Happy Birthday Bahboo

Nine years ago, I was a regular graduate student at Emerson College in Boston. I worked three jobs (editorial intern at Beacon Press, publicity assistant at New Words Books [now New Words Live], and Starbucks barrista) while earning my Masters degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing.

I spent nights drinking at Charlie Flynn's or the Blue Banana (which was really called the Green something but it reminded me of the dive bar from Pretty Woman so that's what we all called it). With my small group of girl friends, I dated my way across Boston -- from the Moroccan accountant in Brighton to the Ghanaian marketer in Dorchester to the regular ole white guy from Chelsea (not to mention the flower seller in Harvard Square, the Puerto Rican soccer player, and a handful of customers).

The point was to have fun, to live freely and in the moment, to do things that my mother would never find out about because, surely, 900 miles was far enough away to get away with something. And I did have fun. Some of my best memories are of that careless, slippery life in the city -- of the scorpion bowl at the hong kong cafe in faneuil hall, of somehow luring bouncers home with us after long nights of dancing at clubs in The Alley, of convincing taxi drivers to comp me rides home after nights at the latin quarter, of grabbing a slice at Dominicks, of accepting pitchers of beer from strangers in exchange for deepening my Southern accent.

It was a good life. A carefree and reckless life. A solo life. It was me and other adults making choices that would impact us and us alone.

And then I adopted my son.

He was born on this day nine years ago. I decided to adopt him three short weeks before his birth and did what I had to do to make it happen. I was scared and intimidated, but the other option was unacceptable. I told myself that I surely couldn't do it any worse than those raising children without the benefit of an education or support system.

So I held my nose and jumped feet-first into the pool of parenting. I decided that if the choice was to sink or swim, I'd better start paddling. I graciously thanked those around me for donations of large bags full of clothes, a bassinet, and mounds of advice. I stood in the delivery room, holding one of his biological mother's legs, as my son fought his way into the world, bruised and exhausted from a sunny-side-up delivery.

And I promised him that I would love him forever and furiously. I would do everything I could to ensure him a happy and healthy life, and that I would never give up on him. He has changed in so many large and tiny ways since that moment, but my determination to do right by him hasn't budged an inch.

I sometimes get mired in the intense struggle of parenting and feel like the absolute worst, most inadequate person to lay his foundation and help him build the life he deserves. I often throw my hands up and look around for someone to tag me out. The frustration eats away at me until I'm raw.

But he's my boy. My sweet, cuddly little Bahboo who still begs to have sleepovers in my bed, seeks comfort in my arms when he's hurting, and looks at me with shining eyes when he wants to share his happiness. His favorite moments are those spent beside me at the table making a craft or working a word puzzle. This past weekend, we sat in the floor and played checkers with his new game, a favorite from his birthday party. I watched him absorb every move I made and get steadily better as the game wore on. At one point, I sat open-mouthed at his skill and he said, "I'm pretty impressive, aren't I?"
I couldn't even laugh at his arrogance. I had to give him a big high five. Because he is. He is so impressive, and I appreciate him more every single day. I am blessed to be his mother and thank him so much for drawing me out of a selfish existence centered around nothing and into this warm, amazing circle of love.

Happy birthday baby. You were -- and always will be -- my most precious Christmas gift.


  • Katie Jones

    Very beautiful story - what a brave move for you to take on a baby as a single college woman with 3 jobs and only 3 weeks notice. Even though I hope I would've done the same thing in your shoes, I cannot imagine how challenging it was for you.

    I love all those precious pictures of little Javi! What a big brown-eyed cutie!

  • Of Pandas and Pirates

    Aw, Kelly! This post made me cry! I've always been in such awe at what an amazing mother and woman you are. Javi is the luckiest little boy in the world. I loved seeing pictures of him when he was little! Adorable! He's right though, he is impressive. :)

  • Anonymous

    You're an amazing woman, Kelly. Oh, and a damned good writer, too. :-) Give that kid a big birthday kiss from me.

  • Anonymous

    Crying...My favorite memory is when he was about 3 or 4 and he told you to "Apologize like you mean it." Hmmmmm, wonder who his mom is again??? He is an amazing kid and you have done such a wonderful job parenting him; you inspire me all the time.
    Karen Crowley

  • Issa

    Happy birthday to your beautiful son.

  • Kelly Miller

    @Karen - ah, the memories of my uppity little boy. My favorite memory of you and Javi is when I was camped out in the L&D waiting room because he couldn't go home yet and obviously they couldn't give me a bed, but I didn't want to leave him. You were one of those wonderful friends who came out to hang with me in that dreary little room and fawn over my new baby. It meant the world!

  • Kim

    Beautiful post! Happy Birthday, Javi! Happy Mommy-anniversary, Kelly!

  • becca

    So sweet Kelly! I'm all choked up here! He sounds like a great kid and he is lucky to have you as a mom. I love how you said you sometimes wait to be "tagged out". I feel that way on so many days an no one ever comes to my rescue. But then, the next moment, my kids are so sweet and I get my groove back and realize I CAN DO this.

    Happy Birthday to your little guy and Merry Christmas to you!

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