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You’re 18! And How I Feel About It…

Eighteen.

Can we all just sit with that number for a quick second?

I (a mom who still doesn’t feel that old) have an adult child. And it sure happened a helluva lot faster than I thought it would. I mean, time sure seemed to slow down that one time when Will was two-years-old and kicking and screaming in Sally Beauty Supply because I wouldn’t let him buy that flat iron. “He sure is unhappy,” the sales clerk said. #facepalm

And it definitely slowed down when I put my foot down and told him we weren’t buying 15 blocks of cheese, so Will pouted and sat in time out in the dairy aisle at H-E-B. “He won’t be like that forever,” one shopper shared as she patted my shoulder and walked on by.

Those were the days when I wondered if we would ever make it to here. To 18. Spoiler alert: we did.

So, here we are, my last public birthday letter to my oldest. Yes, I’ll still write them, but they’ll likely appear on a Hallmark card I send to him in the mail while he’s off at college, and then off to who knows where as he forges his own life path.

If I’m being honest (because if you can’t be honest on the Internet where can you be?), there is a small but undeniable part of me that longs for the good ‘ol days of toddlerhood. Not the crappy ones where tantrums were the norm, but the sweet ‘can I sit on the couch and eat chocolate and watch HGTV with you mom’ days. But I rest in knowing that I enjoyed each of those moments as they came. I’m not a perfect mom, but I am an intentional one.

To my oldest on this monumental birthday? This letter is for you…

Dear Will,

These last 18 years have been full of some beautiful ebbs and flows. There were days I killed it as a mom. Like seriously earned ‘mom of the year’ accolades. And there were days you rocked being a kid. Most of our days, though, have been imperfect as we navigated big and little milestones.

You know what? It’s the imperfection I want you to remember. I don’t want you to ever look back on your childhood and say, “Boy, if only I had said X or if mom had done Y, then growing up would’ve been so much better.” Don’t wish away your life like that. My greatest hope for you is to hold tight to the messiness of our lives. I want you to be grateful for the lessons it taught you. For the love it allowed you to feel. For the family it surrounded you with.

How many nights have we had these last four years that were filled with lectures and tears, prayers and surrender, love and forgiveness? It was in those late nights that I learned just how important it is to love you, unconditionally and without agenda. Of course I want you to have a stellar experience in Aggieland these next four years. Of course I want you to land the job of your dreams and fly high in your career. Of course I want you to know the joy and surrender of marriage and family life (or maybe the priesthood ;).

But above all that, I want you to know, in the deepest recesses of your heart how much you are valued, loved and known not only to your dad, your siblings and me, but to Jesus Christ.

I feel like we’ve taught you the big lessons. Changing a tire. Cooking a meal. Ironing a shirt. Cleaning out the sink p-trap. Installing a light fixture. Those were the easy ones to teach. Follow these steps, get this end result.

The bigger lessons, the ones that will carry you through the valleys, those were much harder won, weren’t they? Learning how to find authentic friends, knowing your boundaries, naming and facing your temptations, believing that you are worthy of love – that’s where the rubber meets the soul, isn’t it?

As you find your wings and fly from the nest, Dad and I will always be here. You have this big, beautiful life ahead of you. I feel it with all of my being. You are capable and funny, wise and resourceful. And you’re also stronger than you realize. Will, you’re no longer my little boy, but a man rooted in faith, morality, conviction, excellence and integrity.

People often put letters after their name to designate their accomplishments, a degree or a membership. For all my living days, this is the title I will cherish the most: Kathryn, Will’s mom

Happy 18th birthday, sweetheart.

Love, Mom

6 Comments

  1. Lynn A. on March 28, 2019 at 8:14 am

    Happy Birthday, Will!

    A beautiful letter, Kathryn. You done good – now enjoy a Dr. Pepper, sit back, and smile!

  2. Claire Belby on March 28, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Oh the tears are flowing, stop it.

  3. Nicole on March 28, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    Love this tradition you have for you kids. These are beautiful treasures! Happy Birthday!

  4. Verdina on March 28, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    I so remember that day! Such a blessing! You have such a beautiful family! I love how you write the letters to your children!

    I feel blessed to know the Whitakers!

  5. Jules on March 28, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    Beautiful and made me tear up in all the best ways. I have 2 under three and have borrowed your birthday letter tradition for them. It’s one of my most favorite things. Happy birthday to Will!

  6. Angela Riethman on July 15, 2019 at 8:43 am

    Oh my goodness. I love this so much. Sending my second off to Aggieland in a few short weeks.

    Was introduced to your page by a mutual friend. I love it!!

    We’re a Hoosier family turned Texans.

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