• Hillary

To My Son, On Your 13th Birthday

13 years ago, after 2 failed inductions (who knew you could be on Pitocin TWICE and still leave the hospital pregnant!?) and more days past my due date than I even thought possible-you made your dramatic debut (further proving that you do things on your own time and in your own way) and my world has never been the same.

Before that moment I couldn't even fathom the intense love, joy or exhaustion that I was about to experience. From day 1, you have been a force to be reckoned with. You both wreak havoc and create joy everywhere you go, my wild-at-heart boy. At 18 months, you climbed on top of our refrigerator. A few months later, you somehow got inside of our oven (and screwed off the glass light bulb cover, God help me). And at 2, you started using tiny ninja swords to pick locks. Very early on, I realized that you needed a second carseat permanently stationed in our living room (AND I needed a weekly girl's night) because you had to be fully buckled in any time I had to use the restroom. There was no limit to what you could do if left unattended for 60 whole seconds.

At 3 years old, you told me you’d “wrestle a full-grown lion to the death” to save my life. . . and that energy, enthusiasm and chivalry has only grown stronger in the years since.

God has gifted you in some incredible ways. Despite the fact that you are for sure responsible for the majority of my wrinkles (who could forget your rock star day alone at ACL). . .I adore you, I like you and I deeply love you. It's clear that some of the qualities that exasperate, challenge and sharpen me the most are the exact characteristics that, if used for good, will serve you well and make you unstoppable as a man (hopefully of great integrity).

Now as you embark upon the teenage years,

there are a few critical things

that you need to know.

Ok, let's be honest. I am not a mom of few (or even a moderate amount of) words. Sorry about that one, but I come by it honestly. You've, met your grandmother. Therefore there are a million things I hope you know. But as a birthday bonus I’ve pruned the list a bit as I well know a that 13-year-old boy as busy as you can only sit still (much less read) for so long.

First of all and most importantly, you are deeply loved. Not only by your parents but by God. You are wonderfully and uniquely made. I hope you always remember who and whose you are as this world fights for your heart. I pray that you always know that you are already more than enough. You are solidly loved and delighted in.

Secondly, you are my child and because of that (boy did I get myself into some doozies) I can say with certainty that you’re going to screw up. And let's be honest, you already have (don't worry, mistakes are not the fodder of this post. I got your back, bruh) and will continue to make mistakes. . .that's precisely why parents exist.

The combination of teen hormones, pubescent emotions and an exceptionally underdeveloped frontal lobe will lead you down some serious. . .rabbit trails.

You will do and say things that you didn't plan or intend to and you won't be able to take them back. Your choices have consequences and we love you far too much to shield you from those vital life lessons, but we will *always* be here for you, no matter what. Our home is full of love and grace (and fart jokes and chaos) and you will always have a safe space to land. We will walk with you through anything-you just have to invite us in. There is always hope in every situation and there is always a reason to be excited about your future.

Speaking of choices, the one choice you will never regret is kindness. It’s easy to be kind to your friends. What’s hard and requires true courage is to be different, to stick up for the underdogs. This, my boy, is where your strong will becomes your super power. You have no problem going against the grain (anyone recall the teacher meeting about the fact that you would only ninja roll to the library from the classroom?). Choose to be that kid that people remember not only because of the sports you played, the grades you made or the pranks you pulled, but also because you treated everyone with respect and kindness. Be an encourager in a world of competitors. Treating everyone with kindness will make you a breath of fresh air in a world of pollution.

You've always been the kid who felt compelled to experience just how hot that burner was when I said not to touch it. Resist that urge as there are some "burners" you'll find that cause far more damage than you can imagine. Be teachable. Seek *AND UTILIZE* (can you hear me in the back row?) wise counsel. You’ll be surprised by how much heartache you might avoid.

Masculinity is not toxic but rather it is amazing. The incredible courage, strength and desire to protect that you possess is a very good thing. You will make a wonderful husband and father someday. You've always been stellar at using your intellect and humor to diffuse a situation. Hone that skill and be a peacemaker. I pray that you are a protector and a gentleman. The word gentle means power under control.

You might physically be the strongest in certain rooms but unless there is an imminent threat, it doesn’t matter. A man with self-control is truly the strongest man in any room.

Next, I want you to remember that your dad and I are ALWAYS for you. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that we are your best friends. You and I have had many heated discussions (by the way, you would make an incredible attorney as your arguing skills are on point) recently about the privileges you think you should have. And while it guts me to know that you feel left out due to not having all of the same privileges as your friends, I’m far more interested in our relationship 10 years from now. I know that the decisions I fought my parents on the most (girls trip to Mardi Gras at age 15, seemed like a great plan at the time) are the things that today I am the most grateful for them saying no to. Saying yes to your every demand and avoiding the conflict (I think the enamel will drip right off of my teeth if we have to discuss snapchat again) would create more short term peace in my day, but not in your life. The things we say no to aren’t to deprive you of joy, but rather to protect your heart and mind. You are an incredible *young* man, and by virtue of that fact your perspective is severely limited by your experience. In the not too distant future, YOU will be fully at the helm. But for now, that responsibility falls on our shoulders. Protecting you and ensuring that you don’t do anything now to threaten your future is more of a priority than being the “cool” parent. My love for you will always be stronger than my desire for you to like me.

Every stage of your life has been more fun, more exciting and carried new challenges. I could not be more thrilled to start this journey with you.

These teen years feel like absolutely everything while they last, and then they pass and quickly become a mere dot in the entirety of your life.

Use your strategic chess skills and think things through multiple steps ahead.

Make decisions of which you will be proud.

Treat ALL people in a way that you'll feel good about when you run into them in 20 years.

Use your powers for good. Having fun, laughing and making amazing memories are your specialties.

And no matter what, always know that I am here cheering you on, loving and supporting you, every step of the way.

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