I am cleaning house as usual. Which is to say I am wearing fuzzy pants with green frogs hopping across them and twirling the mop around to match the beat of a song I’m making up and singing for the kitchen walls to hear. You mosey up to me in your shark pajamas, tilt onto the heels of your red cowboy boots and say “Howdy, Pampers” in an accent that got lost at Twang and ended up a watered-down British. You make the shark on your shirt bite the frogs on my pants and I yip and yell like I imagine a bunch of dying frogs would and you laugh and laugh and laugh at all this hilarious pajama murder. I am laughing too, so loudly that I almost don’t notice when you shake your toddler head in that “Aw, shucks!” way and say “Mom, you are so weird“.
A pause. Because throughout this, your third year in the world, this comment has both delighted and destroyed me. Around a group of neighborhood kids my voice and my face and my standing perfectly still is what you call “weird”. I try crossing my arms or looking at my feet or pulling my too-short sleeves down to stop humiliating you, all the while feeling the sting of a surprise slap. When did you get 16? Are we already to the part where I’ve “ruined your life”? Should I stop breathing? But I let these occasional hurts slide because there are those many days when you tell me I’m weird with a little love-twinkle in your eye, and it is the lucky ticket. Sometimes, when you tilt your tiny chin to the side as if you’re evaluating the very best art and tell me I’m the silliest, I wait for the bouquet of roses, the shiny crown because I feel suddenly like the fairest, zaniest Miss Silly America in all the land. What I think you are old enough to know now, on the eve of your 4th birthday, is this: good weird or bad weird, you have me pegged. I am weird. And whatever I am, my lovely boy, you are, too.
For instance, it’s a little strange your philosophies that boy squirrels don’t have wieners or that dinosaurs still roam the woods behind our house or that chocolate helps grow muscles. Quirkier still is your style… in which plaid on top of plaid with some more plaid finished off with cowboy boots makes both fashion and sense. It’s peculiar that you don’t think babies are human, using your high-pitched tone with a newborn as if you expect it to fetch or sit. It’s strange how no matter the game or race it is always only fun if you win. It is freaky how you never seem to be listening save for the one time I stub my toe and barely mumble a “shit”. It’s not right that for all the semi-wise things I’ve tried to tell you, “Shit” is the one you keep repeating. It’s bizarre how you’re not phased by the rabid, flying monkey-beasts of Oz but horrified when I mention vegetables or baths. It’s crazy how you can actually never stop growing. I expected the regular plateau, but you, man-child, are all steep hill. It’s offbeat, I suppose, that your favorite expression of affection is a drop-kick Sleeper Hold. It is odd how smart you are, truly smart. How can such a small person see and feel and understand so deeply? It is ridiculous to think that not long ago there was no you . It is weird that there was a moment ever in my whole old life that you weren’t the strange, bright spot at the heart of it.
But for all things unusual, there are also perfect norms.
It isn’t so weird that we dance in the living room, the parking lot, the grocery store, the bank. We have the music in us, child, and we can’t be held accountable for how it looks when it comes out.
It isn’t weird that I must smell your hair any time you are near me. No dainty sniff will do. It is perfectly acceptable to snort your head until I inhale every last ounce of baby smell. Down the brain, let it drain, swish it around in my mouth like a wine snob hinting a note of dirt and bubblegum and innocence.
It isn’t weird that I’m chubby. You’ve seen me eat. Stop poking my belly squish and saying “Wow”.
It isn’t weird that I mostly stare at you with eyes stretched wide and bulging. A logical theory I created when I was five, I believe that the bigger one makes her eyes the more she’ll see. All the time with you I don’t want to not see everything.
It isn’t weird that I would chew my arm off if you wanted me to. In fact, on peaceful days like today I wonder if I shouldn’t just go ahead and start biting, take that limb clear off and have it packed on ice for the time you might need it: just in case, just in case, just in case
It isn’t weird that I don’t let you ride the dog like a small horse. Puppies have spines, too.
It isn’t weird that sometimes I get sad when we pass a stranger at the drugstore or the grocery or in traffic. Not sad for any other reason than I wish they all could know you, could have a smile like yours warm them up. How unfortunate they are, and they don’t even know it.
It isn’t weird that the moment I met you I knew we’d known each other a long time.
It isn’t weird that you have to sleep. Bedtime: I really did not make it up.
It isn’t weird that for all the time my loud mouth talks and busy hands type, I cannot find the word for how fiercely you are loved.
So Happy Birthday, weirdo. Enjoy it in your peculiar, eats-only-icing, says- ‘Happy Birthday’- to- all- his -party- guests, wears-western-boots-with-a-sombrero kind of way. Remember there are worse things than being weird. Not being weird would be chief among them. I love you strangely, oddly, insanely, eccentrically. But more than anything, Thomas, I love you muchly.