Happy 21st Birthday, Pay It Forward, Son !

From the moment, I knew « it’s a boy, » he filled my life with joy and trepidation.  Ten days later, the  boy born on the go acquired his first passport. He made his first trans Atlantic trip as  a 1 month old. He climbed out of his crib as at 8 months, walked at 9, kicked a ball at 10. As a hyper active, never-nap toddler he banged off the walls of our tiny Parisian apartment.

smiling toddler

smiling toddler

Insisting on doing everything himself, calamity followed in his wake.  While trying to « help » me clean house, he broke the reclining chair, the remote control and the vacuum cleaner.  His Aunt Karen insisted, « Send Nic over  to help me tidy up.  We need a new vacuum too. »

One Christmas, overjoyed to see his Aunt Sue, he gave her a flying, head-butt hug and broke her nose !

As a five-year-old, his body was so strong, we called him Bam Bam, yet his heart was as tender as a poem. When we moved to Switzerland, he told us, « Les nuages font un calin a la montagne. »  (The clouds are hugging the mountains.) At age seven, perceptive, beyond his years, he lamented, « Mom, we’re growing up too fast.  In five more years, Nathalie won’t live here anymore. »

As a kamikaze kid, he slit open his palm at age two, split his head at four, shattered his right ankle at fifteen.  Each time the doctor stitched him up, I prayed, « Please keep my boy in one piece. »

always a high flyer !

always a high flyer !

The only time he sat still was when I read him storybooks. A friend once told me, « Nicolas is too cute for his britches. » He was.  He dumped cereal or yogurt on the floor, then insisted, « Me clean ! » and made a bigger mess. But I could never stay mad. When he looked up at me with a mischievous grin, his turquoise eyes twinkling, all I could do was sigh and love him a little more.

I taught him to speak English, to drive the baseline and to write essays; he taught me patience. In the push- pull, anguish-awe of parenthood, I wondered whether I was saying too much or too little.

From his first footsteps, to first jump shot, to first Swiss national championship, in my role as teacher, coach, mom, I applauded each milestone. Whether he was skiing down the slopes of the Swiss Alps, or wake-boarding the waters of Summit Lake, I admired his balance and agility.

jumping yougster

jumping youngster

With his strong sense of injustice, he intervened when children picked on smaller boys. He gave up open shots to pass off to teammates who never scored. He helped classmates write French essays and rework math problems.

Due to conflict with an uncomprehending teacher and unruly class, we took him out of French public school when he was four-years-old. Yet his love of learning remained intact. At university, he pursues a teaching degree following in the footsteps of his mom, aunts, grandparents and great grandparents. Though teaching these days is a tough sale due to educational cutbacks and job shortages, he signed on to help out underprivileged children in the St. Paul school district and understands the attention problems of our cyber generation kids.

He has been a dedicated teammate, loyal friend, fun loving cousin, adored little brother and cherished son, admired for his witty sense of humor and courage to stand up for his convictions.

In today’s society,  we honor boys for toughness, yet the world needs more tenderhearted men. Raising a son has been a wild ride, but I treasured every moment of the journey.

with sister and cousins

with sister and cousins

Though I will never again be on center stage of his life –  bandaging skinned knees, reading nursery rhymes, or chauffeuring to activities – I will beam from the shadows back stage, as I watch my son pay it forward as a young man.


Posted in education, humor, inspiration, relationships.


  1. Pat you write so well. I really enjoy reading your weekly blogs. Hope to see your folks tomorow. love, Jim

  2. Pat, I feel like I know your son from this great essay! He is a great kid. I think his face as a toddler and now looks almost the same!


  3. My boy has always been tough and tender. Now 33, he is the father of a 14-month old baby girl. To see him interact with her (like watching her fulltime for a week that he was off track and DIL’s school still in session), to know he’s experiencing that weird dichotomy of “the most important job in the world/the most frustrating, boring job in the world”, is to see him come into his own as a man in full. I understand your pride and happiness. Best wishes, Mom!

  4. Our sons are so stubborn, lovable and tender at the same time! Thanks for reminding me of how blessed I am to have raised a compassionate man-son:)

  5. No doubt, every parent can relate to your sentiments about letting go and watching a child become a compassionate, contributing adult. You and Gerald have done an amazing job raising your children, Pat. I am proud to call myself Nic’s aunt and am so grateful that he is a part of our lives.

  6. What can I say~!!! Brought tears to my eyes. Aren’t we the lucky ones? God gave me TWO sons to raise, and one of them is already with Him. The other is still making me and His Creator proud, because like your son, he battles daily with injustice as a lawyer.
    Much love to you always … The Other Pat … TOP

  7. sis,
    very touching!!!! and “oh so true!” As Mom always adviced us, our children are a gift from God. It sure has been a journey to guide, protect and love them unconditionally. But what a privilege and a gift!
    Happy Birthday to OUR one-of-kind son, Nic. Thank you for sharing both of your pride and joys here in Minnesota!

  8. What a compassionate tribute to a great kid. It’s been fun watching him grow up. And you and Gerald have done a wonderful job of raising him and Nathalie.

  9. Great article Pat! Again, I feel like I know him so well, through his Aunt Sue of course! Have a great Thanksgiving!!! Dave Schmelzle

  10. What a lovely story. I marvel at it as we are a single girl child household. It has its own special drama. But it is inspiring to hear in your “voice” what his growing up has meant to you. Thanks for sharing.

    I hopped over here from POTM Club. Thanks for linking. I enjoyed your blog.

    • Thanks for hopping over. I will look forward to following your blog now. For 6 years we were a single girl child household & then bam, a miracle occurred, and a bouncy boy entered our lives and hearts. If you look back in my early blogs you can read about that little girl, who is now a doctor. Hope we can keep in touch through the PTOM Club.

  11. What a wonderful career he is pursuing. You must be so proud! I would love to look into a crystal ball to peek at my kids’ future.

    Thank you for your kind words about my blog, and thank you for joining Post Of The Month Club! It is great to have you there 🙂 XOLaura

I would love to hear from you

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.