This is early. It's not your birthday yet, even though it seems like we've been celebrating it for weeks already. It's been that kind of year, but you've always been that kind of kid anyway. You arrived much earlier than you were supposed to, scaring us both in the process. For some reason that we'll never understand, you decided to join us ahead of schedule. Too far ahead.
You were in such a hurry that your body wasn't quite ready yet. Those first few days with you connected to machines that were breathing for you were some of the worst moments I've ever experienced. We went from planning for you to be with us in a few weeks to worrying about whether you'd get to stay at all. It wasn't a fun process, for sure. You rallied and we brought you home after what seemed like the longest nine days of my life.
We didn't have a clue what we were doing.
You laugh when I tell you that you are my practice child, but it really is the truth. We thought we knew what to expect. We'd read those books and taken those classes and then the day came when they said we could leave the hospital and take you home and we both looked at each other a little bit panic stricken. I don't think your father has ever driven home so carefully as he did that day.
We've been winging it ever since. If how you've turned out so far is any indication, I think we've done a fairly good job.
We weren't supposed to have you, you know. You've heard that story too, the one about how we'd just been told that we wouldn't be able to have kids and then that little pink line appeared the morning of your Dad's birthday. You were the most unexpected gift, then and now.
You are growing up so fast, pushing the envelope of it all now. You decided to jump into the world of high school a year ahead and join the drumline as an 8th grader. Which is crazy. I didn't quite know what to expect with it all, but I can see how much you've grown and matured just in the past few months, in part because of this love of music you have. You truly have found the place where you belong.
|I hope you understand how crazy awesome it is|
that you already lettered in band as an 8th grader.
In this past year, you seem to have solidified those career goals of yours, and chose the high school you did because it fits the plan. Next year will be hard for you academically. You will be challenged in ways you haven't yet been, but I know you can do it.
When you told me that you wanted to start volunteering at the hospital already, I wasn't entirely surprised. You've always been a caregiver, a helper. A giver.
Organization doesn't come naturally to you, but you're learning. I know that it's been a struggle, and I know that you really are working on it.
You are, and always have been, an inquirer. You wake up asking questions, you go to bed asking questions. All the questions. You are never satisfied with knowing enough, you crave more. You have a rare passion for learning. You trust that somehow I will always have the answers, even now that you know I don't. You keep asking anyway, knowing that I will tell you to go out into the world and find them yourself. And you do.
I haven't held your hand. I haven't done things for you. I haven't made it easy for you. I haven't fought your battles and slayed your dragons. I've been here, cheering for you quietly instead, hoping that you would make the right choices.
You almost always have.
I can't promise that the next four years will be easy. They won't be.
I can't promise that there won't be conflict and worries. There will be.
You'll fall in love, probably more than once. Chances are that you'll get your heart broken along the way. You're going to form new friendships while others will fall apart. I can't protect you from any of that. I can't tell the rest of the world that you are a gentle soul with a kind (but goofy) heart, and that they should take care of you.
It's okay, though. You'll be okay.
And if there ever comes a time when you're not okay, I hope you know that I'm here, cheering quietly for you. I'm always here, and I always will be.
Keep laughing at yourself. Keep doing the things you love. Keep asking questions. Keep caring about the people you love.
I'd ask you to stay my little boy for just a bit longer, but we've past the point where I can entertain such notions. You're 6 feet tall these days, with a voice deeper than your father's. You aren't a little boy anymore, you haven't been for a while now. You're a young man, one that I'm so proud of at times that I could burst, even if you drive me crazy in all the spaces in between.
You have one day left in middle school. Less than a week left of being 13. I hope that you cherish this time, sandwiched between childhood and adulthood, and that you squeeze every drop of joy out of it all.
Work hard, play hard, love hard.
I love you,
(Don't worry, I won't tell anyone you still call me that.)