Today, my first-born turns fourteen. His birthday always brings back memories of past celebrations. I remember his first fish-themed birthday party in Winston-Salem. We invited all of the neighborhood babies and my new-mom friends, who helped me survive my first year of motherhood…I remember his fourth birthday in Omaha and our first with extended family: My brother-in-law made a surprise appearance as Spiderman. He wore a Youth XL costume that I found on clearance. (Yes, it was WAY too small and slightly inappropriate.) He joyfully shot silly string around our house and on my son’s new neighborhood friends… I also remember celebrating my son’s short-lived electric guitar lesson phase with a rock ‘n’ roll birthday party in our unfinished basement. My husband and father-in-law lovingly built a “real stage” for the preschoolers and hip hop dance instructors to perform on…
My son’s birthday always brings back images of him carrying the Earth around the Sun, one circle for each year…Oh, how I miss his Montessori preschool and his beloved fire truck slippers! I remember sitting patiently at the edge of the circle, counting each unhurried orbit and feeling like life was moving in slow motion. During the preschool years, each day felt LONG with hours that needed to be filled. Now, I am amazed by how quickly each year and phase has passed.
When I first met my son he weighed five pounds and was small enough to fit in the palm of my husband’s hand. Today, he stands several inches taller than me and has become a person that I look up to both literally and figuratively. In the beginning, I was my son’s teacher. I tried to lead by example, demonstrating the importance of “pleases” and “thank yous.” I showed him how to share and to take turns. I worked really hard (and not always successfully) to teach him the difference between indoor voices and outdoor voices. Actually, we are still working on this lesson. I’ve always wanted him to maximize his potential academically and to find and follow his extracurricular interests…but my highest goal is to raise a kind kid. Ultimately, that is how I will always measure my success as a mother and his success as a man.
But, somewhere along the line, my son started leading by his example. He taught me that there is more than one way to do things and that my way isn’t the only one. So, to celebrate my son’s birthday, I want to acknowledge some valuable lessons that I’ve learned by being his mom:
My son has always walked to the beat of his own drum. There was a time when I wanted desperately for him to just fall in line…to sit quietly without waving his hand around and firing off one question after another at his poor teacher…to color inside the lines. But with time, I’ve come to see his insatiable curiosity, strong will and inability to follow the pack as qualities that while challenging to mother will serve him well in life.
If you become my son’s friend, he will always have your back. He’s the kind of kid who will literally jump into a fight to defend a friend…will write a petition to stand up for a friend’s injustice…will volunteer to take a demerit for a buddy who is in danger of redirection room. As his mother, I cannot condone these actions. But, I admire the way he looks out for his friends, stands up for what he believes is right and always wants to help a friend in need.
Laugh a Little (or a Lot).
At times, my husband and I may error on the side of taking life a little too seriously. I think that is why we were blessed with a son who can add humor to literally any situation. I love that he can make his little sister and brother laugh when they really want to pull out their hair in frustration with him. This summer, he spent nearly a week away from our family. His absence was marked by a strangely quiet house and unusually tidy bedroom… I missed his laugh and welcomed back both his noise and perpetually unmade bed!
The Same = Boring.
At fourteen, my son’s greatest loves are muscle cars, biking, fishing and conservative politics. He’s completely self-taught and knows more about these subjects than the rest of the family combined. Our family shares many common values. But, we have learned that life is a lot more interesting if we think independently and accept and appreciate each other’s differences.
I often find myself wondering where my son came from? One look at him and there is no denying that he is mine. I am so proud of him and grateful for all of the gifts that he’s brought into my life. As I look ahead, I feel excited for his future. It will be fun to support his journey. I can’t help but wonder where life will take him in the next 14 years?