child can push your buttons; in a few cleverly knitted words, reducing you to a heap of frustration, tears….regret. You are often harder on yourself than you should be, reliving moments of weakness and agonizing over their potential long term implications. The truth is, because of your tremendous love and in spite of your perceived flaws, your children are a blessing to others (the benchmark by which I tend to measure successful parenting). And even at 14 and (almost 12), they still love spending time with you and Bill. Tough to argue with those stats sistah!!!

    Happy Birthday Jack. We love you!!!

  41. Oh Julie, you’ve done it again, left me speechless.
    Happy Mommiversary and happy birthday almost-a-man, no-longer-a-child, Jack!

  42. Diane

    Wow! How ironic that I’m reading this at Adam’s graduation. Now the tears are really flowing. I remember when you told me you were pregnant …and now he’s 14! You’ve done well my dear friend …be proud.

  43. Diane

    Wow! How ironic that I am reading this at Adam’s graduation; now the tears can flow. I remember when you told me you were pregnant, and now he’s 14. You have done well my dear friend …you should be so proud!

  44. Kelly

    happy birthday jack. you are so lucky to have such a beautiful, intelligent, creative mom!

  45. I read this on an inhale. Like a gasp…it’s so beautiful.
    Okay, more than ONE inhale…but lots of held breaths.

    This is just gorgeous. Your heart, changed by motherhood, is jumping off the screen.

  46. Amazing words Julie. You’ve somehow robbed me of mine, not that I could type them through the tears anyhow.

  47. This was beautiful, Julie. May you have backed up and locked down this blog, so that you will always have this post to show your son. It is like the letter I always want to have written, just so there is the beginnings of a description of how I feel about my child. I haven’t gotten there yet, but you have.

  48. Lynn

    As a mother of three sons? This one hit me hard. Thanks. You’ve given me quite the inspiration.

  49. And now I’m changed. What beauty. What heart.

    It felt just like my trajectory with my boy.

  50. Did anyone ever tell you that you should be a writer?

  51. CDG

    I can’t even begin to tell you what this means to me.

    How did you do that? Make it so personal and so universal at the same time?

    Oh, Julie…

  52. Oh my, oh my. What a beautiful song of love for your boy. This letter is a treasure he will, I’m sure, keep forever.

    And I remember so vividly, insisting I didn’t have enough baby washcloths. Once I got those washcloths, I was filled with this oh so false sense of security. Little did I know, that washcloths would mean nothing in navigating this unchartered shore of motherhood.

    And I hide from the phone, too.

    Happy Birthday to your boy and Congratulations on your 14th year of motherhood. The joy never leaves.

  53. This is so very beautiful.

    I don’t have any words to add.

  54. Best. Birthday, Tribute. Ever.

    Happy b’day to Jack. I did initially think: Holy crimoly – dude is tall! Glad to know there was invisible rock goin’ on there. I will likely try to do something like this for Monkey’s b’day in August. He will not be home to read it. He’ll be at summer camp, but I’ll send it to him.

    Did you share this with Jack? And if so, what was his response? Eye-rolling? Hugs? Just trying to prepare myself.

    Thank you, Julie, for doing what you do. For making us all feel the universal experience of whatever it is right smack dab in the middle of your puddle of personal.

  55. Wow. That was just stunning. I literally have tears in my eyes and that DOES NOT HAPPEN TO ME.

    That is such a beautiful tribute to your no-doubt extraordinary boy.

    After all, how could you possibly raise anyone less than extraordinary?

    Happy Birthday, Jack!

  56. I’m bawlin my eyes out here!

    Really, so poignantly written.

  57. Tears and chills and awe. Lovely, lovely post.

  58. Leighann

    I don’t have the words to express to you how beautiful this is.
    So perfectly written and from your heart.

  59. I think this trumps my “you were worth the stretch marks” post I was preparing for my daughter. This person who has never met you is more than pleased (and I usually gag on the sappy posts.) Wow….

  60. Julie

    I’m truly moved by so many kind, supportive comments.

    Thank you all very much.


  61. Julie, you’ve really moved me to tears. How wonderful to have a mother like you, who weaves such stunning and heartfelt phrases. Thank you my friend for sharing your mommy-joy. xo And happy birthday to your boy. The spitting image of you I might add. 🙂

  62. Julie

    Thanks, Heidi.

    For the praise and the support. And also for thinking my son looks like me. (because he DOES!)

    The knee-jerk reaction of most is that my daughter is my “twin” and my son looks like Bill. But no. Jack is all CHRISTIANSON (really…he looks just like my dad did at that age.)

    His mannerisms may be his daddy, but the physical traits (and all his flaws, apparently) he got from me.

    So clearly you are brilliant. And so kind.

  63. Just beautiful! All the way through, I was reminded of both my sons in their own individually special ways. Thanks for the nostalgia. I could have read on and on.

  64. Julie


    Thanks so much. Really. Your sons are so lucky to have you as their mama.

    And I’m beyond lucky to count you as a friend.


  65. What a beautiful post! I think that each and every one of my children have changed me in different ways.

  66. I could read this over and over. This is beyond beautiful. What a gift to your son you are.

  67. Jessica –

    Thanks, sweet friend. I loved writing this for him. I hope someday he’ll know how much it meant to me.

    How much he means to me.


  68. 14 years? No WAY! You are far too young for that. 🙂 And look at the gorgeous photo of him on the boat.

    Yes, our children are indeed are best and most beautiful work, aren’t they?

    Good job, Julie. He sounds like a great kid.

  69. Julie

    Tarja –

    Argh – I’m 42. And my son is really making me feel my age. He needs to stop that immediately.

    But I DO love that picture of my boys on the boat….It was my parents’ boat. It’s where I announced to them that I was engaged, where I asked my bridesmaids to…ummmm… bridesmaids, and where we revealed I was pregnant (gulp).

    I LOVED that boat.
    But my parents sold it when they retired to Palm Desert.


    Just kidding. They’re awesome. And I’m totally over it.
    Mostly totally.

  70. Julie,

    I’ve come back to this post over and over again.

    Because the love here? Is so very pure, I want to keep diving right into it!

    Happy birthday to your boy!

    I hope that his day was pure phenomenal!


  71. Julie

    Oh, Galit.

    Do you know how happy I am that I’ve “met” you here in the blogosphere?

    Besides being a brilliant writer, you have the kindest heart –
    You are so supportive, with encouraging words for everyone;
    and so much love for your family.

    Yours is a friendship to treasure.
    So thank you very much.

  72. A beautiful description. Not only of your son, but also of motherhood. It moves more quickly than we want to acknowledge. (And you brought me to tears. Again.)

  73. This could not have been more perfect. Happy birthday Jack and congrats to you on raising such a dynamic young man. xo

  74. Julie

    Lois – It IS moving so quickly…and I keep trying to soak it up and be in the moment; but then I find myself thinking about the past and how much I didn’t soak up and wasn’t in the moment. It’s a cycle, I tell you. One quick cycle. Ah, motherhood. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I wish it were easier. Or slower…

    Morgan – Oh, he’s dynamic alright. Among many other things…;-)
    Thanks for the wishes for Jack. This year is already off to a great start for him. (and me!)

  75. liz

    Happy Birthday to him! I really love the line – a soul selecting his own society. There is a lot of responsibility on a teenager, in a lot of ways. None of us know it at the time, but who we identify and hang out with, really shapes us in many ways.

  76. Julie

    Thanks so much, Liz –

    Yes, watching my children approach (and enter) the teen years has been nothing short of surreal.

    I spent yesterday with a friend I’ve known since 6th grade. Our daughters (who just finished 6th grade) spent all day swimming together at their backyard BBQ.

    It was strange to see our kids through the filter of thirty years of friendship.

    Indeed, time flies. (and swims. and smiles. :-))

  77. This is so beautiful. My boys are both little and this made me completely tear up. I’m sure it did go by so very fast.

  78. Julie

    Elena –

    So. Very. Fast.

    Don’t blink.


  79. *Sniff*

    You have to save this for him you know.

  80. Awwwww, loved this so much.

  81. So, so beautiful! Happy birthday to your young man!

  82. Julie

    Thanks France,

    I haven’t let him read it yet…

    I think I’m afraid he won’t love it as much as I do.

    All in good time.

    But I am saving it.

    For sure.

  83. ~~~~~This was so profound and beautiful that I am breathless.
    Thank you for your stunning, gorgeous words.
    WOW. Wow. Wow.

  84. Julie

    Nina, Shell and Kim ~

    Thank you, sweet friends, for your kind words.

    You are now officially part of a very special memory.)
    (For both jack and me. I hope!)

  85. I am crying over here! I just loooooved this post. I have two sons and love them so, so much. Just today my 6 y/o acted like he was Superman and kept leaping everywhere like he was flying. I am going to really miss that some day. Thanks for sharing this moment with us all!

  86. Julie

    Kelley –

    Oh yes you will miss it ~ luckily, there are so many more great stages to come, too. (I know you know that!)

    Your boys are so lucky to have a mama like you who appreciates the moments and knows how to laugh.

    Hugs to all of you 🙂

  87. All our little babies grow up, “Sheldon” moved in with her girlfriends for the summer and thinks she’s going to stay on after school starts. Sigh, missing my little girl.

  88. Beyond special, Julie. Way beyond.

  89. Julie

    Thanks Chase.

    I’m beyond grateful for your comment. Way beyond.

    (AND I’m not even being sarcastic, which is rare with me…)

    So glad to have “met” you.


  90. This is so beautiful!

  91. Julie

    Thanks, Julie.

    LOVE your name 😉

    You are obviously very smart. And funny.
    It’s the law when you’re a Julie.

    SO glad to have met you…looking forward to following your story.

  92. Oh this took my breath away! I know I am way late, but happy birthday to your young man…and happy BIRTH day to you. I am finding I am quite comfy in this club of women who were made mothers by beautiful sons. And reading your words fills me up with a hope and excitement for the future.

  93. Julie

    Katie –

    It is the best club, isn’t it? And you are never too late to join. Or to wish Jack (and me) a happy day. We’re both lovers of attention. Until we aren’t.

    THEN we want everyone to go away and leave us alone.
    (What a treat, huh?)

    Thanks for being so awesome and supportive and so much fun (and also inspirational, moving, funny, entertaining, insightful).

    p.s. We need to meet someday so we can invent a secret handshake for our club. Even though everyone’s invited…

  94. Your words say it all so perfectly so I will simply say…
    Love it.

  95. Cam

    beautiful, amazing, touching, pure LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!

  96. This was incredible. I absolutely loved how you “breathed” your way through the story. The continuity was genius. Would you mind if I share your link in one of my blogs next week? I would love to share this with my readers. I found you through MommyPants and I am so glad that I did! Totally a new follower 🙂

  97. Julie

    Thanks Beth and Cam…

    That kind of love IS simple and pure, isn’t it?

  98. Dammit, you made me cry! I decided to check you out after the wonderful Empress Alexandra sent out that sweet tweet last week (? I’ve lost track of time, but I think… it was last week) mentioning you and I together. I didn’t expect to get all teary-eyed, and am now derailed from the other writing I was attempting to get done today, but have actually been procrastinating it because I’ve been away from the blogiverse for a week and a half and can’t help but try and catch up on some reading of my favorite bloggers. Very few have put into words how I feel about my kids, but your words really echoed my own. You capture a bit of how I feel about each of my kids, or rather, some of the dynamics that go on between me, my son, and my daughter. My daughter is almost my clone (which means life will be hard for her, as she is overly complicated and her own worst enemy), and my son is literally like my “sun.” He is the highest of my highs and he lights up a room, and he has the kind of joy that I didn’t know could exist within a person that is of above-average intelligence, nor within a person that somehow, miraculously, sprang from my crazy self.

    Both my children are gifts. They make me ache with gratitude, and with the ever-present, haunting sadness of knowing they will leave me one day.

    Really glad I came over here to shed some tears! Seriously, though — thank you for your beautiful words. I only hope when my kids are older, I can give them a similar gift.

  99. Julie

    Minka –

    (so not your real name, right?!)

    As soon as I saw that tweet from Alexandra I followed you on Twitter – and now I can see WHY she said you leave awesome comments.

    I have a similar situation to what you described with your children, but my daughter is the “sunny” one – she lives her life with a happy smile; her only goal is to please others (which is at times a worry in itself, but I must occasionally get some sleep so I have to let it go).

    It’s sometimes hard for me to believe that two human beings I’ve raised closely together (ostensibly the same environment, the same parenting) could be so different.

    And yet. At their core, both my babies (not so young anymore) WANT to be good in this world.

    And what more could I ask of them?

    Thank you for your LOVELY, kind words – and for understanding what I was trying to say here.

    So wonderful to “meet” you and I can’t wait to check out Righteous Venting.

  100. Well this is amazing. I cannot believe I missed it last year. Happy 14th and 15th birthday!

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