My first born.
14 years ago. Whoa.
On your 14th birthday morning, you and I descended the stairs together. I reminisced, “Fourteen years ago today… at this very moment… I was in the BIGGEST pain of my life. The nurse had to yell at me to calm down.”
I will never let you forget it. Ever.
Your birth story is a good lesson to look at – the reward of hard work.
The value of effort.
Oh the calm and relief that comes after the storm! Eventually we even lose perspective on how bad it all was.
I’m not going to go into any birth story details, but let’s just say the day after you were born… the day we checked out of the hospital… at the end of our little “new parent” exit class… the woman who gave birth to breech twins turned to me and said, “So YOU were the one screaming! You scared me to DEATH!”
No pain to gain.
Remember that, Son.
For years your dad and I have been able to, rather successfully, shield your from a great deal of pain. But as you grow into a man, life gets tougher. From working hard on earning good grades, to having to learn the value of a dollar, to having to work on how to have healthy relationships, to the hardest of them all… just making good choices and sticking to your compass.
You are seeing more and more that doing the hard thing can be the best thing. It breaks my heart to see you struggle… to feel defeated. It’s hard to be your mom and choose to stand aside. For so many years I was able to come by your side and play the middle man… your protector… teaching you to share blocks and crayons or use your words.
In the blink of an eye you have moved from being under my constant supervision to NOT being under my constant supervision. It’s bittersweet. It’s easier for me to get my workout in, but I don’t have that deep, interconnected knowledge about what you eat and do and say every moment of every day.
There were days I never thought I’d get a moment alone, and suddenly… 14.
But it’s all good. This is what raising kids is all about – to grow up to be capable… to someday become completely independent. It’s the strangest feeling – to ache for the days past when I could hold you on my hip, and in the same moment swell with pride because you are capable and independent.
If I want to see you become a great man, I have to be able to let the baby that used to be glued to my hip… go.
I swear you were glued.
Yet curious enough to keep me running.
If I really think about it, you are very much the same as you were so many years ago. A kid who loved to center with family, but a kid who loved to explore. If I could take a picture of now… it would be of a young guy who is confident enough to value and really enjoy his family. But you are also a young man confident enough to stretch and take on challenges.
I am very proud of you.
You are my firstborn… the one who leads and protects. I have often joked that you are sometimes a better mother than me with the way you help watch out for your sisters. As crazy as they make you, your compassionate heart is trapped by their charm. And they adore you too.
Now, I don’t want to be all, “Life is SO HARD, dude.” But life is. We’ve talked about it.
Knowing that we don’t know what lies ahead, my prayers for you grow in length and frequency as you grow more independent. Each generation of parents seem to say their children’s youth is/was harder than their own. I think your generation is faced with tremendous opportunities, and also tremendous consequence. You are faced with far more opportunities to have to choose between right and wrong in one week than I was in all four of my high school years.
That is not scientific fact, but… for example, while gossip has always been a problem… It has never been able to travel so efficiently. What one person said at the lunch table in 1980 floated around the school… eventually. Nowadays, someone can record a video and post it anywhere. Immediately. It can be shared with hundreds – immediately. Texts and pictures and movies and YouTube and music is literally at your fingertips – 24 hours a day.
The glory of all things accessible! Until you are a parent and see the tough road ahead for your child.
I pray. And pray. And pray. For you. For me. I pray I know how to guide you to become a good man. I pray you don’t have to make the hard decision, and then I pray you have the courage to make the hard decisions. We coming to a point in our relationship where… though you are MY kid living under MY roof… I must recognize you are an individual with a heart and convictions and a will and though I am not seeking to be your friend now… someday when you come home to visit dad and me with your family … it will be your delight and not a chore.
It’s tough to be a parent, dude. I know what it’s like to not to be allowed to do “everything everybody else is doing”. I also know what it’s like to be sitting on the other side 20 years later and being thankful I wasn’t able to do what “everybody else” was doing. I just want your life to be full of awesome – meaningful awesome that you can be proud of. I’m looking at the big picture on your behalf.
The baby books didn’t tell me that in a dozen years I’d be standing on the steep edge of your impending adulthood and I’d be faced with something fathoms beyond diaper rashes and thrush. 14 years ago, your adulthood was a lifetime away. Today, if you look at it through the simplicity of a calendar… we have about 5 summers left. You. Me. This little family of 5.
The next 5 years are going to CRAY!
I love you, Joel. You amaze me. You frustrate me. You bless me. You make me laugh. You give me relief. You exhaust me. You are one of the best pieces of me. And while I don’t want to rush one more minute of your childhood, I am just crazy-beside myself to see the man you are becoming. I am not perfect. I am not perfect. I will apologize for the rest of my life for all the ways I’ve goofed up, but I’m also praying my
oppressive insane love for you will be enough to help make my mistakes not drive you into too many years of therapy.
You’ll laugh at that last sentence someday. I promise.
Love, Love, Love and more Love,
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