Today he's turning six and he's got the card to show for it.
He doesn't know that it was picked out reluctantly. This card with a big bright red six on it and hyper-realistic superhero characters may be just the right thing for this newly six year-old, but his mom feels like it doesn't tell their story – not with its words, not with its colours, not with its synthetic and impersonal feel. The card is generic and doesn't represent the event that redefined her life nor the way she wishes he lived his.
She is going to have to explain to him that superheroes are not guys and girls with capes and big muscles. Heroism is not measured by physical strength, or readiness to jump off a building but by behaviour. Superheroes can make mistakes but they strive do the right thing always. Even when it's difficult.
She wants to make sure he understands that Bad Guys won't announce themselves by sporting three eyeballs and a shaggy blue fur like the monster on the card and the fire they spit at you may not be visible. The good news, she'll say to him, is that there will be other tells and learning to recognize them will help you stay out of trouble.
Maturity is not represented by a big bright red six. There's always going to be someone older than you, she'll tell him, but they may not be more mature. Maturity is not about age, it's about taking responsibility and being held accountable for your deeds and I'm SO proud of you for doing that.
The card we gave you is cheerful and shiny and bursting with primary colours. Things aren't always so cut and dry simple in life. There will be lots of grey zones, where your course of action won't be that clear. As you grow up you'll gain more experience that you'll be able to rely on but until then consider our experience yours. Mom and Dad have a little bit more of it.
You'll notice we've added our own words to the card. Don't let others do the talking for you, if what they say doesn't reflect how you feel. Following rules and guidelines is important and necessary but don't be afraid to think outside the box. Outside the box is where great ideas, stories, inventions and sometimes even history are born.
And if there's just one thing you'll remember out of all of this, I'm hoping that it's this: the words “happy” and “birthday” are almost synonymous to a child, I know. Birthdays make you happy. So do cakes, balloons, new toys and your friends. Cherish your birthdays, every moment of them and the memories that you're left with, but remember that your happiness doesn't have to depend on others – people or events – happiness is a decision and as such it's always with you, and this is great news.
Take all the cards and letters that were ever written by mothers to their children and I still love you more than that. More than any card could ever contain.
Happy sixth birthday, Ben.