Dear my sweetest son,
I’ll wake tomorrow with a teenager in my home. I’ve seen this day coming for a while now. I’ve seen you grow taller; taller than your friends, taller than your grandmother, then taller than me. I’ve heard your soft voice turn into a deep baritone. I’ve heard your giggly belly laughs turn into deep, loud chuckles.
I had no idea what I was doing when we brought you home. I remember panicking in the back seat as I watched you squirm in the car seat. I literally had no idea what I was supposed to do with you when the car stopped. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with myself when the car stopped. I had no idea what I was supposed to do with my life, your life, the world, when the car stopped. It was the slowest, longest drive home.
I held on tight to the scheduled feedings and sleep training rules and beneficial music and language classes. I held on tight to anything I was told I was supposed to do so that I wouldn’t drown under the weight of such serious responsibility. I held on tight to the rules and shoulds so that I wouldn’t fuck you up.
Through the years, thankfully for all involved, especially your pediatrician, I exhaled and learned to trust myself and you. Turns out despite my questionable parenting and character flaws, you are an amazing human being. I’ve watched you grow comfortable in your own skin. I’ve watched you cultivate a quiet confidence in your own being. I’ve watched you do really hard things, really scary things, and I’ve watched you realize you’ve survived them all. I’ve watched you work so hard at learning coping skills, at learning to sit in negative feelings, at learning to accept things aren’t fair. I’ve watched you take the high road when it would feel so much better to lash back.
I’ve watched you face disappointments and rejections and failures. I’ve watched you suffer losses through death, ridicule through teasing, longing for a person you’ll never get. It’s in these moments my heart breaks for you, and it fills simultaneously. It fills with pride that you are navigating life’s ups and down and turns with an amazing maturity, acumen, resilience.
I watch you make decisions based on principles and values. I watch you demonstrate kindness and empathy and grace. I watch you see there are grays in this world, that good people can sometimes act like jerks, that good intentions aren’t always enough, that there are rarely any singular right answers. I see you struggle with the nuances of life.
I see all of this contrasted with the moments where you’re being a kid. When you lash out at your sister and call her names as you seethe with anger. When you get caught up in silly kid play and someone gets hurt. When you come up to me and ask me for a hug.
And again my heart breaks with pride and love. You have done so much amazing work in actively deciding who you want to be. You have done so much work in owning your feelings and your actions. You thanked me the other day for doing such a great job in raising you. I need to thank you for being such an amazing son, an amazing young man.
You forced me to be a better person in every way. Thank you. You make the world a better place every day. I can’t wait to see how you continue to impact this world with your love and thoughtfulness and kindness and grace.
I will never have a greater success. Some moments I chuckle out loud and marvel that I might have actually done something right. The moment you were born and they placed you on my chest, I cried. I felt the world shift. In that one moment everything changed. Part of that was probably the fact that I’d been laboring for almost 24 hours and I was grateful I could finally stop pushing. But mostly it was because I felt everything inside me shift. And settle. For the first time in my life, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I was born for that moment.
I want you to take these lessons you’ve learned, and recognize all the moments where you’re supposed to be. And be kind and graceful in those moments. Be courageous and helpful in those moments. Always remember it’s OK to be scared and brave at the same time, and that taking risks is the only way to live fully. Do good works and do hard work. Do all of this even when you panic and have no idea what you’re supposed to do with your life. Eventually life will unfold as it will, and my God, it is a glorious life.
You already embody so many truths of this world, truths that took a lifetime to learn for me. You kick ass in all the ways that count. I can’t wait to continue to witness your growth as my son, a brother, a citizen of this world. Now please, remember to use deodorant daily and stop harassing your sister.
Happy 13th birthday, my sweetest love.