Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy Birthday, sweet 16

My dear daughter,

I normally address your brother first, as he was technically the first born. I'm fairly certain you were meant to be first though. I've always felt that way. He was first out of necessity and likely out of order.

Not long ago, I was gathering up a pile of laundry in your room. This is highly unusual as you are always quick to do your laundry, but your after-school obligations (and quite honestly, your dad and his laundry) had kept you from the task at hand. As I stood in your closet, I could not help but marvel at how...precise everything was. When I think of you, the words intelligent and eccentric often come to mind (and I'm sure your obsession with 50 year old British television shows has absolutely nothing to do with that), yet precise is the best word I could come up with to describe you in that moment.

You are precise. You are grace. You have always walked through this world with your shoulders back and your head held high, just like you belong anywhere you attempt to go. It sometimes kind of amazes me how I've been able to raise such a confident, organized child. Oh, I'm organized but it goes against every fiber of my being. I have to force myself. I can't even force the confidence. Not you. It's just who you are. You are well-prepared and meticulous.

Well, mostly.

I see the shoes lined neatly up in pairs and the clothes all organized by color, by season. Your socks are all perfectly matched, your carpet is never soiled. Your desk is a thing of beauty; so pristine I would think it was completely untouched...except for the beautiful, wild, amazing mess that is your notebook.

Yes, I know about your notebook. I know about how you write your stories, filling up hundreds of pages. Living the lives of those characters, telling their secrets. I know how that notebook, and all the notebooks you have filled over the years, are your sanity. How you look forward to nothing more than unleashing everything you have into them. Those pages, all inky and handwritten and glorious.

In that way? You are just like me.

When I was your age, I wrote until I thought my hands would fall off. I dreamed bigger dreams than I can even remember and I had stories. Oh my girl, I had stories. They filled my head and my heart and I thought they would go on forever.

I know, yes I know, when you and I are the library or sipping our coffee together, or shopping, or making tea, I know. You are thinking only of those stories. Of that screenplay you are writing. Of when you can get back to that notebook.

My hope for you today is that you never, ever lose that love for those words. You grow up and tell your stories. That you don't let a bad review or a broken heart make you fall down. That you are stronger and braver than your mother will ever be. A better story-teller too. I know.

You have the sweetest, most loving heart of any person I've ever known. You are beautiful both inside and out, funny and kind. I am blessed, in every way possible to have you as my daughter. It is a privilege and a joy to be your mama.

Keep the Faith, my dear one. My sweet girl, my favorite, favorite daughter.

I love you,

Dear Son,

The day before you were born, I distinctly remember thinking that I would never be happy again.

It hurts to type those words. It hurts me to even think them, but they are true and they are real. I really thought that my entire life was nothing but a fail and I didn't see, couldn't see, how I could have a baby, much less two babies, when I was completely falling apart.

Then, unexpectedly, you and your sister arrived and...well, I wish I could say I immediately recognized how wrong I was and that my happiness was instantaneous and all that other crap, but honestly? It took a minute.

I was afraid of you, a little. You were sick, you had trouble, and also you were a boy. I didn't trust boys and didn't like many of them either. I figured you'd break my heart (and someday maybe you will) but instead of all the things I feared? I ended up with you. A kid who could not be more like me if he tried and makes me laugh every single day of my life.

I've always been in awe of your sister. She's such a different personality than me that I've frequently said that she's the person I want to be when I grow up. So full of self-confidence, so organized and just so unabashedly okay with who she is. I don't have that, and often neither do you.  You are the least organized person I've ever met and I've come to realize that your room is just sort of an extension of your mind. Messy and wild and full of everything all at once. You keep it together somehow and even though I can't understand it at all I recognize that what you do is impressive on so many levels.

I'm in awe of you too though, for reasons completely unrelated to the awe I have for your sister. I've honestly never met anyone as funny as you and I don't just say that because you are my kid. You have a rare gift for humor (and, well, sarcasm) that a lot of people just don't have. You shrug it off like it's nothing, but you have the ability to turn almost anything around and that's amazing. It really is. You've brought me up from the lowest lows and changed things for me more times than I can tell you. I've always said you have to be intelligent to be truly funny and you are. I've always known. Even when your grades didn't show it, I knew.

I've seen you struggle. I've seen you get knocked down. I've seen you get picked on. I've seen things be so damn hard for you sometimes that I felt completely helpless. Somehow you just kept moving and not only did you survive, you've thrived. Your grades now reflect your intelligence. Your work ethic and volunteer spirit reflects your heart.

I genuinely enjoy being around you, and I don't know a lot of parents of teenage boys who can say the same thing. Within the last six months you made my heart swell in my chest twice; once when I heard you tell a friend that we were close, like it was no big deal, like you were okay with being friends with your mom (and I know that's hard for a teenage boy to admit) and once at Christmas when you told me (while we were in church) that "you sing freaking beautifully". You don't see my flaws the way other people do, and that's really special. You may not realize how special that is, but someday you will. Someday I hope you have a spouse who appreciates this quality in you. A long, long, long time from now.

I am so proud of who you are growing up to be, and who you have always been. You have the most wonderful, gentle, sweet spirit and I hope you never, ever lose that.

I love you, my brother bear. You've always been my favorite son.

Your mom

PS: Heh. I said "your mom".


Theresa said...

Wow. Absolutely beautiful.

Meegs said...


Jenski said...

I think I have been reading your blog for a while, and so I have a hard time believing your wonderful children are 16?! As lucky as you are to have them, they are equally lucky to have you.