Today you are 4 feet and change tall. Today you are 61 pounds. Today you are missing your top two front teeth. Today you are silly and sensitive and fussy and sweet and observant. Today you are 6 years old.
I have never been so aware of your independent existence. You leave me every morning without a glance back, go running up the bus steps, and for the next eight hours your life is yours. You make choices, good and bad. You eat your lunch too fast or leave veggies on your plate or trade someone for their milk, but I will never know. You play games at recess I will never play with you. Maybe you raise your hand for every question. Maybe you don't. You are wholly your own.
When you come back home you are mine again, briefly. I witness all the fights with your brother, the loss of your baby teeth, the way you like blueberry yogurt more than strawberry, how you always forget to write your name on the top of your homework until the end. I see the dirt on the bottom of your feet because you can't be bothered to put on shoes to go play outside, it's just easier to rip your socks off and throw them in a corner. I see you calling your brother to come find you, or I see you hiding with him under a blanket, two sets of feet poking from under the edge.
I see that these are days I will never see again. I don't know what you'll be like next year except for one thing: you will be more your own and less mine. Every year it will be so until one day, finally, you will leave my door and you won't come home. It's meant to be this way, I know that, but I wasn't ready to actually see it.
So, my 6-year-old, my birthday promise to you is that I will be less distracted for the rest of the days you do come home. I will hug you when I feel like yelling. I will take deep breaths and count to four and follow my own instructions to you. I won't always get this right, but I'll try. I love the you that isn't mine, that never was, your beautiful soul, and I love that soul for no other reason than its existence. You love large and you try even when you're scared and you stand up for yourself and those you love. You will be just fine when it's time for all of you to be entirely your own, but I hope you don't mind if I love the you that's still my boy extra hard this year.
Happy Birthday, Scooter.