Today Riley turns nine!! Happy birthday to my first baby boy. I know I can be strict and hard on you sometimes, but it is all because I want you to turn out to be the great man that you can be. Everyone always says what a great kid you are - so smart and caring. I am proud of you and the boy you are becoming. Have a great time at your roller skating party.
Here is a story that I wrote about you two years ago: My Rock, Riley
The other day I wasn’t feeling well, something that is out of the ordinary since in the craziness that I call my life I have little time for such things. I was sitting on the recliner in the living room and Riley, my then seven year old son, came over, said nothing, but laid his hand across my back. This moment encapsulates what Riley is. He is a loving, caring child, who is sensitive to the needs of others. This is not to say that he is a saint, oh believe me, he has his moments, especially with his younger brother, Aidan, but overall he is the most loving child you will ever see. You see, Riley wanted me to write stories about our family. He loves these stories, but he wanted me to write Quinn’s and Aidan’s stories first. Riley wants to give to others. He is my rock. And now it is the time for me to tell him what he means to me, his mommy.
Riley entered my world on December 13, 2000 after my water broke at 5 in the morning. We weren’t prepared, running around the house, all because he came three weeks early. Riley is always looking out for me though, as he was by far my easiest birth experience. Imagine your first child being so easy. He came at 4:35pm 7 pounds, 7.5 ounces and 20 inches long. He had it all, including hair and a dimple. Neal was so proud to have a son – I was just proud to finally have my Riley here and to not have the nightmare of labor that everyone always talks about. Riley was a very good baby – again looking out for us. He slept through the night at eight weeks old. He was easy to get off of bottles, to potty train, to do anything. But there was one moment…I remember the day when Riley had to be around six months old. He had not slept all day. Around dinner time Neal and I started getting frantic – we would rock him, put him in the swing, even driving around town with him. Nothing worked. Then all of the sudden he let out the BIGGEST burp imaginable and immediately slumped over. A memory sealed in my mind. Looking at him now, I see that same little baby deep down inside of him.
Other memories of Riley. Around three years old he started talking a lot about his eyes. Something that he probably heard from the teachers at school – his big brown eyes, where did he get those? I had heard the same thing when I was a kid. We talked about how he got those eyes from me. And before me, his grandpa Robert. Later when he was four, he told me that after I die, all he has to do is look in the mirror and he will see me in his eyes. I cannot tell you how much that filled my heart with happiness. He gets it. He gets that I am always with him, even when I am not physically present.
At three is when Riley also learned he was going to be a big brother. So proud he was. He wanted a little brother. He was elated when the ultrasound showed it was a boy. He was so happy the day his little brother Aidan arrived. We have a photo of him proudly holding Aidan. The next day, he had to take that photo to preschool. He was the one who first called Aidan “Aidie.” Now Aidan refers to himself as that – Riley has had a big impact on our family. You can tell that Aidan really admires Riley when they aren’t fighting as boys do.
Speaking of photos, Riley loves photos. He loves memories; he loves history. He was the reason I started these stories. He would ask me to tell him this story and that, why not write them down? He loves looking at photo albums. He has used photos to show that he is proud (with Aidan’s birth) and to help him through rough times (carrying one of his dog, Festivus, when he died and then becoming upset when he lost it on a field trip). Riley loves history – he wants to know about this and that. I remember once when he asked about slavery. He talked about how that wasn’t right and how he is going to be better than that to people who are different from him. My Riley is going to be an awesome man some day!
When he was almost four, he started talking about getting a guitar and becoming a rock star – this is an aspiration that he holds even now, three years later. He started guitar lessons at age four, and has written over eight songs. He has recorded some of them with his guitar instructor. Riley is so creative. He loves to compose, write, and create art. He is a sensitive artist through and through. I remember driving in the car and talking to Riley when he was four years old about the various ways to handle teasing or bullies. He would talk about what is right. At home when he would get upset, he would take his own break, or “time out.” He is a psychologist’s dream kid. I am so proud of him, although I must admit that some of his songs are about his mommy yelling (not very good for a psychologist is it?). Riley sometimes gives me a reality check. I had to cut back on the yelling. Now his songs are mostly about school.
In the first grade, we are told by Riley’s teacher that he is helpful, caring, and makes a good choice in friends. He will try to mediate disagreements between friends. He will share. He is a little shy at times, but watches and notes what others are up to. Riley sees everything, hears everything. Just when you think he isn’t listening, he is. He wants to know what is going on. He loves to learn. His reading is taking off, his writing is awesome, and he loves math (just counting his money alone is a joy for him). He saves things. He is very responsible.
When I was pregnant with Riley’s little sister, Quinn, he was so excited. He said he wanted a little sister because if he had another brother like Aidan, things would be too wild around the house. That made us smile. There is Riley, always looking out for us and the furniture. Well he once again got his wish. When I found out prenatally that Quinn had Down syndrome, Riley was once again my rock. He told me that it doesn’t matter, that she will go on to do great things, that everyone has things that are difficult, after all. When I would go on to the internet to look at photos of families with children with Down syndrome or when we would meet local families, Riley always talked about how the kids were so cute or would move around so fast. When Quinn arrived, Riley just LOVED HER. He would hold, hug, and kiss her over and over again. This hasn’t stopped. Riley talks about how he will help her, but not too much because she has to learn to do things on her own. He also talks about how he will help her when he is an adult, when we are gone. It is remarkable all that Riley understands. He knows we need him.
So when I say that Riley is my rock, I mean a lot of things. Riley has brought so much joy to my life. Riley illustrates the best of me. Riley has said the most remarkable things when I needed to hear them, or has laid his hand on me when I needed him the most. Riley is also my “rocker,” my rock musician. He often says that he wants to “rock.” Right now as I am writing this, I hear him on the keyboard. My heart is filled with pride. If Riley decides to become a rock musician someday, that would be great. If he doesn’t, he will forever have at least one number one fan that will enjoy his accomplishments no matter what they are, his mommy.
This blog is about our journey raising three bright, gorgeous kids (Riley, Aidan, and Quinn). Miss Quinny happens to have an extra 21st chromosome (Down syndrome) along with Infantile Spasms (West syndrome) and Stereotypic Movement Disorder. This blog is for awareness and advocacy for families with children with special needs.