Today you are thirteen. You told Daddy and me that first thing this morning, and I countered with, “Not until 4:57 this afternoon,” because I wanted to push off the fact that you’ve become a teenager as long as I possibly could.
But now we can’t.
You’re officially thirteen years old, and I don’t know where the time has gone. Thirteen years is how long it takes someone to go from kindergarten to their senior year in high school, and that just seemed to take A WHOLE LOT OF TIME when I was busy doing it. When I was hanging upside down on the monkey bars in the second grade, I could never have imagined being in the 12th grade, because that was a place for girls with long hair and incredible bell-bottom pants and red lipstick. I was just a kid, wearing my Holly Hobbie-print shirt and happy about the fact that there would be chocolate milk for lunch.
(I know. You have no idea who Holly Hobbie is. You have no idea who Willis and Arnold Jackson are, and you’d probably stare at me in confusion if I said, “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”)
My senior year wasn’t even on my radar when I was a second grader, because LOOK HOW FAR AWAY THAT IS! And because I’LL BE AN OLD LADY WHEN I’M IN THE 12TH GRADE! And MRS. PIGGLE-WIGGLE BOOKS ROCK!
But these last thirteen years have simply sped by, pretty much as quickly as a bottle of Diet Coke erupts when you and Daddy drop Mentos candies into it.
You were born on a hot summer day, and you came five entire weeks earlier than we expected you. My doctor assured me that you’d be just fine, because (and I quote), “95% of all babies born at 35 weeks have no problems whatsoever. You have terrific odds!” And then, there you were, and Dr. B. was called in immediately, because you weren’t breathing, and you didn’t want to take that first breath, and your pediatrician had to clear the rest of her schedule for the day, while she frantically worked with you.
We found out that your little lungs just weren’t ready. We were in that 5% bracket. You were put on a ventilator to help you breathe, and you were flown away to Bigger Town, USA, so that you could be in their NICU, before I had even gotten to touch you. I hadn’t held you. I had only seen you for a few seconds when you were first born, and for a few seconds several hours later, when you were being taken out to the awaiting ambulance to head to the airport.
Dr. B. came and sat with me for a while, because Daddy had flown with you. I was crying, because I was so afraid of losing you, when we had just gotten you. I was afraid of losing you without ever having held you. You were such a WANTED baby; such a LOVED baby, and you were just a few hours old. But Dr. B. assured me that we weren’t going to lose you at all; she said that you just needed help breathing, and she said that she was confident you would be home, where you belonged, in two weeks.
She PROMISED ME THIS.
You were an amazing little fighter, and you came home twelve days later, healthy as a good horse.
And then we were this little family of three. Daddy learned to change diapers, and everyone kissed your soft cheeks and tickled your chubby belly. We all acted silly and talked in funny voices, because it made you laugh, and there was nothing more precious to hear in all the world than your belly laugh.
You were such a fun toddler. You loved real tools and vacuum cleaners and nails and pocket watches. Toys R Us was not where you wanted to shop; Home Depot and Lowes were your stores of choice. I remember buying you a REAL handheld saw in Home Depot when you were three. You’d been wanting one so badly, and Daddy and I knew you’d use it just fine. You were sitting in the back of the shopping cart, clutching your REAL saw with the REAL SHARP BLADE in your lap, happy as a clam. A gentleman walked by us, and he gasped and yelled, “Your baby has the saw! Your baby has the saw!” He even reached into the cart to take the saw away from you, because he was worried. You stared at him in shock, but you didn’t say a word. I didn’t tell him, “Um, that saw is actually HIS!” When we were by ourselves again, we gave you the saw back, so that you could hold it until we paid for it. Later, at home, Daddy and I watched you saw through your first little sticks, all by yourself. You were so careful and precise.
We eventually started swimming lessons when you were three, and that’s where you met your very first friend who was not a child of one of my friends. You and Kellen hit it off that first week in swimming lessons together. You begged for a play date with him, so his mama and I got to know one another. The two of you were inseparable from that day forward; you swam together every Tuesday and Thursday, for three years, and you played together almost every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, when swimming lessons wrapped up. You built extravagant forts together… you made enormous Lego structures together… You climbed trees together… You dressed up as knights and soldiers and pirates and Harry Potter characters and Darth Vader together, and you played and played and played. The first friend you made on your own turned out to be a keeper.
I took you to pre-kindergarten when you were five. I wasn’t nervous at all. I was so excited, because I taught PE in the school where you’d be going to pre-k, and you were going to be in my gym class. We had a fabulous year. You met Ben and Patrick and John that year, and, with Kellen in tow, the five of you were back and forth between everyone’s houses all of the time.
My prayers over the years, where I begged Jesus to give you great friends, had been answered, and pre-kindergarten turned out to be one of the best things we ever did.
And then you went to kindergarten. You switched schools. You were going to be in Mrs. F.’s class, and we knew Mrs. F…. We loved Mrs. F. Kellen was going to be in your class with you. You were six years old, and you were so small. Daddy and I held your hands while we walked you down the hallway to your classroom; your backpack was almost as big as you were. I had you stand in front of the door that said KINDERGARTEN, so that I could take your picture. You looked so tiny and young there, and I was so nervous to leave you behind for the day. But in you went. You and Kellen dove into the Lego center straightaway. Eventually the bell rang, and Mrs. F. called everyone to the carpet, and your first day of kindergarten had started. I couldn’t talk, because my heart was in my throat. Daddy and I quietly slipped out the door. I felt like I had just thrown you to a pack of wolves. I wanted to go home and throw up.
And yet, when I picked you up at 1:45 that afternoon, you were talking a mile a minute about HOW FUN! JUST HOW FUN! kindergarten had been. You’d had the best day… You’d made a new friend named Dylan… and you couldn’t wait to go back the following day.
And that’s pretty much how all of elementary school ran for us. You loved school… in the social sense. You were friends with everyone, and everyone was friends with you. When first grade started, you met Enzo, who had just moved here, and you pulled him right into your group of closest buddies. You talked nonstop in class, and your teacher would always have to separate your desk from Kellen’s desk… and from Enzo’s desk… and from Ben’s desk… and from Carter’s desk… and from Quinn’s desk… From Eli’s desk… And from Bek’s desk. Daddy and I laughed in the fourth grade, because Mrs. G.’s classroom had four corners… your desk was in one corner… and Carter’s, Kellen’s and Quinn’s desks were all in the other corners. Mrs. G. said that she had to put all the other kids in the center of the room, with the four of you on the outskirts, because you talked to one another constantly.
And Daddy and I thought only girls talked that much!
You have always been smart as a whip. You’ve been in the gifted and talented classes, and you’ve enjoyed them thoroughly. You love learning new things, when it comes to sciences and math. You got that straight from Daddy, because science gives Mama hives. You’ve always stunned me with how quickly you do math problems IN YOUR HEAD, when I’m still trying to fish the calculator out of the kitchen drawer to find the answer. You and Enzo and Kellen and Patrick and Ben have always been fascinated with science experiments; you’ve gone to every science camp there is; you burned my new kitchen cupboard door with a handheld torch doing science experiments once. My cabinet will bear that scar forever!
You’ve always read years ahead of your age. You’re one of the best readers I know, and yet… you HATE, DESPISE and LOATHE reading. I love to read; I’ve always loved to read. When you started reading at the age of four, I was so excited to share big, thick novels with you. And then we found out that you’d rather stick flaming matches up your nose than read a book. Honestly, I don’t understand it.
When elementary school ended, I cried and cried and cried. I cried like someone had died, because LISTEN! You were DONE WITH ELEMENTARY SCHOOL! You had grown up. You were off to the junior high. I wasn’t ready for that step, and yet you were ready. The only thing you weren’t ready to do was breathe the day you were born; after that, you’ve been ready to do everything way ahead of your time.
(You just asked me a few months ago if it was legal for a twelve-year-old to get a driver’s license, if he could pass the driver’s test. You were outraged to hear that you couldn’t. You insisted that the state should issue you a license, if you could pass the written and the driving part of the tests, because the state shouldn’t JUDGE ON AGE. You’ve been itching to drive since you were four.)
Sixth grade and the junior high were good to us. You had a fabulous year. You won third place in the entire state for your science fair project, and Daddy and I were so proud of you.
You’ve always been such a caring, thoughtful boy. You are exactly what this world needs — you think of others… you’re concerned about others… you stick up for anyone who needs an advocate.
When you were four, Christy and I dropped you and Gage off in the church nursery during our morning Bible study one Tuesday. Later, there was a giant ruckus in the nursery. I walked by and was able to see a big FIGHT going on between several preschoolers, but I couldn’t tell who was involved, because the Sunday School teachers were in my way and the window in the door was very small. I went back to Bible study and whispered to Christy that SOMETHING was shaking down in the nursery. Never in a million years would I have dreamed that YOU were involved. You treated everyone with kindness and respect and love.
Christy and I were both called out of Bible study.
It seems that Gage, who was three, was being pushed around by another four-year-old boy in the nursery. You had stepped up and told the boy to leave Gage alone. The boy continued. The nursery worker told us that you told him a second time to quit pestering Gage. When he didn’t back off of your good friend, YOU UNLEASHED A CAN OF WHOOP ON HIM, the likes of which he had never experienced before! You smacked the ever-lovin’ snot out of him, and wrestled him to the ground! His three-year-old brother was in the nursery with him, and he jumped on your back, while you were busy fighting the four-year-old. Gage couldn’t handle seeing you take on two boys by yourself, so Gage jumped into the fight, too. You duked it out with the four-year-old, while Gage took on his three-year-old brother, and the nursery workers had to pry all four of you apart. You were all huffing and puffing, and there were tears and scratches and real blood.
Christy and I took you boys home, and we sat down with your daddies. And your daddies assured you that you had both DONE THE RIGHT THING. Daddy said that God called his people to fight a lot, when they were battling against what was wrong. You had stuck up for Gage; Gage had stuck up for you. Your parents were actually quite proud of you. You’d asked the boy to quit two times before you SHOWED HIM that he’d be needing to leave Gage alone.
You’ve always been this way. I remember a time this last year, when you befriended a boy with autism. He’s a great kid, and you took it upon yourself to include him in things that your group of friends did. His mother told me that she was moved to tears, because her strongest desires for her son were for him to BELONG and to HAVE FRIENDS, and you were making this happen, when it had never happened before. You didn’t see it that way; you just saw yourself including someone who wanted to hang out with you. When some bigger boys walked past this new friend of yours this year, they unzipped his backpack and smacked it hard, so that everything in his bag fell to the ground outside and started to blow away in the wind. You and Ciara were standing nearby, and the two of you were the only two out of an entire crowd of 6th graders who bothered to help. You rounded up all of the books and the blown papers, and you reloaded his backpack.
You showed him Jesus that day.
And that’s what you do.
You show Jesus to everyone.
You are an incredible boy. Mama and Daddy couldn’t be more proud of you. Your heart is genuine and filled with love for everyone. You love Jesus and your family and your friends.
There’s not a lot more that we could ask of you.
Happy birthday, Boy. You’re the very best thirteen year old we know. Welcome to the teenage years; I’m ready for them if you are!