When you wake up tomorrow morning, you will be fourteen years old.
Except… technically… you won’t be fourteen until 4:57 tomorrow afternoon, which is the time you made your grand entrance into this world, but that’s something you’ll argue with me on. You’ll stand firm and claim fourteen when you first jump out of bed tomorrow, so I’ll let you have it.
I don’t even know where to begin with this letter this year, because I’m an emotional wreck. Somehow, fourteen sounds much closer to COLLEGE FRESHMAN LIVING AWAY FROM HOME than it does to THIS IS MY CUTE LITTLE GUY WHO DOESN’T LIKE POTATOES. It’s so easy for me to get worked up about this, because fourteen is closing in on your high school graduation so quickly, and if I’ve learned one thing over the years of being your mom, it’s that time flies really, REALLY quickly. I know that I’m going to blink and reopen my eyes to see you packing your suitcase with all of your comfy Under Armour T-shirts, and your baggy gym shorts, and your antique typewriter that was made sometime when Abraham Lincoln was in office, and your state-of-the-art laptop, and you’ll be heading off for a dorm room.
My heart breaks right now just thinking about you leaving home, because I love having you around. Summer vacation is always one of my favorite times of the year, because you’re just HERE. There are days when you’re off to school that I sometimes find a little catch in my heart, because you’re GONE, and I find myself wishing that the day would just hurry up already, so that I can have you and your stinky gym clothes pile into the Suburban and tell me all about your day.
(Is that a trait of a helicopter mom?)
Right now, you want to be an anesthesiologist when you’re all grown up, which is a long word to spell, and all I can say is, “Wow!” That’s a big career, with lots of schooling before it, but if anyone can ace through all of those science and math classes, it’ll be you.
Of course, Daddy and Mama are going to have to sell kidneys and the house to pay for all of those undergraduate and med school years, so when you come back home for Christmas, you’ll get to sleep in our tent… And eat Ramen noodles and water and air for dinner. But we will be there to cheer you on throughout whatever degree you pursue in college. You know that your parents are your biggest fans in this world, and Mama will cheer and clap like a lunatic as you progress through life.
(Because goodness knows that I can’t cheer and clap like a lunatic at golf tournaments. I have to BE VERY QUIET and clap with ladylike manners on the golf course, because apparently LOUD ENTHUSIASM can destroy a gentleman’s shot, and that’ll earn you the stink eye.)
I’ve been going through old snapshots a lot this summer, as we put together a little photo book project, and I wanted to sob over some of those pictures. There was my kindergarten boy, with his first missing tooth! There was my second grade boy, building a gingerbread house! There was my fourth grade boy, in the throes of a squirt gun fight with his buddies! With every picture we went through, I missed my little boy more and more, and I began to think that I’d give almost anything to just have another day with you as a four-year-old… or another day with you as a seven-year-old. I wanted another day to hear your six-year-old voice tell me all about a game you played in school. More than anything, I want to hold you, one more time, as a little toddler, with your freshly shampooed hair. I want to breathe in your baby lotion smell, and I want to rock you to sleep again. I want to rock you, and snuggle you close, and hold you all night long.
Just once more.
But, regardless of how much I miss the little boy that you WERE, I am flat-out loving this teenager that you now ARE.
We’ve had a few rough spots this summer, as you’re trying to find out how you fit into this life as a teenage boy, but I think we’ve come through those spots beautifully. Your heart is huge, and you can’t stand to disappoint anyone, so you always end up apologizing for rolling your eyes at me and hugging me huge.
You’re a good egg, Boy!
(Even if you still like snakes.)
(Have I ever told you how much I HATE snakes?!)
You’re learning all about real life now, and how tough some decisions can be. As much as I wanted to protect you from it, junior high opened your eyes to bigger issues in this world than you’ve ever noticed before. You’ve seen kids hurting over different things, and you never fail to stand up for people when you need to.
I love that trait in you.
One of the stories that I will cherish in my heart forever is when you saw some kids grab the backpack of an autistic boy at school, while he was wearing it. They unzipped it in a flash, grabbed all of his books out of it, and threw everything to the sidewalk outside, right before they walked off, laughing at their accomplishments and high-fiving one another. You told me that tons of other kids were around, and only you and Ciara knew what Jesus would have done in that instant. The two of you started grabbing books and papers, before they were blown away in the breeze, and you helped get everything back into this boy’s book bag, while everyone else just stood around and watched. You zipped his backpack up again, and you stood with him… with you on one side of him and Ciara on the other side of him… until his mom came to pick him up from school. You were so upset, asking me over and over how kids could be so mean to someone who already had a difficult life because of a diagnosis and disabilities he hadn’t asked for.
My heart nearly burst with pride that afternoon, when you told me about it. I was so incredibly proud of you for choosing what was right, when you were in the middle of so many other kids who made the choice to ignore what had happened.
I’m fully convinced that when the decisions in life get even harder, you’ll always make the right choices, even if you’re standing smack in the middle of a society and culture that is making the choice to ignore what is right.
You’re just growing up so nicely.
You continue to stun your daddy and me with how smart you are. I look at some of the math problems that you’re doing in your advanced math class at school, and I marvel at your ability to solve the crazy things IN YOUR HEAD! You floor me with some of the math and engineering-type things you think about, and your ability to understand such intricate science things makes my head spin in crazy circles.
You’re an amazingly bright boy.
I should have known that you’d turn out this wicked smart, when you read the word DIP on that road sign when you had just barely turned four.
That brain of yours, paired with your kind and compassionate heart, is going to take you places in this world.
I still have no idea HOW you’ve reached the age of fourteen, because wasn’t it just yesterday that I gave birth to you? Wasn’t it just yesterday that Daddy and I were staring into the adorable face of this little premature baby, as he labored to breathe and learned to work that ventilator?
Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was in the WORST BATTLE OF MY ENTIRE LIFE, as I potty trained you?!
I won’t lie. Potty training you was one of the biggest nightmares of my life, because you were incredibly stubborn, and you didn’t want to sit on that giant toilet for anything. I remember just giving up on potty training altogether and bawling one night to your dad that it was NEVER going to happen, and how I was QUITTING the effort of trying to teach you. And I DID quit trying. I put a diaper on you again the following morning, which you protested.
Three days later, you had completely potty trained yourself. All it took was for me to let you have your independence and try it on your own.
Now, thoughts of how it’s time to start working on potty training with your little brother make me want to shake with fear. I don’t know if I have it in me to tackle another Diaper Warrior and convince him it’s actually a GOOD THING and a VERY SAFE THING to use the big potty, and that the big potty is NOT SCARY. I think my battle with you over this might’ve ruined me on training other toddlers for life.
But… we made it through potty training, you and I. We’ve made it through a lot over the past fourteen years.
We made it through the swine flu in the third grade, when you were so sick, I was scared to death I’d lose you. That’s the sickest you’ve EVER been in your life, and we kept hearing on the news how people were DYING from swine flu that fall, and I was a bit freaked out. I sat up with you at night, just to keep checking to see if my little nine-year-old boy was still breathing, and to wash your fevered body with cold washcloths and to beg Jesus to let you recover quickly.
We made it through you giving up your pacifiers, which — honestly! — no one ever thought you’d do.
We made it through a preemie birth and NICU and a baby who needed to be on a ventilator to breathe.
You’re also an amazing big brother.
We still can’t believe that we have Thing 2 in our lives, all because you prayed a prayer for him, and because you were faithful and believed Jesus’ promise that a baby was coming.
Daddy and I love how the two of you chase one another around the house at the speed of light and tackle one another, until Thing 2 splits his gut open wide with hysterical giggles. We love how you sit through episodes of Barney that you can’t stand to watch, because it’s what your brother wants to do, and because you want to do what he wants to do.
We love the example that you’re setting for your brother, on how to be a great kid.
I absolutely love the age that you are now.
Yes, I miss you as a little boy; I do. But you’re turning into this fabulous teenager who understands people, and who seeks to please people, and who knows how to stand up for people.
You make us laugh every day with your witty comments, even though you make me want to yank my own hair out by the fistfuls sometimes, when you refuse to read a book or when you sigh and complain about trying clothes on in a dressing room, like you’re being sent to a death chamber, or when you leave twenty-six pounds of dirty laundry scattered all over your bathroom floor.
I’m pretty sure that Age Fourteen and the 8th Grade are going to be a continuation of fun times, as we watch you grow and mature.
And as we watch you eat Fruity Pebbles cereal out of my mixing bowls, because a regular bowl just isn’t big enough. And as we watch you eat seven tacos in a single sitting. I didn’t grow up with brothers, and I honestly had no idea that a teenage boy could EAT like you do.
And then be hungry again, forty-seven minutes later.
Happy birthday, Boy.
We are still head-over-our-heels in love with you. You make your mama smile every single day of my life.
I love you with all of my heart… with every breath I have… and so does your daddy. (And I’m fairly certain that your grandparents and your aunts and uncles and all of your cousins do, too.)
And we love that goofy little brother of yours just as much. Jesus sure knew what he was doing when He handpicked our two boys for us. Cheers to our family of four, and cheers to fourteen!
Mama and Daddy