You’re thirteen today. A teenager! When I commented recently that you are going to be a teenager you were quick to respond, it doesn’t matter–I’m still a boy.
You’ve always been that way. In no rush to move ahead to the next stage, the next season. For as long as I remember, you’ve been perfectly fine to be right here, right now. At the same time, you’ve stepped into each new season, new change, with uncanny ease. Transitions have come and gone and you’ve walked into each one without a stumble. Even, at times, with a skip in your step.
As I made my way to the bedroom to write these words, I dodged nerf bullets that were flying from every direction. I’m sure I walked over a few hundred bullets that are littering the floor. Just on the other side of the door I can hear the voices of many of your friends yelling, laughing, and calling out as they dodge those blue and orange bullets. I’ve turned up my music to drown out the sound, but I still hear your laughter from where I sit. I smile thinking about it. The way your eyes shine when you laugh. The way your dimples have gotten more pronounced as you’ve grown–the way you have gotten more pronounced as you’ve grown.
Charlie, I will never forget the day you entered the world and made me a Mom for the very first time. The day was much like today–chilly and rainy with a thick blanket of clouds covering the sky. The hours ticked by one by one and the gloom and rain settled in while you and I worked together to usher you into the world. It was just before midnight, on this day, thirteen years ago that a doctor declared that our tiny five pound boy entered the world making us parents.
Changing our lives.
Charlie, in those early days we had no clue what we were doing. I still remember standing in that hospital room while a nurse showed us how to change your diaper. How to check your temperature. How to feed you and place you in your car seat. I remember when they told us they were concerned that you couldn’t hear. (They were wrong.) I remember walking out of the hospital on the day we brought you home and seeing the world through whole new eyes. There was danger everywhere. The cars were driving so fast. People were coughing–in public! Not long after that, I remember staring wide-eyed at the professor in my Child Therapy class as he described all the problems we may encounter while counseling children. (Seeing my worry, that same professor wrote me a note–don’t worry, it said, these things don’t happen to all children.)
How would I ever protect you?
From that first day we’ve all been learning. Your dad and I have been learning. You’ve been learning. We’ve been doing the dance of oldest child and first time parents for thirteen years. We’ve never had a teenager before. You’ve never been a teenager before. There’s a beautiful symmetry to that, isn’t there? It’s frightening and invigorating all at the same time. The unknowns ahead of us are endless. You are going to navigate the world of 13 and 14, and 17 and 19 and on and on and we will be walking the road with you–sometimes up close, other times further back. But we’ll all be figuring it out in same (but different) ways.
And even though we don’t know exactly what is ahead, there are some things that, after knowing you for thirteen years, are certain. . .
From the very beginning, God made you with a tender and sensitive heart. You are a gentle soul who feels deeply and loves deeply. Charlie, may the world never take this from you and may you never allow it to be taken from you. In a world that will often tell you that you need to look, be, act a certain way, I hope you always remember that one of your most unique gifts is your tender heart.
Charlie, in thirteen years I’ve never seen you change who you are in order to fit in. Whether you are with your friends or at home or at school or on the soccer field or out in public–I’ve never seen your character change. We see in you a quiet confidence that is so much bigger than your small frame. And while you might one day read this and think to yourself who else would I be?, I want you to know how incredibly rare it is to be so uniquely you.
We are so, so proud of you for choosing to be you.
Charlie, now that your soccer season is over you get home an hour before the girls. On most days, when the bus drops you off, I am in my office when you walk through the door. Although I can’t see you when you step through the door I can always hear you. You open the door with a happy squeal and greet both Taza and Asher with such a happy voice. This moment, in the middle of my day, is one of the best parts of my day. Your happy voice, your joy, your excitement about life–it’s infectious.
To live with you is an almost constant invitation to adventure and while (more often than not) we cannot come close to keeping up with your adventurous spirit. . .
We cannot imagine our family without it.
Charlie, there are endless directions that you may travel in your life. When I think about your future, I can’t even fathom where you might go. What you might do. The thing is, Charlie, what I hope, more than anything, is that you will continue to have a sensitive heart of compassion. . .
I hope that you will always pay attention to your insides and that you will continue to be exactly, perfectly, who you are. . .
And that the deep joy your carry with you today. . .
Stays with you forever.
Charlie, no matter where you are and no matter what you are doing. . .
I am so proud to call you my son.
Happy Birthday, Charlie.
I love you.