Happy 16th to my Boy

Dear Stephen,

I cannot believe you are 16. It’s not that you don’t look like it or act like it, it’s just that I can’t believe this much time has passed. You are a teenager. You drive automobiles. You shave your face.

I am amazed by you all the time. I’m not sure other people understand what we’ve been through. It is crazy that now we can talk about what we felt and thought during those “strong-willed” years. I think the two of us have such a bond because together we survived a crucible experience: your early childhood.

You were an absolute terror as a toddler and young child. I used to project out what it might look like when you became a teenager with all the energy and attitude you had as a kindergartner. Fortunately, a mother’s projections are not always the best indicator of anything but her own fears. You are a phoenix- this magnificent ball of fire that burned itself out and re-emerged as this smart, even-tempered young man.

Your sense of humor is obviously my favorite thing. You are in on the joke. You can laugh at yourself. Our texts of nothing but memes and GIFs are as sacred to me as any memento a mother can save of their child. Your giggle and laugh still make me smile. When you were born, your cry sounded like a giggle. Did I ever tell you that? Maybe from the beginning, God intended you to be a person who laughs easy and often.

I love that you love us well. You are never ashamed to hug or say “I love you.” My favorite part of the day is when you get out of the car at school and wish me a great day followed by a “Love you.” And that tiny wave you give me as I start to pull away….that has left a mark forever. When you were little, you climbed out of the car and ran into the building without a single glance backward. The first time you turned around for that little wave was fourth grade. Do you know why I remember that? Because I know exactly what it did to my heart. I still feel it. When I pick you up from school you always ask me how my day was. That is how I know you are growing up. You sincerely want to know what your Mom did all day, as if laundry and grocery shopping were fascinating phenomenon every teenage boy longs to understand.

I think it is amazing that you do not allow anyone to define you. You have pleasantly surprised us with the things you have chosen to do in high school. You do not waste time worrying what anyone else thinks. YOU ARE SO BRAVE, Stephen… in all the ways that matter. I look at you all the time with pride and more than just a little envy that I could be more like you.

I have so many hopes for you. I hope you get to do all the things you dream of doing. I hope your desire to learn never goes away. I hope the passion you have for certain subjects is realized and integrated into the life you choose. I hope you never stop traveling. I hope you always keep that belly laugh. I hope you find love. I hope you have loyal friends and community . I hope you follow after Jesus in a personal and purposeful way.

I hope you always text me funny things.

I hope 16 is your best year yet.

I hope you always know I love you the most.

Love,

Mom

Time with my Boy

I’m having a week with Stephen. Lindsey is at Beach Week with our church youth group (Stephen wasn’t feeling compelled to attend this year) and Paul is traveling with work. We are navigating this new space just the two of us and I sort of love it. We have this natural camaraderie that is unique to the first child that made you a mother, almost broke your will to live, and then went on to rebound and become this person who makes you laugh out loud with just a raised eyebrow or a smirk. No one laughs at my jokes louder than Stephen. No one understands Stephen better than me- at least for right now.

We have settled into this easy pace, without any interruptions from our beloved but absent family members. We get up and while I go to the gym, he goes for a run. He works on his online Drivers Ed and I work on household projects. We eat lunch together (Paul grilled us so much food before he left so we would have lunch leftovers). He games online and I work on my projects. At 3:30, he drives us to whatever coffee shop we have decided to visit. He is so funny when he drives. He is so conscientious of all the driving rules but he talks nonstop out of nervousness about anything. We drove 15 minutes one way today and he recited lines from Forrest Gump the whole trip.

When we get to the coffee shop of the day we chat for a few minutes and then we read or I journal. He has summer reading to complete so he has worked on that, but he also finished The Things They Carried (Tim O’Brien) for enjoyment. When he finished that book he set it down and said, “I’m done.” I looked at him and saw the emotion in his eyes, and I set down my book. “Do you want to talk about it?” I asked. He proceeded to tell me how much he bonded with one character and then that character died. We talked about the power of a writer to create people we care about. He talked about why that character mattered to him.

After coffee we make dinner plans. We eat and then he games again with his friends. We take care of the dogs. Watch D-Day retrospectives.

It’s one week. But it’s one of my favorite weeks of 2019, so far . He will graduate in three years. He was hard work for so many years and now he is my joy. He is not the smartest, sportiest, ambitious, most eloquent, most likeliest, best Christian teenager. But he is figuring himself out. I love him with every fibre of my being.

He makes me laugh.

He makes me proud when he puzzles out what he needs to do to take his next right step.

I am excited about where life might take him. I’m also a little scared about that.

He has never been the Perfect Child but our journey has been all the richer for it.

I love time with my boy.