A Letter To My Son On His 15th Birthday

Today is your 15th birthday. there are days that, with your height and deeper voice, we probably expect more out of you, forgetting that you’re still a child in a man’s body.

Then there are the days when you rankle under the sense that we treat you like a child, which is not our intent, either. Still, I wish you knew how hard it is some days to separate the young man I see before me from the toddler who was my shadow.

The boy

The little boy who loved construction trucks SO much that I would push him in his stroller to the construction site down the street, where we would stand on the dusty sidewalk outside the chain-link fence, cars stirring up the hot air as the whizzed by us, as you pointed out every type of truck.
(You also constantly corrected me when I incorrectly identified a truck. You’re still quick to call me out when my brain retrieves the wrong word.)

The little boy who loved tractors SO much that he was going to grow up to be a farmer. You’d work with your buddy Gethin and farm half the year in Wales and the other half in the US, maybe on your Uncle Bob’s farm. You could stand in the backyard for hours watching the farmer work the field behind us.

the teen

Whatever you do, you do it fully and wholeheartedly. Right now, that passion is soccer, and I see the dedication and focus you have for it, as well as how much of your identity is tied up in it.

You have grown into a thoughtful and considerate young man, with a heart that feels so much for everyone and everything. You were a thoughtful and considerate toddler, too, patting my back with a “there, there, you be okay Mommy” as I threw up in the powder room loo, knocked down with morning sickness with your sister.

That heart of yours feels so much that it sometimes absorbs the emotions of those around you. My anxiety makes you feel anxious; the stress of a friend struggling with something difficult makes you upset; another friend’s deep sadness fills you with a shared sadness. Remember to protect that big heart a little bit – you can’t save everyone, and you can’t fix everyone. It’s a difficult tightrope the empathetic walk, and you can be there for them but don’t lose yourself IN them.

Taking a step back, I can see that while you’ve grown in size and confidence, in so many ways, you’re the same boy inside. Still liking order in your life. Still needing to know what to expect before you can be fully comfortable. Still thoughtful but struggling with all the emotions that come with hormones. Just more complex.

And taller.

growing up

I see a glimmer of uncertainty when talk turns to college, because I know you don’t have a strong sense of where you think your future will take you.

That’s ok.

You don’t need to have everything figured out now. (Even if you did, you’ll likely change your mind a few times before you graduate from college.) And that’s ok, too. It doesn’t make you wishy washy or indecisive.

I read a cool quote the other day. To paraphrase it: the person you are at 20 doesn’t get to decide the person you are at 60.

And by that, I mean that you can always change your mind about what you want to make of your life. It is yours. You don’t have to follow one path for the rest of your life.

• • •

So when you hugged me last night, resting your chin on MY head, yes, I got a little teary. I know I need to let my little guy go, and make room for the man standing in front of me. Forgive me if sometimes that wants to make me hold on a little tighter to you.

While I know your years under our roof are fleeing faster than either your dad or I care to admit, I’m so excited to see what your future holds. Take that same little boy passion you felt for trucks and tractors, the fierce competitiveness and drive you hold for soccer, and apply that same thing to what comes next in life.

Hold on to that sarcastic wit, too. And don’t fully give up the awkward goofiness. Even though I tease you about looking like you’re having a seizure when you dance. Even when you break into the most intentionally off-key and tone deaf version of “Roxanne”.

Especially when you make running commentary about a terrible tour guide in Cologne who shows us artwork in a museum – through the windows of the museum.

Don’t lose any of it.

You wouldn’t be you without it.

Happy birthday 15th birthday, bud. I love you so.

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