JT turns 14 today. As usual, when he tucked into bed last night, he reviewed the fact that when he wakes up he will be 14. Much like young children enjoy marking half birthdays, he likes this precision. Come the morning, he will already be 14.
13 was a sometimes rough year. At some point, I called my parents and offered a blanket apology for everything I had done and said in the 7th grade. I meant it. A friend who has three children, all of whom survived the 7th grade (as did she), assured me that it was the low point. I needed to believe that and clung to the claim when things were hard. This too shall pass became my parenting mantra.
Things have evened out considerably now. We worked at it and talked and he learned a lot about himself. He’s a much happier boy on this birthday. Really, I should say he’s a much happier young man because in the last 6 months I’ve increasingly seen glimmers of the man he will become. He’s passionate about sports and liberal politics. He angers at a world that does not seem just. He laughs easily and has a quick sense of humor. He helps out around the house without complaint. He’s gotten good about managing his schoolwork. He’s strong. At moments, he’s terribly sweet and self-aware.
Of course, there is still something of a boy in him. He likes to wear shorts all year long. He loves to play outside in any weather, games that are still of his imagination and will consume him for hours. He thinks there’s no reason a 5 foot 9 teenage boy with a ratty mustache looks threatening in sweats and a hoody, despite the fact that the world has told him otherwise.
At night when he’s tucked into his bed and I can hear his familiar breathing, I think of the baby he once was. I picture the chubby cheeks and I remember the smell of his freshly washed neck. I think of those days when he was small enough to rest easily on my hip and I could hardly imagine that he would one day tower over me. I marvel at how far we’ve come and I love him with the same fierceness I did the moment I saw him 14 years ago.
Happy Birthday, sweet boy. Your mama loves you.