Say it isn’t so. At 4:56am I became the mom of a teenager. I am simultaneously jumping for joy with pride and crying in the corner with a stack of tissues. Trust me, I teared up when I found this picture. Just ask your dad.
This is happening, so I might as well jump on the train and enjoy the ride. Will, this letter’s for you.
People keep telling me to “brace myself” for the teenage years. They say I won’t get the real you back until you’re 25. I’m hoping they’re wrong.
You definitely sleep later. Thirteen years ago I wasn’t sure that would ever happen. You’re our crack-of-dawn kid. The one who’s raring to go at 0500. Every morning. But in the last few months, I’ve started vacuuming under your bed and you nary move an eyelid, much less an entire body. Your feet stick off the bed. You eat like 15 truck drivers and you wear deodorant. Although, just last night I told you to ease up on that. It wasn’t necessary to put on enough to last an entire week.
That got a giggle.
Speaking of those, your laugh – especially when you really get going – is a giggle. I know that 13-year-old boys don’t like to be told they giggle. But you do. And I love it. Someday your wife will too, but I’M IN NO HURRY TO MEET HER. There’s always the priesthood. Please nod your head now.
You no longer have a functioning brain. Ok, strike that. You no longer have a functioning brain unless we’re discussing bodily functions, collegiate athletics, NCAA basketball brackets, the NFL draft or the latest Sports Illustrated issue. “Will, take out the trash,” I say each Tuesday morning. Then, you get in the car to head to school with dad and I see the trash can lid open. With the trash still in it. I suppose I should find some success in that you did actually, at one point, consider listening.
You’ve started searching YouTube for dance videos. You know, homework for school dances. There’s the same collared shirt you wear to Mass week after week and the Under Armour shirts I find in your laundry with 18-bazillion pairs of athletic shorts. I am under no circumstances to request a wardrobe change or a meeting with a hairbrush. That usually warrants an eyeroll and a “Mom, I look FINE.” You do. You would just look killer handsome if you did what I told you. I’m sure some eighth grade girl will tell you the same things I do next year and you’ll listen to her.
It’s official. You get your reading skillz from me. You are a mad reader and the two of us can knock out books as fast as you can eat burgers. I also know that when you start a book, I might as well put you on another planet. You don’t emerge until you read “the end.” Back in the early days we used to find you asleep in your closet with the light on, with a stack of books on your chest. Now, we find you asleep on the toilet because the light’s better in there.
Straight A’s have always come easy to you and I pray that is always the case. Right now, your favorite subjects are religion, math and social studies. Your pendalflex organizer makes your OCD mom proud and your procrastination skills rival your dad’s. You have little tolerance for misspelled words, disorganized spaces, your little brother’s bad attitude on the basketball court, your little sister, Anna-Laura and people that don’t follow directions.
You stink at lying. I can catch you sneaking Dr Pepper, chips, candy, an extra 15 minutes of TV or one more chapter of a book. You try to be cool, but I always catch you. The more important lesson is that you know I always will. Eventually.
You’re the first-born. It happens.
As long as I live I will never forget the day you entered our lives. You made us a mom and dad – a distinction no other child will ever own. You make bad choices, get frustrated over silly things, blow off school assignments until the last minute and serve as the “other parent.” But above it all, you’ve made me grateful – as in down on my knees in thanksgiving grateful – that God made us parents. And he started with you.
Your life has so much goodness ahead, Will. So much. You love God. You serve him with reverence at the altar during Mass, you recognize injustice when you see it, your heart is one of service and you take pride in your accomplishments. You are anxiously searching for your vocation in life and I know you’ll find it. We’ll be with you every step of the way, slowly trying to untie the apron strings so you can fly.
As we enter these next five years of middle and high school, may I ask one thing? Pray for us. Pray that your Dad and I give you enough slack in the rope to find your own way, make your own mistakes, spell out your own successes. And, pray that we know when to reel you back into the safety net. While many parents fear this new phase of freedom, I’m trusting that we are on the cusp of the most amazing years of your life. In the beginning, I wondered if parenthood could get better.
It turns out, the best years are all around us.
Keep trying to define the finer points of the NFL draft to me, explaining the Pythagorean theorem and why you must have access to Instagram and Twitter. I’ll eventually come around. Until then, you’re never too big to hug my neck, hold my hand or say you love me.
Happy 13th birthday, buddy. I love you.