I look back at pictures and can’t believe he looks so little.
Those beautiful black-brown eyes. The chubby cheeks that have since thinned out. The contagious smile that, even from age 2, could light an entire city with one little flash.
All in one tiny, perfect package our family waited one what-felt-like never-ending year to meet.
Our prayed for, longed for, perfectly and wonderfully made Superman.
Today, turning 7.
I didn’t know the day his nanny placed him shrieking in my arms how much I could love.
I didn’t know as that then 2-year-old boy arched his back and screamed in terror how hard I would fall.
I didn’t know that one little boy could completely turn my formerly self-centered world completely upside down. Light a fire in my soul. Place a new passion in my heart.
But that’s exactly what Superman did.
He opened our eyes. He changed our life. He showed us GOD’S heart. And we have never, ever been the same.
Because watching a once-orphan become "brother" and "son" rocks your world.
Watching a little boy who has to FIGHT for the things we take for granted every day — from using opposable appendages to enjoying a body that can operate without medical intervention — brings new gratitude. Wonder. Sheer and absolute amazement. Total awe and appreciation.
Walking beside the boy who carries your heart outside your body as he navigates a new and old world and the complexities of having two moms and two dads and looking different from the one who calls him “son” brings entire worlds into perspective. And makes you fight harder for the orphan and first family than ever before.
Superman is one of the sweetest and most tender souls I know. He feels big, and his compassion is huge. He's the first to tell me I look beautiful when I brush both my hair and my teeth on the same day, and he is amazing at noticing the overshadowed friend in every room.
He's a little lover, an Orphan Warrior and the perfect-fitting puzzle piece in our little personal tornado of chaos, and he has taught us the meaning of LOVE on a hundred million levels.
As easy as it is for Superman to love others well, he himself doesn’t have an easy life. He spends three sessions a week in occupational and physical therapy appointments and many more hours practicing those exercises at home. He uses an e-stem unit that sends electrical waves through his hand to attempt to activate muscle groups that haven’t seemed to work in years. He spends more than an hour each night enduring medical treatments that allow his body to work properly. And, after 14 casts, 10 surgeries and nearly three years of OT, he’s still fighting to use his once-pointer-finger-turned-thumb the way his peers and classmates do.
And yet, he doesn’t know a word other than “overcome.”
Learning to read was at first a struggle for this little guy. After not hearing a lick of English for the first two and a half years of his life, he was still working on vocabulary and English pronunciation when we began teaching him how to sound out words at age 4.
BOB book after BOB book, tears would fill his eyes as this little perfectionist knew that he couldn’t sound out all the words correctly. No matter the encouragement, no matter the consolation, he would refuse to be less than hard on himself as he learned this new and sometimes tricky skill.
But he never gave up. He never gave in. And, by the last day of kindergarten this year, this incredibly hard worker actually earned his class’s “Remarkable Reader” award.
And then completed his summertime goal of reading 10 easy reader chapter books in just one week.
For a year and a half, this sweet superhero has been struggling to learn to ride a bike. He wrestles with proper balance, and gripping a handlebar with a new thumb that lacks strength is challenging.
Super-spouse and I have tried every trick in the book, with Superman’s multiple knee and arm scrapes to prove it.
This up-for-anything little guy entered physical therapy in April, and, just three months after working with the most amazing PT who taught him balance and coordination, this week, mounted his bike … and rode it all the way around the parking lot.
My hoarse voice couldn’t cheer loudly enough.
Math didn't originally come easy to him. It took a year to learn numbers 1 to 20, and he struggled hard core with number flashcards. But this determined little boy insisted we practice day after day, until, the month before kindergarten assessments, something clicked.
Although it took a year to count to 20, it only took a month to learn to count all the way to 100. And once he caught on to numbers, he became unstoppable.
His favorite math is the kind where he calculates how old he'll be when one of his favorite people is a certain age. He adds and subtracts in his head without ever really being taught to do so, and once you tell him your age, he will remember it forever. This summer, he's flown through first grade math workbooks, and he LOVES beating his daddy to the answer of an addition problem.
He's extremely logical. SO smart. And 100 shades of Crayola bright.
In everything he does, our little firecracker gives his all. He gives his best. And, although we sometimes have to remind him that “can’t” isn’t a word we use in this family — we say, “I need to practice more,” — he constantly puts in the hard work and overtime to reach the goals he sets for himself, even when he sees that his starting point is a bit behind his peers.
This smart cookie just doesn't give up.
What’s more, he conquers hard things all while exuding joy.
Superman is a ball of energy. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word “still,” and “walking feet” are just not in his vocabulary.
This excited-about-life little boy simply skips everywhere he goes.
His joy, silliness, hilarious antics and pure laughter are contagious, and his brothers love nothing more than tackling him and tickling him until they get to hear it.
But if we’re just being honest, we’ve had to work a little harder to hear it this year.
When we brought Superhero 4 home 11 months ago, Superman’s sparkle dimmed just a bit.
He adores his little brother, and these two peas in a pod can spend hours building and light saber fighting and reading and wrestling without noticing a world that goes on around them. But giving up his place as the baby after enjoying it (and I mean, REVELING in the constant doting and attention of EVERYONE who stopped us to tell us what an incredibly cute kid he was), was not easy.
It’s taken almost this entire year to transition. And although he loves being a big (and has been SO sweet at showing Superhero 4 the ropes and even teaching him how to make caprese kabobs and assemble Legos), he does occasionally ask me if I remember when there were only three kids in the house.
“That was back when I was still the cutest member of the family,” he’ll tell me.
We’ve tried to go out of our way to give Superman some special attention (because Superhero 4 is a charismatic spotlight stealer who demands your physical and mental attention at all times), and he and I came up with a code phrase he can use anytime he needs a little more. (He just can’t use “Operation Special Time” when I’m in the shower. It’s my 10 whole minutes of silent glory.)
He’s still a lover and physical touch kind of kid, and a few minutes of snuggles (a privilege for this physical touch mama) are usually enough to restore that trademark smile to his glowing little face.
Although Superman loves Legos (the kid has the patience to follow the instructions to build an advanced set almost completely on his own), Star Wars (as our best independent player, he can entertain himself for HOURS using figurines in imaginary floor-time battles), drawing (my printer paper supply disappears regularly) and soccer (he played on his first team this year and pursued that ball like nobody’s business … with the herd of other 6-year-olds who simply chased the ball around the field like a swarm of gnats), what he loves more than anything is family.
His brothers and his cousins (especially Sam) are his best friends and his favorite people in the entire world, and he’s quick to tell his brothers that family is more important than events, things or friends. (You preach it, Superman!)
He cherishes quality time above all, and he loves nothing more than a six-person treehouse Nerf gun battle on a warm summer night.
Which is a good thing, because I’m not sure how else he is going to afford entertainment for his 16 future kids.
And “absolutely, positively” no wife.
(“Don’t worry, Mom. The first four I adopt will all be teenagers. They are in the most need. And that way, they can go get jobs and help me babysit the other 12. Besides, I can’t start adopting from China until I’m 30. I have a long time to save,” he tells me.)
Of all the things he wants to be when he grows up, a daddy to 16 superheroes-in-waiting is his favorite to talk about.
So much so that on kindergarten career day, that’s what he chose to dress like.
My heart. <3
Superman, I don’t know what we ever did without you. Your sparkle and joy and big, big LOVE just light up our lives, and your heart for God, family and others challenges me every single day. Your determination and dedication to overcome convict me when I feel overwhelmed by my own challenges, and your joy despite your circumstances inspire all of us every hour of every day.
YOU, sweet boy, are SO PRECIOUS and SO SPECIAL, and today, on the anniversary of the day you were born, we just want you to know what an insane privilege it is to call you “son.”
I thank God daily that I get to be one of the two mamas in your life.
We love you.