Twelve years ago we were anxiously awaiting you. Stubborn from the start you made us wait. Every evening for about a week the contractions made me stop and breathe and begin to hope but then peter out again. I walked miles and miles. I worked in the yard and pulled bushes out by the roots to keep the contractions going. But you already had a mind of your own.
You made us parents. We were nervous and unsure of ourselves but completely besotted with you. We couldn’t put you down. We memorized your every expression. We analyzed your cries. You taught us how to be parents. This is the burden of being the first child. You get the undivided attention but you also get the first mistakes of parents who are navigating new waters.
Here we are now twelve years later and I still find myself gazing at you with wonder like I did in those first days of parenthood. This year has brought so much change. I see the planes of your face molding into the man you will become. I feel the tenor of our conversations mature.
You are passionate and enthusiastic. You are intelligent and curious. You are attentive and tender and patient with the younger kids that are in our lives. You have the most amazing laugh. You are a natural leader.
It’s been a fun year for sure. We have watched you continue to develop your acting and singing skills, putting your enthusiasm into every role no matter how big or small. You’ve easily tackled more challenging school work, being responsible and diligent. You’ve put your leadership qualities to good use helping to coach your brother’s soccer team and being the playful and interested cousin that all the younger cousins look up to.
This year was a big one. You moved up into middle school and we dropped you off at your first youth group event wondering how we had come so quickly to this moment. We are watching you find your way as you straddle the worlds of childhood and young adulthood. And honestly son, we have no idea what we are doing. The world of increasing maturity looms large and I find myself praying desperately that we are equipping you properly. I know that I am making many mistakes. I am sure that I put too much pressure and responsibility on you and I know that I lecture too much and don’t listen enough. I hope that the weight of my (often unrealistic) expectations don’t burden you beyond what you can bear. But I trust God’s grace to cover up our imperfections as parents.
I have not been the kind of parent that dwells too much on nostalgia. I like to celebrate each milestone and look forward to the future. But I will admit that 12 is a bitter sweet milestone. You have always been independent, but I feel even more independence around the corner and time seems short. I can’t wait to see the ways that you will grow and I am excited to watch the continuing process of your maturing, but I am starting to feel the poignancy of our numbered days together. Goodness, that sounds so melodramatic.
Really, I just feel like I am along for the ride on this wonderful journey that is your life. Your father and I consider it an enormous privilege to be the people chosen by God to guide you. I hope that underneath all of our mistakes, and through the sometimes turbulent times that are sure to come, you will always feel the foundation of our love for you. Because we do love you completely and unconditionally.
Happy 12th Birthday, bear!