Dear Anders,
It is August, 19, 2014. At precisely 6:59 this evening, you will turn 5 years old. I’m not going to lie. Five is hard. People start expecting a lot more from you, like coloring inside the lines, tying your own shoelaces and wiping your own heinie with much greater precision than you have been thus far.

Yep, it’s going to be tough. But I have faith in you. Look how much you have accomplished already in your very short life. When you first arrived, you were just a squishy blob who cried a lot and pooped even more. You couldn’t even hold your own head up, for Heaven’s sake. But, you learned to roll over, scoot, crawl, pull up, take that first step. And even though you fell a lot, you didn’t let that stop you and you eventually learned to walk. Now you run. You went from drooling to dressing yourself (sometimes) and from teething to talking (incessantly). It’s a pretty amazing transformation when you think about it.

Now that you have mastered all of the elements that make you a functional human being, we will now focus on mastering the things that will make you a good one.

Don’t worry, no one is expecting perfection by your sixth birthday. You’ll still be trying to figure out if you made all the right choices over the course of your life when you are 60.

And trust me, you won’t.

You’ll make some good ones and you’ll make some that will haunt you until the moment you take your last breath. But such is life. No one is perfect. You just have to try and navigate this world the best way you can and learn from your mistakes. You must also realize your fellow navigators are just as imperfect as you are.

I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you son, said world which requires said navigation is pretty crazy right now.

People are being slaughtered in lands far, far away for not believing in the things others think they should.

You must always stand up for what you believe in, once you figure out exactly what that is, but you also must be tolerant of people who think differently than you do. Try to understand from where they are coming and under what circumstances their beliefs were forged. Don’t just write them off as weird or freaky because they aren’t like you.

In lands not so far away in a place called Ferguson, Mo., and in our very own city of Mobile, Ala., grown-ups are having a discussion about race. Don’t listen to a word of it! I’ve watched you and your friends on the playground. If anyone understands how “race relations” should be, it’s a bunch of 4-and-5-year-olds. The amount of melanin in each other’s skin is not even a consideration. It never even crosses your minds at all. And that is the way it should be. And remain.

But unfortunately, it doesn’t.

As you get older, you will learn about the history and intricacies of race relations in this country — which ain’t pretty — and you will understand why this is such an upsetting and complicated issue and one that is so very hard for older folks to have an honest and frank conversation about.

My hope is the further we get away from the atrocities of the past, the easier it will be to talk about it. I pray your generation doesn’t even have to engage in a “community discussion” about it, because I hope by the time you are having your own kids, it will be such a non-issue, no one will “have” to talk about it.

But if these issues do persist, never let anyone else’s prejudices affect or change the way you think about people. Trust me on this one — this is the one issue it would be best to just keep thinking like a 5-year-old.

My sweet little man, I know this letter may make you think there is too much ugliness in this world, and there is. But there is a lot of beauty and kindness in it as well.

My heart had never been so full and I had never felt as much love as I did exactly five years ago today at 6:59 p.m., when a squishy, slimy, bald, toothless blob weighing 7 lbs 8 oz came into my world and changed it forever.

Happy Birthday, Anders. Thanks for allowing me to see the world through your eyes now and making it a much more beautiful place.

Love always, Mom