Today is my oldest child’s fourteenth birthday.
Fourteen years of laughs and craziness and nonstop motion.
Fourteen years of purpose. He gave me the greatest gift of all.
As he turns 14, here are 14 things I want him to know:
1. Always be kind. You have a compassionate heart, I’ve seen it. I know you don’t always feel comfortable with that, but listen to what it tells you. It just might save you.
2. Be yourself. I think you’ve got this one in the bag. You are so very authentic. You have always been exactly who you are. People like you for that, so don’t change.
3. You’re a late bloomer. In many ways. And that’s OK. I know it doesn’t always feel OK when there’s social stuff going on and voices are changing and growth spurts are happening and other “things” are transpiring (mentally, physically and socially) all around you and you’re not quite there. It’s OK. It will make you interesting later, trust me. I know firsthand. The kids that peak early…often peak early in many ways. Bloom where you are planted. You’ll have your time.
4. Shower. Regularly. Even if you took one this morning. If you ran in a cross country meet, followed by lacrosse practice, for pete’s sake, SHOWER. Because you stink.
5. Be nice to your siblings. They look up to you and adore you (trust me) but they are different than you. Be gentle with them. Root for them. Encourage them and support them. Everyone likes to know there’s someone looking out for them. In turn, they’ll return the favor.
6. You have to work harder. "Enough" isn't always enough. I learned that the hard way. Your hard work could be the difference between good and great.
7. Respect girls. They are more sensitive than you, but they are also meaner. They will confuse you and mesmerize you and break your heart. Respect them anyway. They're trying to figure this life out too. Do not treat women like objects. You have a sister - think how you would want her to be treated. You will be someone's casualty, and you will have a casualty or two of your own as you figure all this out. Respect them anyway. Be that guy.
8. Stand up straight. It will impart a confidence you might now always feel. Just try it, you'll see. You'll also breathe better and be taller. Both very good things.
9. Let me hug you. This is a selfish request, but you have no idea what I went through to have that privilege. In turn, I promise to take it easy on you and respect your boundaries.
10. Stop balling up your socks and flinging them around. When you come to me and tell me you need socks, yet I can't open your sock drawer because it's so stuffed, I know that you have an entire drawer full of unmatched socks. Really? Some of those socks were ridiculously expensive (for socks). Also, I'm tired of finding balled up socks behind the computer armoire, on the mantle, behind your bed, in your closet, under the playroom sofa, on top of the curtains in your room...
11. You can tell me anything. I know it might be awkward because I'm a girl and I'm your mom and some things are embarrassing and I couldn't possibly know what you're going through, but I do and I will always be here for you if you need advice, or a willing ear. If I don't have the answers for you, I'll find them. I remember a conversation I had with my dad when I was about your age, about a boy who liked me. He gave me the best advice (and here I thought he wouldn't have a clue) because he knew my heart, and it made me feel safe and understood. Trust me. I'll always do my best.
12. Laugh. A lot. Just not in church.
13. Put yourself out there. You may succeed, you may fail, but you'll regret not trying.
14. Shower. Please. You're fourteen.